September 14, 2007

Review: The Eyes

When I was in 5th grade, my friends conspired to scare the living tar out of me by telling me Bloody Mary stories. If you haven't had the benefit of hearing these tales you can consider yourself very fortunate because they had the effect of scarring me for life. To this day I cannot look at a reflective surface at night, whether it be mirror or the glass in a picture frame, even the chrome faucet in the sink. As a child I would crawl past the mirror between my light switch and the bed. I had nightmares for years about ghosts trying to possess my body, or those of my family. I slept with a nightlight until I was in high school when I realized that the light created more shadows that just scared me more. I even slept with my head under my blanket until I was an adult. These stories indeed left a deep scar.


So you can imagine my fright as I was reading Edith Wharton's short ghost story The Eyes about a man haunted by ghostly eyes glaring at him at night. He cannot figure out why they appear when they do except that they seem to be connected in some way with a choice he has made earlier in the day. All he knows for sure is that they leave him unable to sleep, for days sometimes, until they finally go away.


The night I read the story I went to bed laughing at myself for being such a baby but really my heart was pounding ferociously in my chest during the long, dark walk to my room. Once in bed I felt compelled to look down the long hallway which is lit halfway by a mild green light, then pitch black. "Don't look!" I scolded myself. So I glued my eyes shut and attempted to sleep. The few times I succeeded in falling asleep I was plagued with disturbing dreams that I couldn't remember upon awakening but I would look again toward the black hole down the hall and start the process all over again. It was of course a horrendous way to spend a night, remembering all the anxiety and insecurity of my youth and realizing again that I still had not outgrown this irrational fear.


The Eyes was a creepy story to be sure but in typical Wharton style there is left a huge question mark at the end. "What just happened?" The ending was thoroughly confusing. After several readings of the same section I gave up. I'm beginning to see a pattern in Wharton's ghost stories. Ghosts and apparitions she can deal with. It is the old fear of the unknown or of that which cannot be understood that really chills her blood. Me? I'm just afraid of the ghost.

5 comments:

Darla D said...

I was always spooked by those Bloody Mary stories, too! Which is probably why the film Candyman completely freaked me out. I wouldn't stand in front of a mirror and say "Candyman" three times no matter how much anyone paid me! :-)

Sounds like a creepy story. And if you want a good Halloween scare, give Candyman a try. You may need therapy afterwards, though...

Petunia said...

Uh, I think I'll pass. =)

verbivore said...

I just listened to this story on a long nighttime drive to pick up someone at the airport. It was quite creepy !!! I had no idea that Wharton wrote stories like this.

Petunia said...

Wharton wrote many different types of writing. I think it averaged about 1 book or article a year from middle age until her death.

Trish said...

Petunia, I totally relate!! I had the same types of fears that you do, and like I said in the video usually have to turn on the light before I walk into a room, especially if there is a mirror! I used to be afraid of things in my closet from the movie Poltergeist (which I wasn't allowed to see but saw anyway). I used to be afraid of monsters under the bed and still don't like to hang my feet over for fear that they will eat my feet. And I also have to have the covers up all the time. I am able to keep one leg out if I get hot, but definitely never both!! LOL...so silly, I know. That is exactly why I don't read horror!!