“The Lawnmower Man” is one of those Stephen King stories that was made into a god awful film that we will not speak of beyond this point. It is the story of Harold Parkette who, as a good suburban man, makes sure his lawn is always nice and mowed. He hires a boy from the neighborhood to do this job until the lawnmower shreds a cat to pieces that was being chased by a dog. Harold’s wife and daughter see the animal remains and blood and the wife starts having nightmares about it. To solve this Harold decides to sell the mower and just rent one when he needs to. He puts off hiring anyone for a really long time until he calls the boy again. By now, the kid has gone off to college and Harold puts off the mowing again.
Bad Harold, Bad.
Harold then decides to call someone and have them mow the lawn for him, the lazy rascal. He contacts a company he found through an ad in the newspaper called “Pastoral Greenery”. A van arrived with the company name on it and a hairy, pot bellied man, comes in. Harold shows him the overgrown back lawn and he is hired.
And then it gets weird… Really, really… Weird.
The man mentions Circe (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) and as Harold ponders why while reading the newspaper, then, startled by the noise from the mower, goes outside. And finds this man naked, on his knees, following a self-moving lawnmower, and eating what it leaves behind… Oh dear. Then the mower chases down and destroys a mole, which the man then eats… OH DEAR. Harold faints.
Once he wakes up Harold is told by the grass-eating, raw mole-devouring man, not to worry (sure). He explains that this method is more effective and that it was introduced by his, boss Pan (hint hint nudge nudge 2: The nudgening). Harold then lets the man continue his work in the front lawn, before calling the cops. The man comes back in with the lawnmower and decides a sacrifice is in place. The mower chases Harold briefly before it kills him.
The police arrive and come to the conclusion due to his prior call and witnesses that he was murdered by a sex crazed maniac.
The chronic tension in my opinion is Harold continuously trying to avoid his problems, from the trauma of his wife from the incident, to refusing to mow the lawn, to allowing the man to continue his work in the front lawn. The acute tension is the death of the cat which triggers the whole story.
Steal like this story stole my appetite.
Some things that King does very well in general but that particularly shine in this story are his use of understatement and bluntness, particularly in the scene where Harold first sees the man eating behind the mower. The scene is told very bluntly and avoids any input from the narrator other than what Harold is feeling. This serves to make the whole image more unsettling, and gruesome.
Another thing King does very well is the use of very minor details to make the reader progressively more uncomfortable. Such as the use of “buddy” from the man. It keeps being used and makes the man seem a little off every time he speaks, which aids to the whole debacle that occurs later on and makes it more shocking.
- Would you classify this story as horror? If so what makes it horror?
- What do you think of the way King incorporates mythology into the story?
- What do we think of Harold as a character? Did we empathize with him?