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Sadly, it was impossible to read this book without being influenced by the (in)famous movie adaptation. Nevertheless, being a fan of the film, the book increased my admiration of the extremely gifted author and his misunderstood and, I might add, overlooked philosophy concerning the triumph of good over evil.
The trouble with the mainstream audience exposed to this novel was that they saw the whole concept, originally, as a statement against the church and religious beliefs, an unintelligent blasphemy which does not deserve credit but merely damnation. Modern audiences saw the film and laughed with their friends at Regan's activities as she grotesquely deteriorated - in laughing they could prove how unmoved they really were by this, "the scariest film ever made", never considering what the moral of the story might be, as it were.
Now, sadly, only a small community of people see the whole idea for what Mr Blatty intended it to be - the acceptance of evil without cynicism, then holding onto hope by the fingernails despite unimagineable horrors manifested not only physically, but also emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, and then the eventual triumph of good over evil.
The Exorcist's plot is (only) what many people see when they read the book or watch the film, which conerns a twelve year old girl's possesion by a demon she unwittingly conjures from a Ouija Board and refers to as "Captain Howdy". Her condition becomes such that doctors cannot find an explanation behind her sudden mood swings, bizarre sleepwalking acts (one example - standing before guests at her mother's party late at night in their home in her pyjamas, and telling an astronaut "You're going to die up there" before urinating indifferently) and the fact that her bed shakes violently whenever she tries to sleep. As the story progresses Regan declines into a state where her former personality no longer exists, and a psychiatrist Jesuit priest, father Damien Karras, is called in to treat her as she begins to act violently. However, when Karras cannot associate her actions with psychiatric symptons (changed personality, intellect well beyond her age, ability to know facts not said to her, ability to speak in langauges never taught to her and the ability to move objects without physical contact), and small signs begin to show that Regan is being consumed by the demon infesting her body as it slowly rots away, Karras applies for an exorcism, a request which calls upon an expert priest to face his old enemy....
The pace of the story was dramatic to say the least, never stopping to digress into some absurd sub-plot as is the case with most contemporary fiction (aside from the never-overplayed involvement of the homicide detective, William Kinderman, who investigates the death of a close friend of Regan's mother apparently killed in accident, though we later learn otherwise slightly ahead of the charismatic detective). The plot itself was gripping from the forboding prologue set in a Northern Iraq archeological dig right up to the spirit-crushing exorcism itself and its arguably victorious outcome. This book meant a lot to me ( I read it practically in one sitting, which says a lot) as it explored very powerful areas of not just human nature, but the nature of good and evil and how one can influence the other. Good does not always triumph over evil, but it is books like The Exorcist which, if stripped to the bones and interpreted in the manner it is meant to be interpreted (and Blatty insists there is but one interpretation), remind us that sometimes hope wins. Good wins. It restores our faith in hope, and gives us a reason to keep fighting our own demons.
This was a good review, and I only gave it a H because I felt there were some things you could have commented on more. I thought the film was terrible so I would be interested to read this for a comparison, Emma x
ElizaF 02.12.2003 12:17
Super detailed op and analysis on the book and if you added price and availibility, I would be only too delighted to re-evaluate. Let me know via my guestbook (if) when you add more detail and i will happily re-rate higher :) xx E. :) xx E.
buster_uk 02.12.2003 12:06
I love this film, its grrrr8, whenever i see it start seeing scenes from Repossessed the skit of it, like when i watch rambo now after seein hot shots, its soo funny lol. good read. Jimmy:)