What does this story mean?
May 8, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

What does the Joe Hill story "My Father's Mask" mean?

I love the Joe Hill short story collection "20th-Century Ghosts", but the story "My Father's Mask" has me scratching my head every time I read it (which is a lot of times). I understand the basic gist of the plot, obviously, but there's so much more going on underneath the surface that is eluding me. Who are the children the narrator meets in the woods? Who are the "playing-card people?" Who is the woman who comes to the cabin? Why does the narrator put on his father's mask at the end? Why in the hell is everyone acting so weird?

Help this dense reader, please!
posted by altopower to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man - does it really even matter?

I've read that story three times now and each time it freaks me the hell on out. For me it doesn't matter who or what they are; shit's creepy just because it happened.

Don't forget to think also about the uber-creepy INSISTENCE on how the parents keep harping on wearing the damn things up at that cabin. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVER.

posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:01 PM on May 8, 2012

I've been trying to figure that out for a long time. I finally decided to read it as a kind of dream, with oedipal overtones--all the characters are in the narrator's head and perhaps symbolize some kind of identity/authority/anxiety of influence struggle with his father. Maybe Hill himself had a dream like this (consider who his father is) and thought it would make an interesting story.
posted by tully_monster at 1:54 AM on May 9, 2012

Interesting theory, tully_monster. I can see that. There's definitely some Oedipal influences going on there, which could explain why the narrator puts on his father's mask at the end, sort of a symbol of taking his place.

I read something somewhere (that I can't find now) that had the theory that the boy in the woods was his father as a child or something like that, and that the game that they played somehow influenced later events, but I'm not remembering it too clearly.

But yeah, this story is one of only a couple that I've read that just get inside my head and creep me right the hell out. The others are "Harvey's Dream" from Stephen King's "Just After Sunset" collection (which has a similar feeling of just dread and, for lack of a better word, wrongness) and "1408" from "Everything's Eventual". Gahhhhh.
posted by altopower at 8:18 AM on May 9, 2012

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