An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

The devil is in the details.

An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Brian on Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:47 am

Could Merrin have saved herself from Lee by telling him she had cancer?

After we know how Lee's twisted mind worked, we understand his obsession with Merrin being 'clean' and 'unspoiled'. Also recall his horror at the prospect of her puking in his car. If she'd told him she had cancer - especially breast cancer - I think there's a fair chance it would have cooled his ardor in an instant.

Of course, she'd never have thought of it. His advances came as SUCH a shock, she could scarcely believe he was serious. It may have been the first moment in months she WASN'T thinking about her cancer...
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:04 pm

Interesting thought, Brian! I'll bet it would've turned him right off. Of course he wouldn't have cared that she was dying but he probably would've seen her as "spoiled".

I had an interesting discussion with another woman the other day about how much of organized religion forces women (and men sometimes) into a submissive role. She was telling me that one church she went to had this acronym, JOY. You are supposed to remember that "Jesus comes first, Others come second and You come third." Merrin was a devout, religious person and I got to thinking that's why she didn't tell Ig about the cancer. Her faith and beliefs told her to put his needs before hers. Thoughts?
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:56 pm

And speaking of ugly thoughts, I'm about halfway through my re-read (and picking up a lot of stuff I missed the 1st time) and I have to say, Lee is one of the creepiest bad guys I've ever read about. I hate being inside his head...makes me feel like I need to take a shower. Yeah, vampires and zombies are scary, but this guy could really exist. There are probably thousands of guys (and gals) out there in the world right now just like him. That scares me bad.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Brian on Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:25 pm

Absolutely; pity wouldn't enter into it for Lee, but learning about the cancer might have amounted to a cold shower for him.

Lee is indeed a creepy and all-too-real villain. I've read a couple of (nonfiction) books about sociopaths - people who simply lack the capacity for empathy - and they absolutely live among us. They aren't all violent, but they nearly always become masterful manipulators, learning exactly what to say and do to get what they want. One book [ http://amzn.com/0767915828 ] described the case of a woman who'd married a sociopath, never suspecting until much later that all the feelings her spouse had ever expressed were an act. It was clear that this guy had professed his love for, and eventually married a successful career woman - simply so that he would no longer have to work, and could just lay around the house all the time, drink beer and watch TV. They even had a son eventually, to whom the father ONLY paid attention when it suited his specific purposes.

Someone like Lee would never (or very rarely) entertain the idea that he really was fundamentally different from someone like Ig - he just believed Ig was (initially) better than him at figuring out how to make people like him. And when Lee told Ig "I loved her too" -- he very likely believed it; he thought that whatever cold desire he'd had for Merrin really WAS the same as what Ig had felt.

In fact, when Ig first confronted Lee and the horns didn't work, I initially came up with a very different notion of WHY: I figured that perhaps Lee just had no capacity for shame or guilt, so there was nothing he had ever done that seemed sinful to him.

It may be that Merrin's Catholic upbringing played a part in her decision to conceal her condition from Ig - but perhaps not. Their story continues to haunt me, but I've had occasion to discuss it with some people close to me, and my thinking has changed a little.

I think it might be a sort of desperation that drove Merrin's decision: she, herself was doomed, and her parents would unavoidably be subjected to a second round of the same torture they'd endured when their older daughter died. She must have felt utterly powerless.... but was it possible (she must have wondered) that Ig, at least, could be spared? He was going to lose her regardless -- why not set him free sooner rather than later, before things got bad?

A beautiful but naive sentiment; it was obvious to me, at least, that ship had long since sailed. By that point, there was nothing Ig wouldn't trade to spend another year or two at Merrin's side, even if much of it was spent in a hospital.

And here's something else (and I have this from a source I trust absolutely): many persons (though not all) with chronic diseases and disabilities at some point wish that they could cut their significant others/spouses loose, and free them of the burden of being (or becoming) care-givers. Yet, then what would THEY do?

It is tragedy writ large, however you look at it.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:14 am

That was beautifully put Brian. Having watched 2 loved ones die from lingering cancer you'd think I would have thought of that. How much worse than the physical pain would be the mental anguish of thinking they were a "burden"? Ultimately, if this were a true story though, Merrin should have let Ig decide. Gosh, this story really is heart-breaking.

And I had another thought...might Merrin have ultimately been grateful that she was spared the pain of the cancer?
Last edited by Betsy_Boo on Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:16 am

BTW, I read THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR...really opened my eyes. I think everyone should read it if for no other reason than to protect themselves.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Brian on Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:15 am

might Merrin have ultimately been grateful that she was spared the pain of the cancer?


Brrr, THAT is a bleak thought. I started by wondering if mentioning the cancer might have saved her from Lee... but in her final moments, might she have thought that Lee had, at least, saved her from the cancer? The slimmest of silver linings I guess - her actual death was anything but pleasant after all - but at least it didn't last as long as cancer would have.

