Pet Sematary explores attitudes toward death

Snarling cat below a dark picture of man holding a body in a cemetery.
Above and behind the cat face, a man holds a human body

Although Stephen King is associated with supernatural horror stories, in my opinion King’s really frightening stories are those in which the action centers around people’s all-too-human characteristics.

Pet Sematary is one of those stories.

The story opens with the arrival of Louis Creed and his family in the small community of Ludlow, Maine.

Creed, a medical doctor, has been hired to run the University of Maine student health program. Wife Rachel will have her hands full at home: Gage is still in diapers, Ellie will begin kindergarten in a few weeks, and Ellie’s cat, Church (short for Winston Churchill) has yowled nonstop the entire three-day car trip from Chicago.

The Creeds get a warm welcome from their elderly neighbors across Route 15, Jed and Norma Crandall.

Jed takes the family on a hike up a path on their property. It leads to pet burial ground created years before by local kids—they named it “Pet Sematary”—and still maintained by them.

Rachel’s reaction is bizarre: She doesn’t want her children to even hear the word death.

In the rest of the novel, King explores attitudes toward death.

And horrible things happen because of human weakness.

That’s what’s most frightening.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Doubleday. [Book Club ed.] ©1983. 374 p.
1983 bestseller #3. My grade: B+

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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