Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Thin, long fingers appeared out of the mist and came for him.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: The closest I can get to describing the mood and feel of this chapter is by referencing an almost-nonexistent American literary subgenre; Midwestern Gothic. Related to the journal of the same name, Midwestern Gothic focuses on the uncanny, disturbing or bleak qualities of the rolling cornfields and abandoned buildings which are a prominent feature of the Midwestern United States.
As in the rest of the American Gothic genre, there is a preoccupation with the derelict and grotesque. The natural world is characterised as a harsh and temperamental ruler, and there is often an emphasis on suspense, occult themes, betrayal and regret, unexplained murders, the unquiet dead, and the fervour of small-town religious fanatics.
I know that this subgenre exists in a similar form in the UK (for a recent example, see the terrifying BBC drama, The Living and the Dead) but I have yet to come across a name for it. I’d love for somebody to step in and tell me what this fields-n’-damnation thingumy is called in Britain, but for the purposes of this project I’ve labelled it the ‘Fennywolde feeling’, and this chapter perfectly encapsulates everything that makes it what it is.
The hot, dry wind rasps through the Hall of Corn, bringing ill mutterings and laden glances. The bat’s prophecy, which Arthur was privy to in Chapter 6 of The Dark Portal, unfolds its grisly wings. Pain and horror stalk the summer fields in straw-clad form. When noon is hot and corn is gold, beware the ear that whispers.
Matt’s Thoughts: From serial killers to Stephen King territory – something about sinister things lurking in tall fields reminds me of ‘Children of the Corn’. Reading about the dark and creepy thing that takes out Young Whortle, I’m thinking I might hold off a bit before I read this to my more sensitive 7-year-old!
But to me, the most disturbing thing in the chapter is actually the way Nicodemus bullies Madame Akkikuyu into doing the dark deeds necessary to release him from limbo. By feeding her doubts about whether the mice will love her, he cruelly uses manipulation to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. It’s heartbreaking to see, given how you can see in many ways Akkikuyu is starting to find elusive happiness in her life.