This week I had the opportunity to read a short story horror piece by Richard Matheson entitled The Funeral. This piece had an element of irony and humor woven throughout its pages.
The over all synopses was of a funeral home directed by a man named Morton Silkline who’s motivation is money. Silkline’s life changes when a new customer, Mr. Asper, comes into his parlor seeking to purchase funeral services for himself. Silkline believes he is the butt of a joke but falls into like when the reality of his situation and fear sets in.
Later, at the funeral, we see a cast of haunting characters in play as the service is interrupted by quarreling among the guests. In all the commotion, Silkline succumbs to fear and loses consciousness. In the end, Silkline ends up with a new client squirming through the door, a referral from Ash.
I enjoyed the mysterious and tense banter of the characters as we discover who each of the main characters is and represents. Silkline is a money-obsessed funeral director who can hardly contain his excitement when he discovers that money is no object for his new client. On the other hand, we have the other main character, a mister Mr. Asper, who is looking to procure, as he puts it, a “tasty” funeral that he never had.
Throughout the story, I found myself marveling at the prose and use of vocabulary. This was a great piece for this week’s assignment. It is what I refer to as linguistic gymnastics. The over all reading experience was quite good. I did like this piece better than I Am Legend.
Matheson reminded me that monsters have wants, needs, and feelings as well. Mr. Asper wanted a respectable and “tasty” funeral, obviously something that was missing from his life that was an emotional need that needed resolution. This concept was the underlying motivation for Mr. Asper throughout the story. We also got to experience family squabbles at the funeral, as each of the supporting characters had wants and needs and motivations the needed to be met. The squabbles kind of reminded me of how humans might act at a funeral.
Of the many things I found interesting, was the use of the word tasty. At times I saw it as an adjective for the level of quality of the funeral that Ash always dreamed of. Associating the word tasty with a level of quality or elegance, felt odd as it is not a word that one usually uses in that manner. Later on, the word is used in a couple of places where one might start to question if the word’s meaning has shifted away from a quality context and more into a culinary context. I found that element of wordplay to playful and found myself slightly fearing for Silkline’s welfare.
The character arc for Silkline, if you can call it a character arc as the story was so short, is interesting. We see Silkline motivated by money from the beginning. As the story progresses, his motivation shifts from money to fear as he discovers Mr. Asper’s true state of being. Finally, the story closes with Silkline, digressing right back to where he started, motivated by money again.
I found that my taste for Richard Matheson’s writings increased while reading this piece. I will continue to read his works now that I have a deeper perspective of his abilities and ideas. I did read another of his pieces the same day I read the Funeral, a piece called Third From The Sun, also a cool story.