Review of "The Monkey" by Stephen King

In "The Monkey" from "Skeleton Crew," Stephen King takes on the evil toy come to life genre with finesse. From films like Child's Play to stories like Algernon Blackwood's "The Doll," the idea of children's toys coming to life to terrorize their innocent owners is, well, horrifying. This may be because of the vulnerability of children and good parents' tendency to imagine the worst of even the most minor threats. It could also be because their lifeless eyes and mirthless grins haunt us from childhood. Whatever the reason, toys with faces are scary and no one does scary better than Stephen King.

The antagonist in "The Monkey" is, predictably, a toy monkey. You know the kind, the straight from the underworld mangy faces with the oval eyes, toothy grins and cacophonous clanging cymbals. King hints that this monkey started just like any other horrible gift idea of a toy monkey, but somewhere along the line, somehow, it took on a life and personality of its own. Without describing much more than its unwilling owner's perspective of the monkey, Stephen King manages to convey to the reader that the toy monkey is ruthless and insane. It enjoys horrifying a little boy and the man he becomes.

Brilliantly, Stephen King initially leaves the truth of the monkey's "personality" ambiguous. Is it the boy's imagination, a sane person has to wonder? However, by the end, our protagonist has proven himself to the reader and is now in a race to save the next generation of monkey owners from a mean spirited toy. In the end, the reader has a brief sense of relief. Our protagonist has won! Wait . . . is the monkey still making its deadly music? If not, what has become of the evil that lived inside of it?

Shelly Barclay

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