Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Generally considered to be Stephen King's most frightening and disquieting work (a view which he himself apparently shares), Pet Sematary is also a relatively complex novel in terms of the diversity and intertwining of its various themes and social concerns. Since the core of the narrative involves that most basic of human attempts to interfere with the natural order - the recalling to life of those who have died — the seemingly timeless problem of distinguishing between the province of the gods and that of man — is immediately set squarely before the reader's eyes. As if to emphasize this distinction through dramatic counterpoint, King prefaces various sections of the novel with a number of New Testament quotations concerning Jesus's raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Further, by making his protagonist a man of science — in this instance a medical doctor — he echoes an essentially dyspromethian view of human scientific endeavor which has been recurrent in literature from Mary Shelley onwards.

At another level of thematic interest, King returns to the notion of the "Bad Place" explored in The Shining (1977) and elsewhere. In this case it is the ancient burial ground of largely defunct Micmac Indians, a place loaded with culturally specific mythic dread and whose evil power, long dormant, is once again stirring. Moreover, as is generally the case in King's treatment of such themes, there is present the assertion that evil...

(The entire section is 392 words.)