Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
The Exorcist is destined to become a classic of horror fiction. Its theme--the love of God surpasses both the problem of evil and human knowledge, depending upon trust in God, or faith--and the execution of this theme in and through William Peter Blatty’s narrative make the novel a book not for its day only but for all time. Like most other books whose importance transcends its own time, The Exorcist also happens to be adroitly written, as just the opening and closing lines of each of its major divisions indicate; Blatty knows how to create, maintain, and heighten suspense, both by the use of situations, foreshadowing, and cliffhangers.
The structure of Blatty’s novel also suggests how he saw the configuration or makeup of the corrodible event--itself comprised of other horrible incidents--of which his book is ostensibly a record or account. As such, it is instructive for those who want to ensure that the structures of their own novels enhance the effect of the horrors their books narrate.
Prologue: Northern Iraq
The blaze of sun wrung pops of sweat from the old man’s brow, yet he cupped his hands around the glass of hot sweet tea as if to warm them.
He hastened toward Mosul and his train, his heart encased in the icy conviction that soon he would face an ancient enemy.
I: The Beginning
Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men’s eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all.
What looked like morning was the beginning of endless night.
He stood at the edge of the lonely subway platform, listening for the rumble of a train that would still the ache that was always with him.
He rushed for the seven-ten train back to Washington, carrying pain in a black valise.
Early on the morning of April 11, Chris made a telephone call to her doctor in Los Angeles and asked him for a referral to a local psychiatrist for Regan.
There were no disturbances. That night.
She greeted her guests in a lime-green hostess costume with long, belled sleeves and pants.
The mattress of the bed was quivering violently back and forth.
II: The Edge
They brought her to an ending in a crowded cemetery where the gravestones cried for breath.
His orders were to “rest.”
Regan lay on her back on Klein’s examination table, arms and legs bowed outwards.
No one noticed.
The consulting neurologist pinned up the X-rays again and searched for indentations which would look as if the skull had been pounded like copper with a tiny hammer.
Wherever Sharon moved, Regan would follow.
Friday, April 29. While Chris waited in the hall outside the bedroom, Dr. Klein and a noted neuropsychiatrist were examining Regan.
Burke Denning’s head was turned completely around, facing backward.
Cupped in the warm, green hollow of the campus, Damien Karras jogged alone around an oval, loamy track in khaki shorts and a cotton T-shirt drenched with the cling of healing sweat.
She screamed until she fainted.
III: The Abyss
She was standing on the Key Bridge walkway, arms on the parapet, fidgeting, waiting, while homeward traffic stuttered thickly behind her, while drivers with everyday cares honked horns and bumpers nudged bumpers with scraping indifference.
“Perhaps we could now have a talk. . . .”
Karras threaded tape to an empty reel in the office of the rotund, silver-haired director of the Institute of Languages and Linguistics.
He continued his farewells.
IV. “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee. . . ”
In the breathing dark of his quiet office, Kindemann brooded above his desk.
The river flowed quiet again, reaching for a gentler shore.
Late June sunlight streamed through the window of Chris’s bedroom.
In forgetting, they were trying to remember.