Monday, March 31, 2008

Short Story Monday - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


See? You can actually LEARN something on Short Story Mondays! Like the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than just Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger novels! Honestly, I thought that was it! But today's Short Story is called The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was originally published as a 'novelette' in 1894.

Austin Gilroy is a man of science. He studies physiology at the university and believes in only the things he can prove. His friend Professor Wilson studies the Occult and is always trying to "prove" it's existence to Austin. But nothing is ever legitimate and Gilroy writes them off as shams.

But one evening Austin and his fiance, Agatha, are invited over to Professor Wilson's to meet a friend of his wife. Miss Penclosa is a native of the West Indies, and according to Wilson, a bona fide phenomenon. When Gilroy is introduced to her, he is shocked. She is nothing like he assumed she would be. She is older, frailer, and even crippled in one leg. She claims she has the power to control another person. Gilroy refuses to believe her claims until she puts her power to the test by using Agatha as a subject. She mesmerized Agatha and told her to break off her engagement with Austin, which she does (although she has no recollection of even doing it). Austin is excited about the possibility of being able to "study" Miss Penclosa's powers and agrees to be the subject of her mesmerism.

But as the weeks progress, Austin starts to realize that Miss Penclosa is developing feelings for him, and is using her power to exploit those feelings. When Austin awakens from a trance, he is holding hands with Miss Penclosa and is about to profess his love....something that is FAR from actuality. He tries to break all ties with Miss Penclosa, but she has wormed her way into his brain....like a Parasite.

This story is written in the form of Austin Gilroy's journal entries. I love this form of writing because it seems to give the reader a closer look at a person's feelings than just reading dialogue. The story is well-written, and intriguing. The downward spiral that becomes Austin's life is actually kind of disturbing. What is the old adage.....Hell hath no Fury like a Woman Scorned?? It definitely is accurate in this story!!

And I loved it....until the very last sentence. I almost threw the book, I felt the ending was such a cop-out. I finished it this morning....and gave myself the day to think about it. And I don't quite hate the ending as much. I still think there would be better ways to end it. But I also think Doyle wanted to put a "happier" touch on the end. Personally, I think a dark ending for a dark story would be the way to go. Oh well.....Bygones.

Till next Monday!

9 comments:

John Mutford said...

I had a few great stories lately ruined by cop-out endings. Yuck.

I've also come across many books like this, obscure books (or stories) written by well-known authors. Kookiejar just recently read a Jack London I'd never heard of. Perhaps there's a good challenge if someone were to take it up: The Obscure Challenge (Often Heard of Authors, Seldom Heard of Titles)

Stephanie said...

John - Not that I've read much Doyle, but I was surprised he took the easy way out at the end. Really was a let-down for me. Oh, well. Better luck next week, I suppose!

Nymeth said...

That's too bad about the ending. It's always so frustrating when you're really enjoying a story and then the ending lets you down!

I haven't read any of his non-Sherlock Holmes stuff. I will someday, but first I have The Complete Sherlock Holmes to get through!

Debi said...

Oh man. To have a perfectly wonderful story ruined by the last sentence...ouch! Still sounds like it's definitely worth reading though.

Lisa said...

I've recently read Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters. He wrote letters throughout his life, especially to his mother. In them, he talks a great deal about his frustration with only being known for his Sherlock stories. It's a really interesting book. I'd like to read this story even though the ending sounds less than satisfactory.

Trish said...

You know, I have never read anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I agree that a dark ending is a great way to end a dark story--especially short stories.

Anonymous said...

I have been given an assignment to find the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in which there is a character who is a "homeless person or beggar" but actually has a lot of money and a nice home. Does anyone know which of his stories this might come from?

Anonymous said...

I have been given an assignment to find the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in which there is a character who is a "homeless person or beggar" but actually has a lot of money and a nice home. Does anyone know which of his stories this might come from?

leejames234 said...

hi, i have been searching the internet for a blog to discuss the parasite. it was such a great little story until the last sentence. I thought maybe I had missed something. Still not sure I didnt. It makes me wonder how the critics received it when it was published.