Setting: The novel, ‘Pet Sematary’ by Stephen King is set mostly in Ludlow, Maine. Aside from the fact that Stephen King often sets his novels in Maine, where he was born and grew up, the quiet and laid back atmosphere of this place which has a very small population (only 402 in 2000) has something to do with the novel. As catalyst for the novel, a particular ancient Indian burial ground is located within walking distance of the Creed family house in this locality. The value of this setting in this novel is its link with history.
Ludlow is known to have a 1% American Indian Ancestry and this small ancestry is enough to validate the presence of the Micmac burial ground in the area. With a small population in the locality, it is most likely that most of the people in the place know about the burial ground which explains why a certain ‘Timmy’ in the novel is referred to as having being buried in the burial ground as well. This sets precedence in the story and explains hoe Jud is quite well-versed with the lore of this particular burial ground.
The setting also helps to conceal whatever supernatural events that occur in the place therefore making it more believable that people from other places did not hear about the strange occurrences in the place. So, while it is a given that King always sets his novels in towns and counties in Maine, the choice of Ludlow for this novel is obviously intentional and is done to achieve certain effects and objectives; these basically, to make it more believable and to validate the link between the townsfolk and their apparent, inherent knowledge of the critical element of the novel which is the Micmac burial ground.
Other than just these technical intentions of the author, it has to be understood that the tone of the novel is also often set by the setting. In this particular novel which starts out in a sleepy, almost passive town, the effect of having something strange and supernatural occurring serves to upset the status quo of the town. Of course, there is reference to a similar occurrence happening in the past, but this works to deepen the secret of the town and so consequently explain the hush-hush attitude of the people.
Drop in a metropolitan family preoccupied with the more tangible representations of life, and a burial ground that is able to resurrect the dead, and the novel has the perfect setting for the materialization of the tangible desires of the alien family and the chaotic interplay between these values and the values of the townsfolk. Major characters: Louis Creed is the main character of the story and it is his family, starting with the family cat, and then his son, and finally his wife that fall victim to the demonic powers of the Micmac Burial ground.
Creed is initially introduced to be indifferent and academic, but sympathetic and close to his family members. This is vital to his decisions later in the novel. His entrance into Ludlow, Maine sets in motion a series of events that serve to clearly emphasize the differences his family has with the people in the town; not only this, it also serves to create a contrast between the ideals of the people of the town as well as his own ideals.
Creed is used in the novel to foreshadow the events that would follow with their moving to Ludlow because it is his dream of a certain university student that leads him to the burial ground in the metaphysical sense. However, more than just the reality that the novel revolves around this main character, Jud, another character in the story, a friend of Louis plays a very important role in setting in motion the chain of events that lead to the demonic corruption of the Creed family.
Jud and Louis are at the different ends of the supernatural spectrum in Pet Sematary – Jud is at the initiating end and Louis at the receiving end of the initiation. Jud is a local of Ludlow and has witnessed certain events in the past connected to the powers of the Micmac burial ground so as a favor to Louis who was instrumental in saving his wife from a fatal heart attack, he takes the family cat of the Creeds which was run over by a truck to the ancient burial ground after which the cat returns to life.
This is the first incident that involves the Creeds and the burial ground, so in effect, Jud is the instrument of paradox because it is through him that the novel begins to plummet towards its gruesome and quite horrific climax. Horror Fiction Formula: Of course, Pet Sematary, being set in Ludlow, Maine apparently begins with the concept of the Apollonian community.
However, a distinct characteristic of this particular novel is the fact that the community is not at all Apollonian in the truest sense of the concept because as the novel unfolds, it reveals that in fact, the Micmac burial ground and its demons has had its victims in the past, this being Timmy, who was killed along with his father when their house was burned down. In effect, the Creeds arrive into the community at a period when it is seemingly Apollonian, but in reality, is merely in a transition period from its dark past to another, darker future.
This is important in the novel because the Dionysian force comes through an instrument, Jud, who has experienced the irruption in the past in the person of Timmy. So, it is Jud who becomes the harbinger of the Dionysian force, which in this novel, is the evil that resides in the Micmac burial ground. The strange thing about this novel is the fact that even with Jud’s knowledge of the degree of evil of the Dionysian force he still risks this by entering the Creed’s family cat into the grounds of the ancient burial site, even with the knowledge of what the consequences could be.
The resurrection of the cat in the novel is the irruption in the novel because it is the manifestation of the Dionysian force, albeit still quite genteel, it actually escalates as Louis Creed decides to inter his son into the ancient burial site. The only time that the novel deviates from the horror formula is when the novel moves towards its ending, where instead of pursuing the Dionysian force to put a stop to it or to defeat it, Louis Creed is devoured by the temptation of bringing back his wife, perhaps also blinded by his loneliness and depression.
The novel ends with implications of the wife actually returning from the dead. So, although, there is no pursuit of the Dionysian force, the novel still ends the way it should according to the formula with implications that the Dionysian force was not in fact defeated or destroyed. Levels of horror: Perhaps the reason why this novel is so successful and so enjoyed by many horror fans is the fact that it operates on the three levels of horror in an escalating manner. In the beginning, the Apollonian community is merely gripped by its dark past and the burial ground is nothing but a folkloric piece of land behind a pet cemetery.
In this part of the novel, it operates on terror because while many people from the town know of the legend of the burial ground and were witnesses to its demonic powers, the knowledge is still on the level of intangibility, like a rumor going around town. Later, when the Dionysian force manifests itself in the form of the cat, a mild form of horror begins to emerge which is the resurrected cat – more aggressive, more hostile, and possessing the qualities of a dead animal.
So, in this sense, the Dionysian force acquires a face or some form of tangibility. The horror becomes more pronounced with the resurrection of Louis’ son, Gage. This time, the Dionysian force becomes more vivid as Gage is more demonic and more evil. This newly resurrected creature then kills Jud which then transforms the horror into revulsion because along with Jud, the monster kills Rachel. King implies in the story that Gage partially eats the corpse of Rachel. This adds to the revulsion.
The end of the novel adds more to this third level of horror by turning the evil inside out. In effect, instead of the horror merely manifesting itself in the resurrected corpses, it begins to eat through the sanity of the last remaining protagonist, Louis. So, the revulsion takes a final twist, when because of the insanity of Louis, he also buries his wife in the burial site and his wife returns. In effect, the monstrosity has transcended from being limited only to the dead coming back to the living finally concurring with its evil.