Authors use gruesome or macabre details to develop and emphasize theme. Theme, the controlling idea or insight to the story, can be clarified when authors use such extreme forms of violence. In the short stories The Destructors, by Graham Greene, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson, and The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Conell, some form of gruesome or macabre actions takes place. In each of these stories, irrational acts of violence, horrible traditions, and the hunting of humans, respectively, help to highlight and accentuate the theme. By striking interest in the reader while these gruesome actions are taking place, the authors of these stories are able to draw attention to the theme of their stories. The theme is much more noticeable when such obvious and important events occur.
The actions of the Wormsley Common Gang in The Destructors, by Graham Greene, help bring out and stress the theme of the story; actions when one who grows up in an environment that is violent may lead to irrational acts that are equally violent. Throughout the story, we see the Wormsley Common Gang committing illegal acts of minute magnitude: Today, Mike said tactlessly, were pinching free rides (52). These insignificant actions could be committed by anyone, regardless of their childhood history. However, the macabre event of the destroying of Old Miserys house is a truly disturbing action that not just any thug would commit. The author uses details of this horrid event to help bring out the theme and intrigue the reader.
The horror and suspense of the crime grabs the reader and helps to develop the story and theme. I dont want to pinch anything, T. said. Ive got a better idea. Well pull it down, he said. Well destroy it (52). No reason is ever given for destroying the house. The gang simply agrees to destroy it. The idea of destroying the house intrigues the reader, keeping him interested in the rest of the story. It also helps to develop the theme of senseless destruction because the idea leads to the action, which is part of the theme. Without the horrible idea or action of destroying the house, the theme would not exist in the story, for the action develops the theme. The motivation and organization during the destruction clarifies the theme by emphasizing that all this evil had no specific purpose or cause. By doing this, Graham Greene was able to let the reader truly capture and recognize the mindset of these adolescents whose lives have been plagued by war. Equally disturbing ideas are included in many stories. The ideas, which develop the theme, may vary in their origin. Some stories, such as The Lottery, present the violent ideas as tradition.
In the story The Lottery theme is developed and emphasized by the gruesome ending. In the story, a point is being made that maintaining an ignorant tradition can have bad results. At first, the mood towards the traditional lottery is pleasing. The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green (204). The reader gets the sense that the small, quiet town has some sort of nice traditional lottery, in which some prize is given to one lucky individual.
A turn of event occurs when the author surprises us with the change of the overall mood. After Mrs. Hutchinson won the lottery, she continually cried that it was not fair. The ending of the story leaves the reader with a whole new sense of the tradition of the town, and a whole new theme. It isnt fair, it isnt right, Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her (211). This exaggerated idea that tradition for the sake of tradition is not always right, is exactly what the author wishes the reader to feel. Only through the shocking ending was the author able to convey the theme she meant to get across. This use of violence to emphasize the theme that tradition can be bad, which is utilized extremely well by this author, is common in many stories, such as The Most Dangerous Game, and is utilized extremely well by this author.
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connel is another example of how authors use macabre details or ideas to emphasize theme. The first idea of theme that the reader gets is between Rainsford and Whitneys conversation. They are talking about how great of a sport hunting is when Whitney concurs, saying Great sport, hunting For the hunter, amended Whitney. Not for the jaguar (8). Rainsford dismisses Whitneys comment, not caring how the jaguar feels. Whitney, however, continues; Even so, I rather think they understand one thing-fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death (8). The theme of the story begins to be revealed, but is not yet clear.
Further into the story, a disgusting, yet intriguing, idea is exposed. General Zaroff, whom Rainsford has encountered on Ship-Trap Island, is hunting humans as his main source of big game. Through this startling encounter, the reader becomes intrigued about General Zaroffs violent ways. The true theme of the story also becomes obvious. The author exaggerates this use of violence and the idea of the hunter becoming the hunted. This creates a clearer image for the reader of how gruesome it is to take the life of a living creator for the fun and sport of it. By including the gruesome General Zaroff and his dreadful idea of the perfect hunt, Richard Connel is able to strike the theme of his story deep into the heart and mind of his readers.
It is clear that authors use extreme violence in their stories to help make a point. This emphasis of the theme can also help to develop the story. In each of the three stories, The Destructors, The Lottery and The Most Dangerous Game the author uses exaggerated acts of violence or destruction clarify and expand the theme. Readers are left with a lingering, depressing emotion that makes them reexamine what the author really meant to say. This is exactly what the authors want however, since this feeling will provoke readers to make their own opinion about the theme of the story.