Tuesday, October 9, 2012

James-A-Day: The Rose Garden

M. R. James in his study
I think this might be the only MRJ story that features a woman as the main victim of the haunting.  She isn't flatteringly portrayed; she is certainly a bit of a termagant and I bet James was feeling grateful for bachelorhood when he wrote it!   I'm not going to accuse him of much, though.  Most of MRJ's male characters have their weaknesses as well; they're greedy or frivolous or something.

It's pretty clear that the ghost of an unjustly executed man is trapped in the post.  The situation is evidently based on an old Danish superstition about how to lay a ghost: you sort of herd it out to an empty field and imprison it with a strong stake.  It seems that the summerhouse was built around the post, but note that while what's left of the house is decayed and falling apart, that post is still firmly rooted and strong.  Was it preserved somehow by its job as a ghost-holder?

I thought it was interesting that the title of the story is "The Rose Garden," but there's not a single actual rose in the story.  Instead it's a bleak and rather unattractive section of land that's too overgrown with laurels and other bushes.  The rose garden is never created.

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