The focal point of this paper is to evaluate the theme of the short story ‘All That You Love Will Be Carried Away’ by horror story writer Stephen King. This short story appeared in a collection of fourteen horror stories named ‘Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales’ and was published in 2002 by Scribner.
However, it should also be mentioned that this particular story appeared first time in the celebrated magazine The New Yorker in 2001. The basic theme of this story is survival or the will to live.
Alfie Zimmer is the protagonist of the story ‘All That You Love Will Be Carried Away’. He is a travelling salesman and story begins with him getting ready to commit suicide in a Nebraska motel. Though he is a person with enough responsibility being a family man he finds himself in a crisis of middle age and he feels that he is not able to carry on with his life.
He finds that his only interest is collecting bathroom graffiti that he came across during the multiple long tours he had taken due to his profession and he has a long lasting plan of writing a book on them. His note book is full of these bizarre messages like “Save Russian Jews, collect valuable prizes” and “Mammon is the king of New Jersey”. (King, 69)
Zimmer is very affectionate towards these graffiti and considers them very important because they provide a great deal of food for though while he is on his way to distant places with long and lonely road as company. But the paradox of the story arises when we find that this true love of his is becoming a barrier for him in committing suicide.
It is not because, apparently, that the longing for writing the book is keeping him from taking his life but the thought that people would find this note book after his death with these peculiar texts makes him feel miserable. He feels that people finding this note book would consider him to be crazy and would send a wrong signal about him to his family eventually. This part was really distressing for him.
At this point Zimmer plays a game of fate. He saw that a light in a farmhouse behind the motel was switching on and off at an irregular interval. Decides that if the light reappears before one minute he would write the book otherwise, he would commit suicide. The story ends Zimmer standing in a cold night with the note book in hand counting the seconds.
In this way, Zimmer represents a tagline that is about a man who is not willing to die and desperately tries to bring logic to his life that would enable him to live.
He is searching for a cause to leave no matter how insignificant the cause may be like writing a meaningless book that has very little chance of getting published or appreciated. Writing this book is just an excuse for Zimmer to stay alive. Hanging out to his note book in the last part of the story is actually the metaphor of hanging out to his life eventually.
In the conclusion it can be stated that Stephen King, who is otherwise known for his chilling stories of supernatural and horror, presents a humane story that speaks of simple desires of a common man with day to day experience and equally uncomplicated life that longs for a different corner in the society or tries to find his own space in life.
Being unable to find what he seeks all through his life the protagonist, Zimmer, tries to do something out of his ordinary life. The basic choice to him was between life and death and at this point it appears that he is choosing life. Otherwise there is no reason why a man, who has decided to die, would take up a bizarre game and linger his death.
Nothing would have been easier for him than pulling the trigger of his revolver into his mouth. But eventually, we find him playing a game of fate where he has at least fifty percent chance of survival. As to him the chance of his survival was close to zero in the entire story this additional fifty percent survival chances only indicates the will to live. There is no way but to indicate this story as a story where the theme is certainly survival.
King, Stephen; All That You Love Will Be Carried Away; Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales; Alliance Publishers. 2006