Danforth, Myrtle, and Empathy

For my write-up today on Stephen King’s Needful Things, I’ll write some about Myrtle Keeton.

In my post here, I wrote about Danforth Keeton and how he is ordinarily verbally abusive to his wife, Myrtle, but he is nice to her when things are going his way—-since he now has a device that helps him to predict the outcome of horse races.  But things change for Danforth, for, when he comes home after a pleasant day with his wife, he sees posted around his house a bunch of obnoxious citations, which he believes were put there by a deputy.  Danforth’s mood changes.  He wants to be alone in his study.  When his wife tries to check on him, he replies, “Leave me alone!  Can’t you leave me alone, you stupid bitch?”  The “rage and unbridled hate in his voice” hurt Myrtle’s feelings.  Often, she talks to her dolls to feel better after her husband berates her, since she doesn’t really have a human being she can talk to.  But now her misery is filling her throat and blocking her breathing.  She sobs for herself, but she is also worried about her husband and his sudden change in mood, especially after such a pleasant day.

I can identify with Danforth and Myrtle.  Often, when I feel bad, I just want to be left alone.  I don’t want to be quizzed about how I am feeling.  I don’t want to be pressured to socialize.  I just want solitude.  But, like Myrtle, I also want for people to be pleasant around me.  I don’t like to be lashed out at, especially when I am trying to help.  And I try to cope, as Myrtle does, not so much by talking to a doll, but through prayer.  But Myrtle wants a human being to whom she could communicate her problems—-someone who would make her feel valued and less alone, especially after her husband is dissatisfied with her efforts to help and berates her as stupid.  I think that the lesson for me here is to try to see things from the other person’s perspective: When I feel like a Danforth, I should remember what it’s like to be a Myrtle, and I should communicate my desire to be alone in a tactful manner.  When I feel like a Myrtle, I should remember what it’s like to be a Danforth and give that person some space.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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