Although I have never previously read up on the genre of horror before now, the article “Children of the Light” by Bruce Kawin did indeed shed some interesting light on this novel. Kawin works to define the line that exists between horror and science fiction, as well as what separates the good from the bad. I was fascinated at how he was able to draw these distinctions, and the applicability that it had to novels such as this one despite using examples from movies.
Kawin says that in good horror, nobody gets off easily – the main character, for instance “confronts his or her own fallibility…as an aspect of confronting the horror object, and either matures or dies” (Kawin 237). We see both of these things happen at once as the narrator journeys through the deep house, living and reliving the memories of his own and of his wife’s, allowing him to realize “[h]ow every time [I touched her,] it left a mark” (Bell 115). After this realization, he comes to be more willing and able to fight against the orders of the fingerling, at least mentally – a feat of great importance once he reunites with the foundling and finds himself filled with fatherly instinct to protect him: “…I fought [the fingerling] limb by limb, digit by digit, so that he might not bring harm to the foundling, but to do so not yet for the foundling’s sake, or not his sake alone” (Bell 137). No matter the sake for whom the narrator is fighting, this seems a mark of maturity in his character, and the mark of a good horror story: “They lead us through a structure that shows us something useful or worth understanding…What bad horror films do, in contrast…is to present a spectacle for the simple purpose of causing pain to the viewer’s imagination” (Kawin 241). The beginning of the novel was of great disgust to us because we had not yet been shown the aspects of the narrative and its characters that we were meant to understand – it seemed like spectacle for its own sake. Personally, however, I find the metaphorical resonance of the narrator’s ingesting of the fingerling, a desperation to nourish what had failed to grow, while still grotesque, adds an element of depth – an aspect of “good horror” – to the novel as a whole.