Nightmares of childhood: The child and the monster in four novels by stephen king

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3 Citations (Scopus)


A problematic, greatly underresearched aspect of 20th century fiction is the presence of the child in horror fiction for adults. Popular gothic novelists like Stephen King include plenty of sacrificial children in their novels, as is the case in his own The Shining, Firestarter, It, and Pet Sematary. King's use of the sacrificial child might be read as unfair exploitation of the suffering of victimised or monstrous children for commercial ends in entertaining fiction verging on the pornographic. Actually, as this paper argues, his portrait of the child is part of King's constant criticism of the American style of life, which is gradually excluding the imaginary from the relationship between parents and children. His fiction also reflects an evident anxiety about parenthood on the side of baby-boomers, especially white men like King himself. King's fiction is morally ambiguous about the father and child relationship because King may put his finger on the dark areas of the American lifestyle but lacks an answer as to how American society could protect its own children from the horrors adults inflict on them. Basically, his novels address morally autonomous readers capable of understanding the boundaries between exploitation and denunciation in contemporary horror. King's implicit moral message-be good to your children- is addressed to them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2001


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