Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Fiend

A Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Unlike most of Fitzgerald's short stories, this one is not about high society, the roller coaster ride of money gained and lost or love and relationships among wealthy (or stuggling upper class) Americans in Paris or Prague. Instead, this six-page story opens with a newpaper-article like report of the murder of Mrs. Crenshaw Engels and her seven year old son while they were taking a walk on a sunny afternoon in Stillwater, Minnesota. The particulars of the murder are not mentioned and the author tells the readers that the circumstances were "so atrocious that, fortunately, it is not necessary to set them here." The murderer is also never named anything other than "the fiend."

This story succinctly deals with the unique relationship that develops between Crenshaw Engels and the murderer. Crenshaw loses everything as a result of the events of that afternoon- his wife and child, all happiness in life, his photography shop business, his home and even a measure of his sanity. The fiend is caught and sentenced to life imprisonment and after several unsucessful attemps to kill the murderer- ranging from desperate attempts to strangle him in court and to sneak into the prison to shoot him to more planned attempts to make capital punishment legal in the state- Crenshaw settles into his life of work as a department store clerk. His life is society is like a biluous dream while what really keeps him going are his regular visits to the two graves and to the fiend, where he uses all the tactics of mental torture at his disposal. It is only decades later, after the fiend dies suddenly of a ruptured appendix that Crenshaw realizes that somehow, over time, the fiend had transformed into his "only friend." This story poignantly captures the utter solitude of a man who lost everything, including the hatred that had been his last refuge in life.

1 comment:

jaltinka said...

i've just understood that i've never read any stories by Fitzgerald in spite of I read a lot about his works and we studied them at university :)
I will do, thanks for your post