The Hanging Stranger Story Analysis With Summary And Theme
The Hanging Stranger – This article will tell you the short story entitled, “ The Hanging Stranger with story analysis, summary and theme in English. What is the theme, summary, plot, setting, character and point of view of the story, The Hanging Stanger by Philip K Dick ?
Table of contents
The hanging stanger story analysis, the hanging stanger by philip k. dick, the hanging stanger theme, the hanging stanger genre, the hanging stanger moral lesson, the hanging stanger characters, the hanging stanger summary.
The Hanging Stanger
At five o’clock Ed Loyce washed up, tossed on his hat and coat, got his car out and headed across town toward his TV sales store. He was tired. His back and shoulders ached from digging dirt out of the basement and wheeling it into the back yard. But for a forty-year-old man he had done okay. Janet could get a new vase with the money he had saved; and he liked the idea of repairing the foundations himself. It was getting dark. The setting sun cast long rays over the scurrying commuters, tired and grim-faced, women loaded down with bundles and packages, students, swarming home from the university, mixing with clerks and businessmen and drab secretaries. He stopped his Packard for a red light and then started it up again. The store had been open without him; he’d arrive just in time to spell the help for dinner, go over the records of the day, maybe even close a couple of sales himself. He drove slowly past the small square of green in the center of the street, the town park. There were no parking places in front of LOYCE TV SALES AND SERVICE. He cursed under his breath and swung the car in a U-turn. Again he passed the little square of green with its lonely drinking fountain and bench and single lamppost. From the lamppost something was hanging. A shapeless dark bundle, swinging a little with the wind. Like a dummy of some sort. Loyce rolled down his window and peered out. What the hell was it? A display of some kind? Sometimes the Chamber of Commerce put up displays in the square. Again he made a U-turn and brought his car around. He passed the park and concentrated on the dark bundle. It wasn’t a dummy. And if it was a display it was a strange kind. The hackles on his neck rose and he swallowed uneasily. Sweat slid out on his face and hands. It was a body. A human body. “Look at it!” Loyce snapped. “Come on out here!” Don Fergusson came slowly out of the store, buttoning his pin-stripe coat with dignity. “This is a big deal, Ed. I can’t just leave the guy standing there.” “See it?” Ed pointed into the gathering gloom. The lamppost jutted up against the sky—the post and the bundle swinging from it. “There it is. How the hell long has it been there?” His voice rose excitedly. “What’s wrong with everybody? They just walk on past!” Don Fergusson lit a cigarette slowly. “Take it easy, old man. There must be a good reason, or it wouldn’t be there.” “A reason! What kind of a reason?” Fergusson shrugged. “Like the time the Traffic Safety Council put that wrecked Buick there. Some sort of civic thing. How would I know?” Jack Potter from the shoe shop joined them. “What’s up, boys?” “There’s a body hanging from the lamppost,” Loyce said. “I’m going to call the cops.” “They must know about it,” Potter said. “Or otherwise it wouldn’t be there.” “I got to get back in.” Fergusson headed back into the store. “Business before pleasure.” Loyce began to get hysterical. “You see it? You see it hanging there? A man’s body! A dead man!” “Sure, Ed. I saw it this afternoon when I went out for coffee.” “You mean it’s been there all afternoon?” “Sure. What’s the matter?” Potter glanced at his watch. “Have to run. See you later, Ed.” Potter hurried off, joining the flow of people moving along the sidewalk. Men and women, passing by the park. A few glanced up curiously at the dark bundle—and then went on. Nobody stopped. Nobody paid any attention. “I’m going nuts,” Loyce whispered. He made his way to the curb and crossed out into traffic, among the cars. Horns honked angrily at him. He gained the curb and stepped up onto the little square of green. The man had been middle-aged. His clothing was ripped and torn, a gray suit, splashed and caked with dried mud. A stranger. Loyce had never seen him before. Not a local man. His face was partly turned away, and in the evening wind he spun a little, turning gently, silently. His skin was gouged and cut. Red gashes, deep scratches of congealed blood. A pair of steel-rimmed glasses hung