Do Literary Devices Help Us Better Understand our Halloween Experiences?

Christmas and Thanksgiving movies often hinge on the underlying stresses of families getting together and trying to have a happy, peaceful and meaningful family gathering.


It’s great tension, and story thrives on tension. But there’s also underlying tension for the Halloween experience, which is usually underutilized because it is, perhaps, just a bit too complicated and psychological.


While looking through my library recently, I came across my Kurt Vonnegut section and saw his “Mother Night.” Anyone who has read the book probably remembers its most important quote, which is the moral of the novel: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”


While that line is spoken in the context of Nazi Germany, I think it universally applies. Arguably the primary feature distinguishing humans from the animal kingdom is our extraordinary social skill, which is facilitated by language. Many academics believe language ability is innate as a necessary, evolutionary survival mechanism for social capability and empowerment.


Given that, what does it mean to be somebody or something else for a holiday? Are we breaking the fourth wall of our social existence by saying, “You may normally know me as ‘Mike,’ a character in my community, but today I am wearing a Mike Myers mask (from the Halloween movie series) giving me social permission to act out of character?”


In this instance, I am acknowledging that I have a usual character that I present to the world — and other characters, too. What does it mean for Mike Pace to act like Mike Myers, and how genuine is it?


Like breaking the fourth wall, metafiction is that strange acknowledgment that we are reading/writing/performing in a fictional setting; by acknowledging the line between fiction and reality, artists blur that line. Halloween blurs that line between your normal character and your holiday character – both of which are not you in total, but in part.


Perhaps the spookiest aspect to Halloween is the question: Who are you supposed to be?DeadLight-cvr-3dthumb

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