The Accursed

The Accursed

by Joyce Carol Oates

Ricki Brodie (05/06/13): The story is set in 1905-1906, in Princeton, NJ. It appears that there is a Curse afflicting the upper echelon of citizens which becomes evident when a young bride, Anabel Slade, exits her wedding ceremony to join a demon. We learn the Curse has been around quite a while. Anabelís brother is determined to find her suffering along the way. Those afflicted turn into vampires or stone, disappear, jump or are pushed off a roof, etc. There is mass hysteria when snakes takeover a school and a trip to the netherworld. The historian, recounting the story of Curse and its victims, spends a great deal of time on minutia and irrelevant details taking away from the gothic tale.

Members of the family and community are painted in lush detail. Winslow Slade, the family patriarch and religious leader becomes a prominent figure throughout. Grover Cleveland, a former President of Princeton, succumbs to the Curse. Woodrow Wilson, as the current President of Princeton is portrayed as a hypochondriac, battling his arch-nemesis for control of the university while engaging with the fiend and Mark Twain.

There are social issues throughout. For example, we see Upton Sinclair, living on the poor side of town, expounding on his socialist views, promoting Thomas Wolfe as the next great socialist leader and then their interactions. The issues of racial violence, misogyny and religious prejudice show that the evil of monsters and demons are not always supernatural but may rest within and how we live our lives.
Rating: ****

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