Today, I was a Little Extra: An Informal Literary Critique of a Random Facebook Post

The story posted in a community forum.

Recently, in a local forum, there have been a number of posts relating to human trafficking and abduction. This has been a bustling topic of conversation, so a post describing the encounter between a woman with children and a man trying to lure the children away felt a little suspicious. The uncanny valley of story was too unsettling to be real, but many in the community were lapping it up.

I said the quiet part out loud. I challenged the tricky thing and used very informal literary criticism to deconstruct the story and unmask the thing for what it was: a fabrication. In hindsight, I probably should have taken my meds today. And I probably shouldn’t do things during a manic episode, but c’est la vie and all that.

Here’s what that wild ride looked like:

Hold up.

I’m the storyteller around here, and something smells wrong.

The details and orientation of the narrator in this “David versus Goliath” motif is constructed. This is not a story about an attempted kidnapping, but rather a metaphor of God’s power over evil and the power of God wielded by Christians against the Devil by extension.

The narrative begins with the assumption that the speaker is a woman. The inclusion of children and the phrase “potentially scary incident” project a feminine voice.

She is a mother. Her hands are filled with rowdy babies—a vulnerable figure in a world filled with sudden striking evils sent by Satan. She is comparable to the Virgin and Child.

The mother wears a number of mask in this parable. She is the “meek who shall inherit the earth.” She is both a child of God—frail and innocent—and the wielder of God’s wrath.

The male assailant allows for internal biases to construct a caricature villain who embodies the fears of the reader. He is also the Devil. The deceiver of humanity and humanity’s scapegoat.

Like the Devil who roams about as a terrible lion seeking those it can devour, the man seeks to corrupt and destroy (1 Peter 5:8). The candy he wields is a parallel of the forbidden fruit which plunged humanity into sin and death.

The contrast between these figures places the power with the male assailant. He is a representation of the wicked who wield all earthly power in order persecute God’s faithful. The cards appear stacked in his favor.

But for the woman, who is like little David facing insurmountable odds, the divine power of God manifests “on” her person.

The use of “on” is interesting. It allows the woman to fight back against a demonically influenced force. It is not God who steps in and sends the devil fleeing, but the woman who wields God as a supernatural weapon. She puts the devil to flight.

This is an important element because it shifts the power away from God to the woman. The power starts with the man, it is then usurped by God, and then given to the woman (or Christian).

With this power, instead of nodding to St Michael the Archangel’s “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9), the story gives over the wielding of God’s wrath and vengeance to the faithful who are always alert for the devil amidst a “sleeping society.”

The retreat of the man furthers this idea in its function as an illustration of James 4:7–“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

When the devil flees, God is put away and the angels (Kingsburg PD) are called in to secure the area from further threat.

The story’s conclusion is barbed. It is meant to stay with the reader. It professes that while today, this woman was saved, it doesn’t mean the threat is gone. It lingers, and so the reader is encouraged to be on guard because the devil is around every corner and only they can stop him.

NOTE: Slight grammatical revisions added.

Critical Stirrings

…This is why art and literature and storytelling matter. Through them light can be shed on identity, culture, society, and the systems and institutions by which we live. Matters become illuminated revealing the need for further critique and deeper conversations. More importantly, we are brought to a reckoning where we must defend or condemn these matters.

Perhaps this is what drives the recent string of book banning in public school libraries across the United States. The very specific texts and topics being targeted appear to shut out very specific conversations. In this way, those that might defend what ought to be condemned, the same who prevent progress toward a more equitable public paradigm, are empowered to continue to do so without having to look themselves, as it were, in the eye.

…In short, we are searing our collective conscience.