Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Shut a Final Door" by Truman Capote

Deal Me In Lite, R.I.P. Edition, Week 4: “Shut a Final Door” by Truman Capote (Story 4 of 13)

For the fourth story in my R.I.P. Short Story Peril, the spades dealt me a Jack. This means I turn again to The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural for a weird little story by Truman Capote. According to the short introduction in the anthology, this was one of Capote’s earliest stories, written before his first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms. This story also won first place in the O. Henry prize competition of 1948. It is an interesting story, but I'm not so sure it's worthy of its place in a horror anthology.


The protagonist, Walter Ranney, is a vile little man with little to nothing of a moral compass. And that's going easy on him. He's one of those people who drifts from thing to thing, and person to person. He makes friends with a young man only to steal his girlfriend away from him. And then he uses the new girlfriend to advance in his career, and eventually as a stepping stone to a new girlfriend. In fact, he pretty much uses every woman in his life that way, always “trading up,” as they say. Until he ticks off his last girlfriend, an important heiress, and goes plummeting back down to the bottom of the ladder, even losing his job.

The supernatural part of the story, I guess, comes in when Walter begins getting calls from an person who refuses to identify himself or herself (Walter can’t even tell if it's a man or a woman) and simply keeps saying, every time they call, “Oh, you know me, Walter. You’ve known me a long time.” We never get even a hint of who this is (and I have my own suspicions as to what Capote is trying to do with this but I won't tell them to you for fear of spoiling the story) but it's definitely a little on the creepy side.

I don't think this is really supposed to be a scary story, so I was a little disappointed that it got into my R.I.P. mix. It's really more of a psychological study/morality tale kind of thing. However, as a short story it stands very well on its own merits and I'm glad I read it. It's one of those stories that I had to read twice to make sure I was catching even half of what Capote was trying to do with it, but it was definitely worth reading that way.

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