Thursday, August 2, 2012

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

File:Full Dark, No Stars.jpg

The book Full Dark, No Stars contains four short stories by Stephen King, although two of them are so long that I think can be classified as novellas. In any case, the title perfectly indicates the mood of these stories— all four of them are extremely morbid, to a point that would make readers shiver.

The fist story, titled "1922," is about a farmer named Wilfred James who kills his wife because of his unwillingness to move to a city. However, a series of unfortunate events then befall him, and he gradually loses his sanity. In the end, nothing has turned out well, suggesting that killing his wife was probably the worst decision he has ever made in his life.

For some reason, I grew quite sympathetic to Wilfred despite not being able to sympathize with his act of murder. Perhaps because of all the hardship that he had gone through, and perhaps because I found him to be an ultimately "good" person; he loved his son, he was kind to his animals, and he truly regretted murdering his wife. However, in the end things did not work out well for him, and this simply shows that even one mistake can be enough to take everything away from a person. One wrong action can ruin a person's life.

The second story is "Big Driver," in which Tessa Jean, a mystery writer, gets raped and goes on to take revenge. Although I think King did an excellent job illustrating the emotions and thought processes of a rape victim, I could not connect much with the story. I wanted Tessa to succeed in her mission and did not drop the book until I finished, but I just could not completely believe in the story (the characters, events, etc.). Everything seemed a bit too coincidental and far-fetched.

The third story, "Fair Extension," was the shortest of them all, and probably the least complex. However, I found it to be the most thought and emotion-triggering out of the the four. In the story, Streeter, a dying man, finds a way to extend his life, but doing so will involve letting another individual of his choice to suffer. Of course, he chooses none other than his "best friend" Tom Goodhugh, whom he actually hates. Streeter is jealous of Tom because Tom has always been more handsome and athletic, has stolen Streeter's girlfriend, and has become a lot more successful than Streeter through Streeter's help. Streeter resents the fact that Tom gets all the wonderful things in life despite not doing nearly as much as Streeter (Tom gets a lot of help from Streeter).

When reading the story, I really wondered about what friendship is all about. In our society, everyone puts so much emphasis on having friends, yet in reality most friendships are nothing but superficial. Like Streeter, I often help my friends out of social obligation instead of an internal urge to help; I often do not help them willingly and secretly resent their "undeserved" success. The same thing probably applies to others who help me.

I feel that "friends" is simply a label that tells two people: "help each other, however unwilling you might be deep down."

The story is also centered around greed. When Streeter has become healthy and has destroyed Tom's life, he still "wished for more." Unfortunately, I found that to be completely believable: it simply reflected humans' greedy nature, our nature of always wanting more. I cannot help feeling sad at this hard cold fact.

The fourth and last story, "The Good Marriage," is about a woman who discovers her husband's dark secret after 27 years of marriage. What the secret is I cannot say yet (it will spoil the story), but it is enough to turn the good marriage into a not-so-good one.

When reading this story, I was really impressed by how King illustrated Darcy's emotions. First was her initial reaction upon discovering her husband's dark secret: she first frantically tried to convince herself that it was impossible, but eventually proceeded to gather more evidence and to confirm the fact.

(spoiler alert: the next paragraph contains spoiler) 

Then, it was how she dealt with the matter. Normally, when I think of wife discovering that her husband is a serial killer, I could only imagine her going to the police or committing suicide. However, Darcy is much more sophisticated than that. She considered the two actions that I have just mentioned, but turned them down because she knew either of them would have negative impacts on her children. I found it very believable and heartwarming hat a mother would ultimately put her children beyond everything else.

I was really impressed by the actions that Darcy decided to make; I myself would shiver at the thought of sleeping beside and living with a serial killer! Darcy is truly a courageous woman, and I am glad that she did not get arrested for her brave act of killing her monstrous husband.

Overall, I think Full Dark, No Stars is a very good read. It captured human emotions excellently, and successfully showed the readers the kinds of darkness that could exist in a human's heart.