‘Condemned House’ by Lucille Boehm

Condemned House by Lucille Boehm, 1939

The magic trick:

Describing the anger festering inside the protagonist while also describing the setting

“Condemned House” not only puts the reader in the neighborhood when it describes the setting, it puts us in the protagonist’s frame of mind. It’s a simple trick, really. Boehm describes the protagonist’s feelings about each aspect of her surroundings as she describes the setting. It’s important, though, because the story’s main thrust is the way those bleak surroundings can poison someone’s mind. Our protagonist’s entire perception of the world has been twisted into paranoia, fear and pessimism. The story’s conclusion is nonetheless surprising and scary, but it also makes sense because we understand from the beginning the way she feels about this impoverished life. And that’s quite a trick on Boehm’s part.

The selection:

They, too, were out of a job – these rotten shells of houses. They were mean-looking, like people who get old and sick and useless.

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