Even so, her final words (something close to: "It's okay - I escaped, up into the treehouse.") show that even then she was thinking about the impact it would have on the people that loved her - and she must have known that it wouldn't be good.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:30 pm

That makes me want to cry all over again. You have to wonder if there are really such self-less people in the world. I'm thinking Mother Teresa, but I don't know that I've met a person in real life like that, though most people are never put to the test.

Regarding the 'silver lining' you speak of...I have to admit that the greatest tragedy of my life had one, although given the choice I wouldn't have gone thru the tragedy at all. The older I get the more I realize that rarely is anything or anyone all bad or all good. Except maybe Lee...and this one other guy I know! LOL!

PS...There's are a couple of other books I've read you might be interested in...THE PEOPLE OF THE LIE and WHY IS IT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU? Peck wrote the first one...can't remember the 2nd author, but both have helped me to try to sorta figure out when it's safe to trust someone and when it's not. Of course I'll never figure that out completely, but learning the signs helps.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:32 pm

And I still wish someone with a background in Theology would come and talk about this book! Especially the sermon...I re-read it the other night and cried again. Being a spiritual person, it shook me.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Brian on Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:19 am

Ig's "sermon for serpents" was quite a piece of writing, wasn't it? It seems clear that Joe Hill has serious reservations about, at least, Catholicism.

And the devil clearly is the hero of the story (even if Ig is careful to prevent anyone in his world from knowing this.) When Ig is finally able to read the "phylactery" within the mysterious Treehouse, we learn that it (the Treehouse) is literally provided by Lucifer ... to help them. (The Treehouse also seems to share one other diabolic feature: fire is unable to destroy it.)

And it does help them; if we take Merrin's last words literally, it became a refuge - an escape hatch - for her spirit as Lee was attacking her ... and she was still up there, waiting for Ig when, a few years later, he was finally able to join her. For Merrin and Ig, the devil provided something that (traditionally) only heaven is said to offer - reunion with lost loved ones.

Speaking for myself, I have never subscribed to a specific set of spiritual beliefs, and there are many reasons for that. I won't expound on this here (I have no wish to start a heated argument - which is far too easy to do on the internet -- nor do I aspire to persuade anyone to think as I do.) However, when I read novels, like Horns, that incorporate Christian or other theologies, I accept them, in that context, as part of the story's framework. In short: within this fictional world God and the Devil are precisely as real as Ig, Merrin, Lee, et al. - neither more "real", nor less.

However, in the real world, it seems to me hard to find clear evidence of either God OR the devil intervening to help good people - - and definitely not as overtly as the way Ig is 'helped' in Horns. Ergo, only one side of Ig's sermon seems supportable in reality: God might not have your back, but there's no reason to think the devil does, either.

I have to agree though, it would be interesting to hear a serious response to Ig's sermon from a real theologian.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:20 pm

A real theologian would be welcome to weigh in, but there is no doubt that you wrote a "serious response." I love what you wrote. You're a good writer! And it makes perfect sense. I think coming from a background of faith as I do I found Ig's sermon very difficult. Turns the idea of what I was taught about God and the Devil on its head and caused me some discomfort. I even cried, because these days my faith is on shaky ground. (Where IS God? Why doesn't He help us? Why create us and then let us suffer? Why does God get all the credit for the good that happens in the world but no blame for the bad?) Ig had been a pretty devout, religious person, but Merrin's death changed that. He turned away from God. That happens to so many people, because no one seems to have a good answer as to why people have to suffer.

However people see this book...whether they like it or not...they have to admit that it is a pretty original look at the devil. I don't think I've ever read any story that shows the devil as a good guy.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Betsy_Boo on Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:11 am

I am so glad I'm re-reading Horns. My first read was so fast that I really did miss a lot of important stuff. Last night I read Merrin's letter again:

"I wish God would find a way to do it to me all at once, when I'm not expecting it."

It appears that God granted her prayer.
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Brian on Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:52 am

It appears that God granted her prayer.


Truly, the ultimate case of "be careful what you wish for"

Shoulda wished for a spontaneous remission....
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Brian on Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:28 am

There's no way I could handle a re-read right now (or in my case 're-listen').

Horns stirred up some serious doo-doo for me. By the end I'd only listen to it when I was exercising; when I could channel my emotional agitation into greater physical effort.

On the plus side, I got in a bunch of really intense workouts. I was often particularly sore the next day... :mrgreen:
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Re: An Ugly Thought (spoilers)

Postby Doose333 on Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:30 am

Betsy_Boo wrote:I am so glad I'm re-reading Horns. My first read was so fast that I really did miss a lot of important stuff. Last night I read Merrin's letter again:

"I wish God would find a way to do it to me all at once, when I'm not expecting it."

It appears that God granted her prayer.


That's kind of what i drew from it as well... I felt that Ig being a Devil but more of less an anti hero, couldn't that make Lee in a sense an Anti-Villain? Lee was not justified in killing Merrin but at the same time he did allow her to skip all the pain and suffering of the disease, and really from the pain of being separated from Ig, knowing that he found someone new and had moved on from her, and in Lee's mind he is completely justified. In the end Lee's evil is burned out. It also really speaks volumes to the idea of a one and only, a soul mate that you are linked to forever in this life and beyond.
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