from one ear, dangling foolishly. His eyes bulged. His mouth was open, tongue thick and ugly blue. “For Heaven’s sake,” Loyce muttered, sickened. He pushed down his nausea and made his way back to the sidewalk. He was shaking all over, with revulsion—and fear. Why? Who was the man? Why was he hanging there? What did it mean? And—why didn’t anybody notice? He bumped into a small man hurrying along the sidewalk. “Watch it!” the man grated. “Oh, it’s you, Ed.” Ed nodded dazedly. “Hello, Jenkins.” “What’s the matter?” The stationery clerk caught Ed’s aim “You look sick.” “The body. There in the park.” “Sure, Ed.” Jenkins led him into the alcove of LOYCE TV SALES AND SERVICE. “Take it easy.” Margaret Henderson from the jewelry store joined them. “Something wrong?” “Ed’s not feeling well.” Loyce yanked himself free. “How can you stand here? Don’t you see it? For God’s sake—” “What’s he talking about?” Margaret asked nervously. “The body!” Ed shouted. “The body hanging there!” More people collected. “Is he sick? It’s Ed Loyce. You okay, Ed?” “The body!” Loyce screamed, struggling to get past them. Hands caught at him. He tore loose. “Let me go! The police! Get the police!” “Ed—” “Better get a doctor!” “He must be sick.” “Or drunk.” Loyce fought his way through the people. He stumbled and half fell. Through a blur he saw rows of faces, curious, concerned, anxious. Men and women halting to see what the disturbance was. He fought past them toward his store. He could see Fergusson inside talking to a man, showing him an Emerson TV set. Pete Foley in the back at the service counter, setting up a new Philco. Loyce shouted at them frantically. His voice was lost in the roar of traffic and the murmuring around him. “Do something!” he screamed. “Don’t stand there! Do something! Something’s wrong! Something’s happened! Things are going on!” The crowd melted respectfully for the two heavy-set cops moving efficiently toward Loyce. “Name?” the cop with the notebook murmured. “Loyce.” He mopped his forehead wearily. “Edward C. Loyce. Listen to me. Back there—” “Address?” the cop demanded. The police car moved swiftly through traffic, shooting among the cars and buses. Loyce sagged against the seat, exhausted and confused. He took a deep shuddering breath. “1368 Hurst Road.” “That’s here in Pikeville?” “That’s right.” Loyce pulled himself up with a violent effort. “Listen to me. Back there. In the square. Hanging from the lamppost—” “Where were you today?” the cop behind the wheel demanded. “Where?” Loyce echoed. “You weren’t in your shop, were you?” “No.” He shook his head. “No, I was home. Down in the basement.” “In the basement?” “Digging. A new foundation. Getting out the dirt to pour a cement frame. Why? What has that to do with—” “Was anybody else down there with you?” “No. My wife was downtown. My kids were at school.” Loyce looked from one heavy-set cop to the other. Hope flickered across his face, wild hope. “You mean because I was down there I missed—the explanation? I didn’t get in on it? Like everybody else?” After a pause the cop with the notebook said: “That’s right. You missed the explanation.” “Then it’s official? The body—it’s supposed to be hanging there?” “It’s supposed to be hanging there. For everybody to see.” Ed Loyce grinned weakly. “Good Lord. I guess I sort of went off the deep end. I thought maybe something had happened. You know, something like the Ku Klux Klan. Some kind of violence. Communists or Fascists taking over.” He wiped his face with his breast-pocket handkerchief, his hands shaking. “I’m glad to know it’s on the level.” “It’s on the level.” The police car was getting near the Hall of Justice. The sun had set. The streets were gloomy and dark. The lights had not yet come on. “I feel better,” Loyce said. “I was pretty excited there, for a minute. I guess I got all stirred up. Now that I understand, there’s no need to take me in, is there?” The two cops said nothing. “I should be back at my store. The boys haven’t had dinner. I’m all right, now. No more trouble. Is there any need of—” “This won’t take long,” the cop behind the wheel interrupted. “A short process. Only a few minutes.” “I hope it’s short,” Loyce muttered. The car slowed down for a stoplight. “I guess I sort of disturbed the peace. Funny, getting excited like that and—” Loyce yanked the door open. He sprawled out into the street and rolled to his feet. Cars were moving all around him, gaining speed as the light changed. Loyce leaped onto the curb and raced among the people, burrowing into the swarming crowds. