One could interpret the “thing” in “Thing in the Forest” as a real monster being a real monster and, at other times, being an unreal monster for various reasons. Real monsters in the stories incline to combine good and evil, and; this intends to evoke the sensation of terror and horror in its readers through the act of presenting the evil side in the form of a monster. Concerning this, I could interpret the “thing” being a real monster since it personifies both the pain and terror of war, which made both Penny and Primrose to be traumatized deeply. In response to this, Penny was inclined to address her problem of trauma through psychological analysis. At the same time, Primrose tended to cope with the issue of trauma with the aid of imagination.
At the beginning of the story, one could imagine a “thing” in “The Thing in the Forest” to be a real monster since the story has mentioned the issue of the forest. We often think about how monsters can be found in the woods. Nevertheless, after reading the entire story, I tend to interpret “thing” in this story being another thing rather than a real monster. The author has utilized some of the crucial elements of a short story to craft a dark fairytale that could depict the thing as a real monster (Miller and Leeson 3). Regarding how the story has begun, the audience could be expecting more than a mere thing mentioned in the title. Typically, Byatt in this story emphasizes via figurative language that its main character, Penny and Primrose, have been dealing with what can be considered to be more than a mere creature in the forest which affected turned to affect them for the rest of that time lives.
The story began during the early 1940s, the blitz of World War II, when British cities were eventually bombed by the German war plans (Byatt 329). At the story’s beginning, the two little girls are seen evacuating from the city of urban Great Britain. From there, they find themselves at one of the large mansions in the country, and they ultimately decide to go into the woods with them finally; a younger girl wants to go with them, but they cannot allow her (Byatt 327). In the woods, the two girls encounter what could be described as one of the living horrors, dragging itself via the greenery while leaving a defined path of decay and destruction in its wake (Miller and Leeson 5). With this part in my mind, I could interpret the “thing” being a real monster because of the destruction it left behind since monsters are known to cause certain kinds of destruction.
Penny and Primrose in the story were two children who did not know one another. However, they ultimately made a family structure amid them for the little time they eventually spent together (Byatt 327). Regarding the “thing “that they both saw, the monster in the forest appears to be more like an illusion of the girl’s imagination than whatsoever. It was representing a bomb or something destructive from the war though the two girls refused to believe what they were seeing ultimately, and thus, they made out to be a monster. The foul smell might have been representing exhaust fumes if a tank was coming via the area. Children at a tender age could easily misinterpret or mistake a tank for being a monster since tanks are usually heavy, which could be scary, especially for young children.
Real monsters tend to be dangerous and strange in appearance. Regarding this, the story tells more about how the war was dangerous since it left some people dead, including the fathers of two girls. The description of the “thing”, which was seen by the two girls in the forest, had a strange appearance that made the two girls afraid of it. Penny and Primrose encountered a horrible creature that they later learned was known as “the loathly worm”. Nevertheless, the story discusses how the two girls sought to ultimately face the monster again as they dealt with their inbuilt traumas using various directions.
Based on their defined directions, Penny goes back to where they saw the “thing” with a professional gaze when she becomes a psychologist, and this could outline some possible ways of encountering and dealing with the traumatic experience. Based on Primrose, addresses and counters her trauma through the act of attempting to find the real beauty in life when she becomes a talented storyteller who has a developed imagination. From this perspective, Primrose discovers the forest from a certain angle with beautiful fauna and flora. It is the act of feeling alone that Primrose turned to her imagination when her father died, and her mother became underwhelmed. This left the girl to figure things out alone, contributing to her feeling isolated (Byatt 330).
Regarding the “thing” found in the forest, the two girls saw a loathly worm while they were walking into the woods. In this case, the worm clearly symbolises their innate nightmares and fears. However, it also represents both the psychological damage and emotional destruction that the upcoming war would have on the two girls. With this, the thing can be interpreted as an unreal monster since this was just an imagination of the girls. The worm appears to be a defined symbol of the upcoming war and all its related horrors; the girls were initially sent to the mansion for them to escape from destruction. In relation to this, this could be seen as their defined way of expressing their own fear of what was evolving around them, more so with the actual war which destroyed their homes.
Based on the entire story, the “thing” which was encountered by Penny and Primrose could be seen to be representing evil and pain that is associated with the upcoming human experience in a symbolic way. In regard to this, the human experience in this instance revealed itself as a result of the ongoing war. The fact that the fathers of both girls were in the time of military actions, and even though it is mentioned indirectly, I could interpret the “thing” being a real monster that represents terrible images of the warfare which occurred and took away the fathers of two girls (Wells 5).
The monster, which was encountered by the two girls, has various characteristics of the current modern civilization. For example, this story’s writer has described the “Thing “as the act of having “trailed veils, bits of wire netting, rusty nuts, foul dishcloths”, among other things outlined in the story (Byatt329). Furthermore, some innumerable features of the monster resemble dead bodies, like the terrible smell of “bad eggs”, “the color of flayed flesh, which is pitted with wormholes”, and “opaque white eye”. The monster tries to haunt the minds of those who have seen them, and in this case, I also tend to think that the shock which was experienced by the two girls could haunt them for the rest of their future lives.
Byatt, A. S. The Thing in the Forest (Storycuts). Random House, 2011.
Miller, Emma V., and Miles Leeson. “‘[T]he thing that makes us different from other people’:1 Narrating incest through ‘différance’ in the work of Angela Carter, A.S. Byatt and Doris Lessing.” Incest in contemporary literature, 2018, pp. 246-268.
Wells, H. G. “The Thing in the Forest.” The Island of Doctor Moreau, 2017.