Bewildering Stories

Challenge 148

Please read Michael Moore’s “The Messenger” first.

What’s the Message? What’s the Point?

Whenever we speak or write, we communicate something to someone. Even if we jot down notes, we write messages to ourselves in the future. And every message has a point; it’s intended to cause something to happen. We usually know what that is, but often the effect has to be left up to the recipient.

New contributor Michael Moore’s “The Messenger” contains two stories: the Messenger’s visit to Abigail in her office, and Abigail’s preventing a mass murder in the school hallway.

  1. Do the two stories really have anything to do with each other? In particular:

    • Does the Messenger say or do anything that affects Abigail’s subsequent actions outside her office? Suppose the Messenger had not appeared at all: do we have any reason to believe that Abigail would have acted differently?

    • Do the other references to religion have any bearing on Abigail’s heroism?

  2. A note by way of comparison: When the Oracle delivers to Oedipus a message from the future, it sets in motion the entire action of Oedipus Rex. It does so by giving Oedipus a choice: continue to be impulsive and make easy assumptions, or be prudent, especially about whom he kills and whom he marries. Do we have anything like that in “The Messenger”?

  3. In the emergency room, the Messenger pays Abigail a final visit:

    “But if I had let Dennis shoot those poor kids... I don’t...”

    “Then they would be with God. Sometimes God must be cruel, to be kind. Nobody knows this as well as I.” and with that, the surrounding lights began to dim at the edges, and then I found myself alone in a hospital bed.

    What does the Messenger mean: “Sometimes God must be cruel, to be kind”? Do the Messenger’s cryptic words add any meaning to Abigail’s sacrifice?

    “Nobody knows this as well as I.” The Messenger does not explain this reference to himself. What might he be hinting at? Is there any way to tell?

Readers may be somewhat less perplexed if they know that Michael Moore has written at least one other story, “Mena-Nights,” which portrays outward manifestations of religion as irrationally terrifying. In that light, might “The Messenger” have as a subtext an irrational disconnect between religious symbols and real life?


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