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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Anatomy of Desire: A Critique

I think the first thing that we must have all thought after reading this short story was, "What the hell did I just read?" This short story is jam-packed with enough "w-t-f" moments to leave the reader pacing the floor reading it a second time. 

In "The Anatomy of Desire" we meet Hanley, a prisoner of war who was flayed alive, left with only his genitals and face. While skinless and constantly moist with blood in a vet's hospital, Hanley becomes lonely and has a "great and natural desire to be possessed by someone (L'heureux 339)." While in the hospital, Hanley convinces his nurse, called "the saint," to be the one to love him. She obliges, and loves Hanley, even going as far as having sex with him. But this love is not enough, Hanley wants to possess her. He convinces her to allow him to cut off her skin so that he may wear it. In the end, Hanley saw "that here can be no possession, there is only desire (L'heureux 343)." 

To me, this short story is a metaphor for the parallel between want and have. Hanley had love, but he wants to possess it. But love is not a tangible thing, we cannot hold love. He had such a strong, creepy, and disgusting desire to possess the saint that he wanted to live in her skin. This story teaches us that we all desire something, and sometimes when we finally get it, we end up desiring even more. It teaches us that we must be happy with what we have.

Personally, I think this story is too creepy for me to enjoy. It has hints of "Buffalo Bill" from The Silence of the Lambs. The quote "It rubs the lotion on the skin..." was constantly playing in the back of my mind while reading this story. The subtle hints of homosexuality, the obvious hints of heterosexuality, and the graphic description of the nature of his condition keeps a reader on edge. Maybe I completely missed the theme or moral to this story, but even so, I think there are less creepy ways to get a point across than L'heureux chose. Of course, what makes a story gothic if it is not creepy? 

L'heureux, John. The Anatomy of Desire. London: Penguin Group, 1996. Print.

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