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King's early novels stage the recurring theme of sacrificial children; that is, children whose lives or innocence are sacrificed to the evil ends and pathological needs of adults. Wrenching and premature rites of passage, precipitated by a life-threatening relationship between parents and children, occur frequently. In Jessie's case, her innocence and faith are violated by her beloved father's sexual abuse of her. Like King's other sacrificial children, Jessie has not escaped the consequences of this violation; she has only repressed the memory. Hence, her development as a woman is radically altered as the romantic musical refrain "Tammy's in love" shifts to the incipient sexual violence of "a woman likes it that way." She is emotionally traumatized as evidenced in her lack of desire for career, children or any other intimate, ongoing relationship.

Drawing from contemporary models of women's silencing and powerlessness, he uses a female monologue of steadily recovered memory. Through Ruth, Goody Burlingame, Punkin, and other unknown voices he highlights both the silencing and voicing of Jessie. These voices map her interior landscape, through images of dark woods, poisoned wells, and eclipses. These voices that tell Jessie of her double-voicedness, her fear of her unexplored shadow, and the "dark day" in which she has lived since the literal eclipse during which her father molested her are really guides to ultimate freedom.

King's greater reliance on the "monsters" within the dark places of the human soul, rather than the "monster" in the closet or under the bed distinguishes this novel from his others. While King's explanations of the demons within Jessie's father are sketchy, he is clear regarding Jessie's emotional coupling of Gerald, Joubert and her father. Joubert, the necrophile and grave desecrator, is a demon for whom all humans—male and female—are nothing but objects of pleasure and personal gain. His dehumanizing acts against the dead are similar to Gerald's "crimes" against Jessie; and her father's crime against her. Until Jessie makes the connection, she is paralyzed by fear and trapped. In King's psychological drama psychic horror and fear strip Jessie naked—metaphorically and literally, after which she is forced to confront and find herself, beyond civility, pretense, masks or forgetfulness.

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