This June, I read Stephen King’s The Dark Half, a story in which an author’s alter ego competes for control of his life. As a Gemini, I naturally identify with the concept of duality. With this book, it’s especially interesting to consider what it means for an individual to live as their “true self,” versus who they think they should be. For example, in terms of personal interests versus professional success, while many of us want to live true to ourselves, a high-paying, though soul-sucking venture can also look awfully tempting.
In King’s book, the author, Thad Beaumont, writes under the pseudonym, George Stark. Beaumont is a nice guy, but he’s a little boring and his more intellectual books don’t sell well. On the other hand, under his pseudonym, he indulges in the depraved excitement of murder, writing brash bestsellers, raking in lots of money. However, once Beaumont realizes the dangers of this monstrous side to his well-being, he wants to banish it and go back to living the safe, respectable life of a family man—even if it means giving up the profits of Stark’s popularity. Yet, the monster is, for all its repulsiveness, somehow still alluring to him. Even when he wont admit it to himself. He’s torn between his honest, domestic life and a greater sense of power.
Through George Stark, Thad Beaumont is able to explore his own realm of dark curiosity. That place where many of us tread from time to time, when, for example we can’t seem to look away from something horrible.—Like rubberneckers driving past a car accident. Like moviegoers to horror films. Or like readers of Stephen King.
Does this mean there’s a homicidal maniac or sociopath living in all of us? Well, a brain tumor can potentially completely change a person. A little pressure here or there in the brain. A mere mechanical change in our physiology. Suddenly, the floodgates can open to that Call of the Void that is always lurking within us, bubbling up at unpleasant times in our consciousness.
Generally, though, having a little curiosity about the dark side of our humanity is a relatively benign thing. From a positive perspective, this has fueled many entertaining stories since before the Brothers Grimm. As a bonus, these stories often teach moral lessons and serve as cautionary tales.
As for Stephen King’s The Dark Half, if there’s anything to learn, maybe it’s that there are more important things to life than money. Because it’s just not worth developing a bestselling alter ego if it’s going to physically manifest into an evil being and put your authentic life at risk.