Short Stories Challenge – Cain Rose Up by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Published August 27, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s Cain Rose Up all about?:

Cain Rose Up is about a college student called Garrish who goes on a frenzied killing spree from his dorm windows.

What did I think?:

This is one of Stephen King’s “shorter” short stories and a lot of action is packed into just a few pages. It is one of the few Stephen King stories that I have had to read again just so I could formulate my thoughts properly before writing a review! Cain Rose Up follows a student called Curt Garrish as he is about to finish the semester and has taken his final exams. We the reader sense that something is not right about Curt from the beginning as he talks to a friend, Beaver and admits that he thinks he has flunked the chemistry paper. Beaver seems shocked to hear this, so perhaps normally Curt is an excellent student? He is fairly short with him saying that he needs to take a shower and proceeds to his room on the fifth floor. On the way, he meets a number of people that might be “better off dead,” in his words, like the counsellor Rollins who he can see:

“lying dead in a ditch with maggots in his eyes. Rollins wouldn’t care. Neither would the maggots. You either ate the world or the world ate you and it was okay either way.”

Rollins appears slightly puzzled at Curt’s demeanour but doesn’t follow it up and carries on his way. Big mistake. Because we are dealing with a very disturbed, depressed and confused individual who clearly needs help and feels like the whole world is against him. In his room, which he keeps neat in a kind of military style we have a poster of Humphrey Bogart with an automatic pistol in each hand, and then things start to get a bit hairy when he pulls a rifle from his closet, sits down on the bed and weeps. A fellow student interrupts him briefly who he imagines dying of cancer or renal failure. From the point of the reader, it is obvious that Curt has completely given up on life as it seems to be a waste of time. Then talking to the Bogart poster, we get a deeper insight into what Curt is feeling as he rails about Cain, God and his treatment of Cain.

Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve – the first humans. Cain was put in charge of cultivating the land and Abel became a shepherd, tending the flock. Both made offerings to God, and while Abel’s was accepted, Cain’s was rejected. Cain was furious at this and immediately killed his brother in a fit of jealousy and anger.

Is Curt himself railing at God for his life, which is obviously miserable? Getting back at the world (and God) he proceeds to go to the dorm window and shoot at students and others that he picks out to die repeating what seems to be his mantra – “you eat the world or the world eats you.” The ending is very open, which I loved, and Stephen King lets us make up our own minds about what happens next in the story.

Yet again, another piece of brilliant writing from King, which I actually enjoyed more on the second reading. His characters are intriguing and the plot is intense and builds tension throughout which is actually not released at the end due to the openness of it. This may feel frustrating to some readers, but I enjoyed re-playing the story in my mind and trying to guess what would have happened if King had continued writing. I’m very much looking forward to the next story in this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Peep Show by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

4 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – Cain Rose Up by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

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