Killer Intent

The short story Escape From Spiderhead by George Saunders ends on a rather ambiguous note with the words “I had not killed, and never would.” The beauty of this line lies in the fact that it can be interpreted many ways. For example, one could assume Jeff is referring to his successful avoidance of having to watch Rachel be Darkenfloxxed and his consequent feelings of responsibility and guilt following her likely death. Conversely, one could argue that these words are wishful thinking – a falsity – seeing as Jeff did in fact kill himself to escape ‘killing’ Rachel. Thus begs the question: Is Jeff’s act of Darkenfloxxing himself considered a heroic self-sacrifice or suicide? On the one hand, Jeff reasons, “If I wasn’t here to describe it, they wouldn’t do it.” In this case, the only reason Jeff committed his act was because there was no other way – he couldn’t run or hide, so he needed to die. On the other hand, Jeff responds to the voice asking if he wanted to live by saying, “No thanks, I’ve had enough.” These are words of a dying man giving up. Given this, it can be argued that at this point, his intent to save Rachel transformed into an intent to die. Therefore, even if he didn’t kill Rachel, he did kill himself, and his words were a lie.

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