“The Gathering” by Isobelle Carmody portrays the dark side of human nature. It shows that man’s behaviour does not vary over long periods of time and across different cultures. It shows that each and every single person has an evil or dark side to them and it is whether they succumb to this evil or follow the paths of light and goodness that decide what kind of person they are.
Cheshunt, where the story is set appears to be a fairly normal town. When Nathanial and his mother arrive, Nathanial instinctively knows that something is not quite right. Nathanial is there for a reason. He and the other members of The Chain must learn the power of friendship to defeat the evil Kraken.
The dark side of human nature is seen in many characters: Cheshunt’s headmaster Mr Karle is a truly evil person. Although Mr Karle’s only role in the community is Deputy Principal of Three North, he has manipulated those who do have a major role in the community into making himself the main power over all Cheshunt. His goal is to become the ruler of the world, starting with Cheshunt. To make sure that The Chain does not defeat him, Mr Karle defeats one member at a time. Mr Karle portrays the dark side of human nature – he has attained power that he then uses to control all those around him. He has become corrupted by this power and with it he is able to manipulate the other characters to perform vicious acts.
Mr Karle taunts and mocks in an attempt to emotionally destroy those around him – he takes pleasure in others’ emotional pain. He causes distress in Nathanial when he tells him of his cold hearted father who was “Insanely jealous. Unstable. Violent” (page 263) and how Nathanial’s mother learnt not to speak to anyone or smile in fear of what his father would do to her. When Mr Karle reminds Indian that his sister is brain damaged because of Indian’s own mistakes – he does this knowing the heartache this will cause. He mocks Nissa calling her “unfeminine and unattractive” and how “no one could love such a creature except out of pity” (page 246). Mr Karle defeats one character at a time. He is physically cruel and used force to hurt them. Mr Karle embodies all that is the dark side of human nature, he is cruel both emotionally and physically “Then the Kraken stepped forward and slapped her across the face. A trickle of dark blood ran from the corner of her mouth” (page 249). He is corrupted by power, he is manipulative and in all this he takes pleasure. He is a true sadist.
The dark side in human nature is also portrayed in many of the other characters, this is evidenced in Buddha – Isobelle Carmody has used the name Buddha that represents peace and harmony and made him a killer. He burns Nathanial’s dog, The Tod, who is Nathanial’s only true friend and Nathanial loves. “The match landed in his tail and flames swept forward up over him. Devoured him. He arched and coiled, yelping in pain and fright, and then he screamed, a long inhuman howl of agony and terror.”(page 214). When Buddha burns The Tod it is a vicious, cowardly act and is evidence of how dark man’s nature can be, that he can murder a poor, defenseless creature that is incapable of fighting back, also that the act was carried out in front of Nathanial to cause him immense grief and feelings of powerlessness. What is even more disturbing is that this is such a real act that could happen in our everyday life.
How the people who are in a position to protect us and how they use this authority in a destructive way is also shown. The police, who are supposed to be good and honest are corrupt and evil. They protect the evil leaders and enforce their law, “The pamphlet stuck under the door the day we arrived had welcomed us to the neighbourhood and urged my mother to join the Community Committee. It had a lot of by law information and the bit about the curfew was last. It said no one was to be out in the streets after ten at night without a specific reason.” (page 20). The police either stood aside and let the people of Cheshunt be intimidated and bullied or were doing the intimidating and bullying themselves.
Seth is a part of the chain that is needed to defeat the evil – but Seth has given in to his dark side. He has a very weak character. Despite Seth being a “brain” (page 10), looking “like one of those perfect guys off Coke ads” (page 10) and coming from a good family, “His father is a policeman” (page 55) he is pathetic. He is sneaky and drinks alcohol to escape facing reality. He can’t deal with his own problems (his parents are divorced and he can’t deal with being in the Chain and the effort it takes to defy Mr Karle) and uses his weaknesses as an excuse to attempt to commit suicide, “Seth lay on his back between them, his face dead white.” (page 142) He breaks promises “‘You promised,’ Nissa said icily.” (page 138). He also betrays those around him “Mr Karle gave Nissa a radiant smile. ‘Got him? But you misunderstand, Nissa. I didn’t get Seth. He came to us.'” (page 250).
Nathanial’s father is a character who shows that man’s dark side does not vary over long periods of time. Nathanial’s father was a violent jealous man who liked to have complete control over everything. He was jealous of Nathanial and the attention he got from his mother, especially when Nathanial was a baby “I had to sometimes hold your mouth to stop the crying” (page 264). Man’s darkest nature was shown when his father attempted to kill Nathanial, “‘Children should be seen and not heard,’ he said, and his big hands closed around my neck. And squeezed.” (page 247). This is absolute evidence of innate evil – that a father could try to murder his own son.
In conclusion, “The Gathering” shows us the dark side of human nature and it is vividly portrayed. It has a realness that shows that evil is present in the past and in the future and is occurring right now, in all parts of our life. It shows that power can corrupt you and consume you absolutely. It also shows us that cruelty, deceit, jealousy and manipulation are just some of the many ways evil can be shown.