Monday, July 25, 2011

This is a story in which no animal dies.

This is a story in which no animal dies.
A child does not stone a kitten, to demonstrate the casual cruelty of youth.
No one takes an axe to an injured deer by the side of a road, to make a point about euthanasia.
A man is not forced to watch as his master drowns his beloved dog, in order the show the evil, the inhumanity, of slaveholding.
A small bird does not die in the jaws of a predator, whereby expressing the wildness and unsentimentality of nature.
In this story, a family of rabbits will not be crushed by a bulldozer in a commentary on the shortsightedness and destructive power of human progress.
Horses will not be shot, whether they are lame, sick, or overworked by a cruel master.
A sack of puppies or kittens most certainly won't be tossed from a car window, or drowned in a river, in order to show a character's disregard for life and other creatures'  suffering.
Circus and zoo animals will not be shot or starved in order to show the depravation of a war, or a depression, or some other disaster.
In other words, in this story, the family pet will not be left to fend for itself when Hurricane [fill in the blank] hits.
No, this story will not contain any manner of canine, feline, equine, avian, et al, abuse, neglect, or mortality.
As a result, it will not win any prizes, nor will it be published in any preeminent literary publications.  No editor will hail this story as edgy, raw, or real.  It will not become a piece of classic children's literature, because it lacks the tearjerking scene of a boy losing his beloved hounds.
And why should this story, or rather, this author, be so adamantly against the fictive deaths of fictive creatures?  Shouldn't said creatures instead be lauded for their contributions to fiction?
And so the scene shifts to an awards ceremony--and certainly there would be a large enough pool from which to cull the nominees--that honors animal deaths in fiction.  Even there, however, the long-suffering beasts would be the first to be forgotten.  The writers would accept awards based on the grittiness of the scene, how the violence propelled the plot, and what it revealed about the character who perpetrated the malevolent act.  Kudos would be given for best supporting adjectives--the gruesomer, the better--and achievement in editing.  Because sometimes the best (or worst?) violence is the kind that the reader can extrapolate for himself.  And so the fictive animals would be neglected once more, fading from the awards auditorium--if they were even allowed in in the first place--and into the background.  They were useful only at the height of their suffering and the moment of their demise, but beyond that they were no longer required.
Until someone bursts on stage--perhaps while Sarah McLachlan sings her sad song while sad video images of sad furry paws reach out to the audience from behind the bars of a cage--and declares a stop to it all.  Calls all this fictive animal suffering excessive, cliched, overdone.  Deems all the nominees hacks for resorting to such a common trope.  And when the cry rises up from the audience, "Well, what shall we do instead?" the auditorium will go silent, waiting.
And the agitator will say, "Why not just mess with the human characters?  It's their kind you're indicting anyway, in the end."

No comments:

Post a Comment