In the Flesh

In the Flesh

In the Flesh

Clive Barker

Sin’s one of those tricky issues. It’s sort of like fruit flies, regardless of what you do, it just doesn’t leave. The concept of original sin, or the original source of sin is one of those themes that will be tackled until the end of time-mainly because humans by definition are selfish creatures who will continue to put the needs of self and in-group before the needs of others.

This is just one of the realities of society. It’s harsh, but it’s true (though you can admittedly spin it to a slightly harsher extant than my conflict theory leanings tend to). This is one of the realities that horror likes to play with-what makes people do bad things. A lot of times the answer is something like revenge, love, sheer nastiness…but it’s still not addressing why sin’s present in the world in the first place.

So how does an author like Barker, known for his love of tearing apart human motivation, handle the presence of sin in the world? Essentially, it’s a cycle-we sin because others before us have sinned. We are, quite literally, paying for the sins of our fathers (and brothers and everyone else). In the Flesh is pretty typical Barker with nightmarish imagery and that theme that runs through his work-that your desires are probably going to mess you up.

I think that the first climax of the story is the most effective, and frankly, I would have stopped there and attempted to answer the story’s main question-why do we sin-earlier in the story. But then there’s a reason that Barker’s name is on the book and not mine, so there’s that. Two men are imprisoned in the same cell-one who has, prior to this point, been interested only in finishing his sentence and going home. The newer of the two has deeper ties to the grounds and is attempting to reconnect-literally-with family history. In true horror style nothing quite works out.

However, our main character does get the answer to why we sin-and the answer is pretty bleak. It’s not predetermined step by step, but you’re going to end up doing bad things. The idea that we will keep replicating the same patterns is pretty bleak, to be fair, and one of the main arguments against both sociology and sociological horror. Sorry, life’s just nasty.

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