‘A Death’ – An Author Centred Reading
‘A Death,’ by Stephen King, is a fictional, short story, which aims to add to the predominant discourse of racial discrimination in our modern society, using a third person lens. The text focuses on this racial discourse, calling into question the antagonist’s (Sheriff Barclay and the townspeople’s) morals around racial perception in the 1800s, and my own as the reader. This positioned me in a unique scenario which split me between two dominant, conflicting views. King presented these in the shape of having innocence based off emotion for the protagonist (referring to the racial perceptions of the 1800’s and how it affected Truesdale), or guilt based off fact (where Truesdale couldn’t provide any proof of his innocence). Following the protagonist Jim Trusdale, who lives in a ranch in Dakota County set in 1889, allowed me to construct some ideas on social discourses according to the time, in this case, race. My understanding of the time, and my own assumptions of this racial discourse meant for me that the short story would revolve around some racial conflict, aiming to teach a message of equality.
Throughout my reading of the text, it should be noted I read the implied author of the text as ‘a man reflecting on society’ (mainly referring to current racial issues). At the time of the reading, my only experience with King was the movie adaptation of his horror-thriller novel ‘IT’; solely knowing this information about King greatly limited any assumptions I was able to make about this text, however, I was expecting some sort of ‘horror element’ present in the text. In my reading, I viewed the grisly murder of the girl as a way for King to communicate his thematic exploration of the horror genre which is what I know him for; however, I didn’t anticipate the amount of depth behind the text, regarding the racial discourse.
When reading ‘A Death’, it became obvious how manipulative the implied author intended this short story to be- positioning my own emotion and presuppositions of the times (1889’s) and how I focused more on the direct discrimination (when I read the ‘black liar’ quote, it made me focus on the idea of direct discrimination) against coloured citizens of the time, above the overwhelming evidence against Jim Trusdale, which presented an immediate bias in my own reading of the text (in favour of Trusdale).
When reading this, I felt I understood the basis of the text, until Mrs Cline (the victim’s mother) approached Trusdale in his cell. When she called Trusdale a, “Black liar” (King 2015, pg4), it completely changed the meaning of the text in my reading. This was now about race (referring to implied author’s goal of creating a discourse around race). This impacted my understanding, as before this moment, I didn’t know Trusdale was a coloured minority, in a very racist society. The implied author implemented this to sway my understanding of a seemingly clean-cut murder trial, to one filled with doubt...