Cody Alan Reel is a dear friend of mine, so I found it fitting to leave an analysis (for lack of a better word) concerning his story Torture. Being close to this satirical, hilarious, and hiddenly sympathetic man, I think I can give you some insights into the work. Of course, Cody’s explanations helped me come to my conclusions, but I think he’s allowing me to be his messenger boy of some sorts, which sometimes can happen with aspiring writers who know each other. I can relay his ideas for him, to try and encourage others to think about his work. There are spoilers in this piece of writing, as the blog post title indicates, so if you haven’t read the story, be sure to download it for free on your Kindle by clicking on this link and following the instructions from there: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=cody+alan+reel. This will take you to Amazon.com and to his writings up on the market at the moment.
To understand Torture, you must first understand a deep belief that Mr. Reel shares about his world, one that grew in his heart as he went through his teen years and into his twenties: he despises misplaced, unnecessary optimism. Cody abhors the attitude that makes quick, seemingly positive assumptions about human behavior, without having an empathetic and rational outlook. For Cody, those who want happy endings to pervade life, who always expect goodness to triumph over evil, are deluded, for they turn a blind eye to the harsh realities of life. Sometimes terrible things really do happen, unequivocally, unexpectedly, and as undeniably as the ticking of the clock. These optimists expect too much of themselves, others, and of life in general. They won’t allow the natural course of life, which involves good and evil, to simply run its course.
Our attempts to always control evil, though they may be effective in the sense that wicked men are kept at bay, fail to deal with the root causes of a villain’s actions. The lion is caged up, but no one comprehends why it roars. When it comes to handling the destructive actions of human behavior, these purists fail to really understand the minds of murderers, rapists, and the sort of people society fights against the most.
The innocent optimist, until he meets the horror that is Jack, is Matt, the love-struck teenager. Though Matt doesn’t preach ethics and morality to those around him, he does believe that life will turn out well for him, that the sun will shine on him throughout his life. More so, he thinks he can predict life in such a way as to influence his own circumstances for the better. In this way, he mirrors the rapist, because he wants life to go his own way. He wants control, to be God. As a poker player, he always looks for the best move to make, the one thing that can get him as close to success and fortune as possible. He is too young and too into his own fantasies to comprehend adulthood, with all of its dark challenges. Or real life, for that matter.
But there is a great obstacle in Matt’s path: his father, the insecure Johnson. Johnson, haunted by the failings of his own past, wants to mold Matt into his own image, to, psychologically, make up for his mistakes. If Matt goes my way, he can do what I failed to do, reach the level of life I never could. He never admits his own insecurities to his son, never admits that maybe, just maybe, he is wrong about Matt, that Matt’s views are different than his, that his son does not exist merely to make up for his dad’s weaknesses. Matt’s worst fear is to spend his life trapped in Johnson’s shadow, to never make something of himself, that the son is doomed to repeat the sins of the father. Yet there is one thing that links them: their desire to conquer Jack. But they both fail. Johnson is still as weak as he ever was; his attempts to kill the murderer fall flat on the ground, and Matt is taken captive by the sudden terror he cannot understand, something he could never have prepared for. They both fail to conquer the ultimate enemy of humanity: evil.
The man who drives the suspense of the tale is Jack, the secretive, violent, nasty, brutal murderer and rapist. When Cody describes Jack’s blunt actions towards his victims, the details given in as plain a light as the best realism could afford, he is essentially creating a shock factor for the reader. Like other lovers of the horror genre, Cody wants to unsettle the reader so much with Jack’s brutality and promiscuity that they are impressed by it. Not in the sense that they agree with Jack’s ways, but that they may see the darker side of life with no hopeful tinge, that they may deal with what they so desperately hide from in their prayers, secret committees, and quick judgements. Stop running away from it. Face it. Jack’s actions are never judged by the author. Only shown.
Jack knows only one thing: power. Anything that unsettles his handle on life threatens his sense of balance, as when he is almost caught at the bank. He only understands control. And in this way, he is not only like Matt, but all of us, including the optimists: he simply wants to have a say so in his circumstances, to live a meaningful life. But his path to that is deadly and destructive. When it seems that Jack has won, after Johnson is dead and Matt is tied up, Cody has upset the expectations of readers who want the old hopeful plot twist: that a hero will rise up and save the day.
Instead, something anti-climactic and very unexpected happens: a tree falls on Jack and kills him, putting a stop to his deadly lifestyle. Why? Because it just did. No explanation, no reason why. Life simply has a way, in its own mysterious style, to right wrongs, without the say-so of human intentions. Nature, as symbolized by the running river outside Jack’s house, runs its course, going in one direction. There will be pain. But there will be relief as well. Humans cannot control it as much as they would wish too. Life has a way of rewarding us as well as punishing us. But this is such a wild thing to comprehend, that it leaves us stunned still. We cannot easily make out the relevance and meaning of Jack’s death other than the fact we’re grateful for it. We could never begin to understand what drove Jack to do what he did. We only know that he must be contained.
Though, perhaps, there is a character who might shed light on Jack’s heart, one who represents our befuddlement: the silent, feral child, Jake. Throughout the story, Jake says nothing whatsoever. He simply sits and watches Jack carry out his deeds, unable to do anything, having no opinion on what he sees. Sometimes he is even forced to participate in Jack’s schemes. Maybe by giving us Jake, Cody is showing us what gives rise to people like Jack: kids who grow up in unstable enviroments, and hence, those who are not so easily exposed to a collective moral consciousness that would bar us from things like rape and murder. For Matt, Jake’s silence is what he fears concerning his father, having no real say so in his life, but also at how defeated he feels in the face of Jack. He does not know what to make of his new knowledge, that sometimes life is unbearably dark and not always roses and sunshine.
And when Cody’s tale is done, when Matt cries in his bonds and Johnson and Jack lie dead, like Jake, we as readers can only sit in the dark, inside our own silence, unable to say anything that could help us understand what we see with our eyes.
I give Cody’s tale a 3.7 on a scale of 5. It’s a good story, thought provoking, challenging, and powerful in the realm of realism. His writing style, or how he words his sentences, may not always be my cup of tea, but that is tolerable. I’m honored to try and shed light on my friend’s work and can only hope you enjoy his story. Check out Torture by Cody Alan Reel on Amazon.com!