Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"The Intoxicated"

"The Intoxicated"
from The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson

I've been waffling between reading material, lately, ending up by picking up in the middle of Jane Eyre (right before she leaves Lowood).  Then, this morning, in the mood for something new (something that I hadn't read so many times before), Shirley Jackson caught my eye.  I guess I'll be reading some of her short stories and "reviewing" them one at a time. 

(SPOILERy) Reaction:
It's very short.  (I'll give it that.)  It's also creepily unsettling.  But I find myself impatient with Eileen...  Calmly daydreaming about the end of the world, little girl?  Pah!  And you think that's unique to "your generation"?  Yeah, right.  People have been talking about the end of the world since there have been people to talk!  (Ugh, the children of the Cold War.  Think they're so special!  ...And, you know what?  I'm only half-joking, here!)

Eileen tells the unnamed party-goer (Mr. Intoxicated himself) that "if people had been really, honestly scared when you were young we wouldn't be so badly off today".  Hm.  Nice try, sweetie, but I'm From The Future™, and I'm here to tell you that your generation hasn't done much better.  (So lay off the old drunk, whydontcha?)

Then there's this:  "'Things will be different afterward. ... Everything that makes the world like it is now will be gone.  We'll have new rules and new ways of living.  Maybe there'll be a law not to live in houses, so then no one can hide from anyone else, you see.'"  UGH.  What kind of loopy-doopy, hippie-dippie, pretentious, falsely-deep nonsense is that?  So houses are the problem?  Yeah, people've only been sheltering in structures for ever.  It's just a wonder it took so long for our wicked penchant for living in houses to destroy life as we know it.  It's clearly linked to everything that is wrong with the world today... er, whenever this was written. 

...So, Eileen.  I'm curious.  What's the alternative to houses?  Everyone living out on the open plains like a herd of buffalo?  Are we allowed to seek shelter under a tree, if we should find one?  Or would we all live together, commune-style, in a large building?  Because I guess privacy is the real enemy here.  Everyone has to share everything.  No personal property.  No personal thought.  ...Yeah, no thanks.

This Eileen character just really irked me, in case you couldn't tell.  Her whole attitude irks-- and it's nothing new.  Newsflash: You're not that special.  Everyone's afraid of the end of the world-- even if it's only the end of their own, personal world.  Everyone thinks "it's an interesting time to be alive" (though to be fair, that platitude was courtesy of Mr. Intoxicated).  We all have moments of quiet (or noisy) desperation-- but then we go on about our lives as usual, because what else can you do?  If you run around like a chicken with your head cut off-- or morbidly mope your way through every day-- you might as well cease to exist right away.  What's the point?

I'm probably not supposed to admit it, but I sympathize most with the father character who makes a brief appearance at the end... Kids nowadays!