Review: “The Squaw” by Bram Stoker

Horror fiction is a popular genre in literature.  Somehow, people actually like to be frightened out of their wits with terrible tales of gore and inexplicable crimes, whether in books or movies.  However, a lesser known story by Bram Stoker is even more disturbing than his Dracula, more inquisitive about the intervention of fate or some strange supernatural power in everyday life.  It also focuses on the way people’s intentions have heavy consequences and how their actions create serious repercussions.
The Squaw begins with an introduction to the characters, a normal couple on vacation.  As tourists, they happen to visit a medieval fortress on tour and access the battlements.  At this point in time, the main character foolishly decides to trick a small kitten and its mother resting on the ground floor of the fortress by throwing a rather large pebble down from above.  When the disputed action goes horribly wrong and the poor kitten is killed, the man responsible seems to have his fate sealed as his own stupidity leads to his doom.

Stoker had a talent for writing graphic descriptions of events that happen frequently in the modern world, like roadkill and murdered animals.  Nevertheless, the question in The Squaw is if anything that happens in life is accidental or premeditated.  It appears that the mother cat has her revenge on the murderer of her kitten at the end.  However, at the same time the author makes it quite clear that the character in fault has acted wrongly and is de facto responsible for the consequences of his actions.  Every move and decision he made during the course of the tale provided numerous opportunities for the impending horrors to take place.  Obviously, Stoker is not only implying that his main character is guilty but also twisting the reader’s feelings around by arousing sympathy for both the character and his “victims.”

In fact, the reason that The Squaw is so perplexing and depressing is because Stoker has no protagonists, only gory climaxes and chilling contemplation on the idea of innocence.  He makes the reader feel sorry for the cats, and then he turns the story around by forcing the reader to decide whether the character “got what was coming to him,” when from another angle the whole incident is more or less a stupid accident.  The torture room with the iron maiden is a particularly violent moment in the story, the final stage of retribution exacted by either destiny or natural circumstances that makes The Squaw one of the most unforgettable horror stories ever written.

Original review: Part 2: One story a day for Halloween,


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