“Pet Sematary” by Stephen King

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It could speculated to be said that “Pet Sematary”, by Stephen King is a story about the dangers of wanting something so badly, we no longer care about the consequences. While this is partly-true, there is a deeper meaning buried in the pages of Pet Sematary.  As King brings readers through Louis’s series of bad decisions and tragedies, the lesson that sometimes there are things in life that are meant to be left alone becomes strongly apparent. He chose to bury Gage in the Pet Sematary disregarding what Jud had told him, just focused on the fact he would be ‘alive’ again.

Learning to accept hardships in life such as losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things to do. King makes it apparent that the things we refuse to let go has a way of coming back even darker than before, haunting us. It has a way of coming back darker than before, darker than it ever truly was, perhaps. Louis’s distraught mind couldn’t deal with the fact his son was dead, which ultimately lead to asking himself the irresistible question: What if I buried my son in that old Micmac burial ground? Despite Jud warning Louis that what comes back has a way of being different from how it once was, he does it anyway.

Something that everybody could take out of Louis’s experience, is that you never want to dwell in the past. It’s a lot better to let stuff go, and just accept that it’s done. As Jud warned Louis, “Sometimes dead is better.”(King 86) This is because life requires balance, in my opinion. Think about it – if we never ran into problems or go through rough patches in life, we wouldn’t be able to learn from our mistakes and grow as a person.  Being able to accept death, no matter how difficult it may be is something all human beings must learn. The grieving process includes five stages. First comes denial, and then anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

King’s message to the reader is that, though you may go through a difficult loss in your life, you must be able to let go and accept their death because no matter what you do, you can never bring your loved one back to life. “That lesson suggests that in the end, we can only find peace in our human lives by accepting the will of the universe.”(King 143) The more you are stuck with not being able to cope with death, then the more likely you will be to not be able to function within the present.

In the story, Louis wasn’t able to cope with Gage’s death. We observed him go through the grieving stages, and as a father would do, he went through great lengths to get his son back. Despite multiple warnings not to bury his son into the pet sematary, he did it anyway. He was irrational and driven on not being able to cope and accept his son’s death. Since he buried his son in the pet sematary, his son came back; the only problem is it wasn’t really his son, but a demon in his son’s body.  No matter how hard he tries, he can never bring his son back to life. Once releasing this demon, it kills Louis’ wife and Jud, which some may say this is just King trying to scare his readers.

Ultimately, I believe it’s much more symbolic than that. The demon killing his wife and friend is the result of Louis not being able to cope with his son’s death. His own grief is affecting those around him and it’s just hurting his chances of ever moving on from this experience. Louis refuses to let the past go, King writes:  “Louis could have gone to Chicago with his family, although the university schedule would have meant flying back three days earlier than Rachel and the kids. That was not a great hardship. On the other hand, four days with Im-Ho-Tep and his wife the Sphinx would have been. The children had melted his in-laws a good deal, as children often do. Louis suspected that he himself could have completed the rapprochement simply by pretending he had forgotten that evening in Goldman’s study.

It wouldn’t even matter that Goldman knew he was pretending. But the fact was (and he at least had the guts to be up front about it with himself) that he did not quite want to make that rapprochement. Ten years was a long time, but it was not quite long enough to take away the slimy taste that had come into his mouth when, in Goldman’s study over glasses of brandy, the old man had opened one side of that idiotic smoking jacket and removed the checkbook residing within. That surprised disgust had been quite its own thing, and the years between then and now had not changed it. He could have come, but he preferred to send his father-in-law his grandchildren, his daughter, and a message.”(King 149)

Louis wasn’t the only one, either. Rachel would also constantly bring up her past. She was not able to come to terms with what happened to her in her childhood, which was the trauma of caring for her deformed and disabled sister. Rachel seems to be permanently scarred from the day that Zelda died on her watch. She is not able to even think about death or illness without panicking, and starting a breakdown. Of course, even after it is over, he decides to also bury his wife in the pet sematary despite all that has just happened. After a loss so great, the consequence wasn’t enough to convince him that whatever you put in the ground isn’t what comes out. This truly exemplifies the lengths one would go to bring back their loved ones.

More importantly, it all comes back to King’s overall message to the reader; acceptance of fear and death, because, if you are not able to accept and move on, you’ll only be affecting the ones around you by not being able to think rationally. Life requires balance, so If you don’t have the ability to deal with grief/ fear, you will negatively affect yourself and those around you. In Louis’s case, he could not move on from his traumatic experience, and the results were fatal due to him letting that same grief, destroy him emotionally and physically.

The spirit of Victor Pascow, a student who died in Louis’ office after getting hit by a car, came back, from the dead, to warn Louis about the dangers of the sematary. “Don’t go beyond, no matter how much you feel you need to, Doctor. The barrier was not made to be broken. Remember this: there is more power here than you know. It is old and always restless. Remember.” This quote shows how despite the warnings given to him by spirits, and even the warnings Jud had made, wasn’t enough to change Louis’s decision to bury Gage there on the Indian burial ground in the first place because at that point, Louis is so consciously lost to the point he can’t make rational decisions.

This quote also helps support the author’s view on the lengths and extent people would go through, in order to have their loved ones back to them. We often envision what we want to see, not what is really there.  The famous phrase from the film American Beauty: ‘Never underestimate the power of denial’ is a big factor in the process of learning to face your fears. Many people deal with the feeling of working hard, but not making any progress.  There’s a feeling of not being able to bring freshness and creativity to your life and self-expression as a result. A happy life really does begin with self love and self respect, and unresolved emotional issues simply won’t allow that to be the case.

In the same way you get a flat tire fixed or go to a doctor with a health issue you can immediately do certain things to help you shift out of an emotional disturbance. That’s true self-empowerment to be able to do this yourself… though to live with it when you don’t have to doesn’t make sense.When we delay making much needed conscious change in our lives we are sometimes forced to deal with the change that comes as a result of a breaking down of some kind… when something finally breaks out of neglect, or when overspending leads to financial crisis, or neglected marital issues leads to an affair and divorce, or ignoring signs of ill health leads to a health scare. Change also comes as a last resort when we are so exhausted that we reach a point of feeling fed up with our circumstances and bust out and do something new or let something else go.

Cite this paper

“Pet Sematary” by Stephen King. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/pet-sematary-by-stephen-king/

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