For my midterm narrative review, the 2 stories I selected to read were: 1. O. Henry’s, The Ransom of Red Chief (because I was in the play version of the story in high school) and 2. Stephen King’s, Suffer the Little Kids (since I actually like Stephen King). The one I chose to blog about however was the second one.
The plot starts with a 3rd grade teacher named Miss Sidley. King in the very first paragraph of the story appropriately compares her to God, by explaining how she knows every information of her class from those chewing gum, to those desiring to go to the toilet to trade baseball cards rather of use the centers.
King reveals this absolute power in her quirks, her body language, and the looks that we, the reader, look into her mind. She is explained as “a little lady, who had to stretch to write on the highest level of the blackboard.” Graying, and afflicted with a stopping working back, which she uses a brace to support, this female was still feared by all the children.
The occasion that really provides way to the plot at hand however, is while the children are having their spelling lesson, and one little kid, Robert, utilizes the word tomorrow in an intriguing little sentence.
“Tomorrow, a bad thing will happen,” he says. This is among the most typical aspects of fiction, alliteration. This is a key plot point in the story, and if you miss it, you will not understand. Then, after this declaration, Miss Sidley starts to see Robert modification. It is implied that it is a physical change, but you do not get concrete information on this change till later on in the story. You only learn initially that something is “various” about the way he looks. That something sticks in her mind the remainder of the day, pestering her as she eats her supper of poached eggs on toast, and haunting her dreams (which are more headaches, which is interesting due to the fact that the title of the book this was reprinted from was called Nightmares and Dreamscapes). The story advances with Miss Sidley seeing increasingly more of the children becoming the horrible wicked devils. She holds Robert after school one day and needs to get the reality out of him about these creatures.
He taunts her, telling her that there are eleven more creatures such as him in their school. He asks her if she wants to see him change up close, but she just keeps telling him to go away. Then all of the sudden we see it. The transformation. Described as “face ran together like melting wax, the eyes flattening and spreading like knife-struck egg yolks (poached eggs, anyone?), nose widening and yawning, mouth disappearing. The head elongated, and the hair was suddenly not hair, but straggling, twitching growths. This causes Miss Sidley to run, terrified out of the school, narrowly missing getting hit by an oncoming school bus. This incident causes her not to come back to her job for a month. When she does come back, things are perpetually worse. Robert undermines her authority even further by ridiculing her sanity, telling her how there’s so many of these creatures now. She realizes that she is becoming that which she loathes, someone who’s losing.
To regain her control, her winning, and possibly what little bit of sanity she thinks she has, the next day, she brings a gun to school, and begins giving a “special test” in the mimeograph room. She got so far as to kill twelve of the students, if a fellow teacher hadn’t stopped her. She isn’t put on trial (one would assume this is because she is declared not sane to be tried), but rather enrolled into an asylum. A year later under “strictly controlled conditions” she was placed in an experimental encounter situation with some cataclysmically retarded children. At first she responds very well to the situation, interacting with the children lovingly. But then she sees something that disturbs her, and asks to be taken away. Later that night, she kills herself with a bit of broken mirror glass.
This story leaves a lot of questions that can only be answered with assumptions. Was Miss Sidley really seeing things, or was her mind playing tricks on her in her old age? Were these illusions created to make her leave? Was her death suppose to be the ultimate result? Was this her penance, her punishment for being such an evil, strict, controlling teacher all these years? The title of this story can also be interpreted many ways. The children suffered with this teacher, the children made their teacher suffer, the children being killed suffering, the children in the class that didn’t die, and their suffering. No one (well, except for hopefully King himself) knows the answers to these numerous questions. But I think this is why people read stories. They want to make their own assumptions and interpretations of a writers work. I think this is the beauty of writing a piece of literature.
Cite this page
"Suffer the Little Children" by Stephen King. (2016, Jun 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/suffer-the-little-children-by-stephen-king-essay