This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King (1973). We will show you examples of the elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis.
You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Stephen King (b. 1947) is an American author of horror and supernatural fiction. He is a very prolific writer, having published 61 novels, 6 nonfiction books and approximately 200 short stories. He has received several awards including the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement for his entire body of work. The short story “The Boogeyman” was first published in 1973 in the magazine Cavalier and later included in the 1978 short-story collection Night Shift.
Excerpt from the study guide:
An alternative interpretation of the events in the story is that Lester is himself “the boogeyman” and has killed his own children in moments of mental instability. From this perspective, Lester’s fear is actually of the dark side of himself, which he keeps hidden. The repeated image of the closet which is open “just a crack” is an appropriate metaphor for things which are not in plain sight, but which are hinted at. Lester’s repeated grin and laughter when he recounts tragic events hints at his duality and his mental instability
Lester's insistence that Rita should get over the death of her first two children, and that when children are little “you don’t get so attached to them” points to his lack of empathy and further reinforces the idea that he might be mentally unstable. Furthermore, Lester confesses that Andy was his favorite child because he was “the spitting image of me”. This could point to Lester being self-centered. This is confirmed also when he states he had “been through a lot” to justify not wanting to take care of Andy, while he repeatedly dismisses his wife’s grief over the death of her first two children.
It is also suggested that Lester is abusive towards his family, by remarks such as “I was tempted to slap her around a little” , and “if he didn’t stop crying, I’d give him a whack”. This interpretation is also supported by some of Lester’s casual remarks such as “I tell you, sometimes I felt like throwing them both out a window. Christ, kids drive you crazy sometimes. You could kill them”. He also refers to his children as “the litter”, and even refers to Andy as “it”. These remarks prove that he does not see his children as human beings and highlight Lester’s emotional detachment, which contrasts with the image of a grieving father.