What is the climax of William Sleator's novel The Beasties?
In William Sleator’s strange and creepy novel for young readers titled The Beasties, a boy named Doug and his bookish younger sister, Collette, accompany their father, who studies plants, on a trip to the forest, where he plans to do research. Logging companies have been stripping the forest of trees, and strange creatures known as “beasties” have been retaliating by stripping loggers and other humans of various body parts. Doug and Collette eventually become friendly with the beasties, including one, named Fingers, who has no sight.
When the Queen of the beasties dies, a new queen is needed. Fingers is willing to take on the role, but her blindness seems an insuperable obstacle. As she explains to Doug in the strange dialect she uses, the beasties “never pick Queen who can’t see.” When Doug suggests that eyes might be taken from the most recently dead humans in the forest, Fingers replies, “Cannot taking parts from dead – can only do it if taking minutes after they die.” The corpses, then, are not available sources of the needed eye or eyes. Nor can eyes be donated (Fingers explains) by other beasties.
Doug, worried that without a new queen the beasties will go extinct, eventually arrives at a solution that shocks both Fingers and Collette:
“You will be able to see, Fingers,” I said, “because I’m giving you an eye.”
Surely this statement, which comes at the very end of chapter 14, is one of the most important climaxes in the book, if not the most important climax of all. It suggests a kind of climax to Doug’s moral growth, symbolizing his willingness to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of another. Fingers is deeply touched, and although Collette raises objections, Doug quickly silences them, even though he realizes that with just one good eye left, his skills as a baseball player will be greatly diminished. When Fingers asks whether he is serious, Doug responds almost angrily that he is and makes it clear that the decision is voluntary and is his alone. Doug’s decision is a startling climax to the narrative that has preceded this crucial moment.