Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Bath-chair

Fiction ~ short story
First published in More Spook Stories, 1934
6,270 words
(First read 19/12/2012) 

The story is available online here.













THE CRITICS
 
Women very rarely feature as the central figures in Benson's ghost stories. When they do, their role is both potent and ominous.
[…] consider the sister, Alice Faraday, in The Bath-Chair, who housekeeps for her brother and is bullied by him: “There was glee and gusto in her voice” (she is talking about her brother's increasing lameness) “And how slovenly and uncouth she was, with that lock of grey hair across her forehead and her uncared-for hands. Dr. Inglis … wondered if she was quite right in the head.” And what happens in that story? Alice, who detests her brother, conspires with the limping ghost of their father, dead already, to perpetrate a kind of supernatural murder; the brother is ultimately found lying dead in the father's wheelchair. Suppressed sibling rivalry is plainly evident here, as well as a strong patricidal wish. In fact when Benson's characters do step off the sidelines, stop merely observing, and take part in the action, they engage in the most ferocious kind of family warfare.
[…] the underlying fear and dislike of women ~ some women, at all events, the large, bossy, dynamic, interfering, knowing kind of woman. Benson must have been acquainted with some fearful examples of this type; or, at least, he must have known one. Perhaps, like Mrs Amworth, she preyed on adolescent boys.
~Joan Aiken in foreword to The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson, 1992

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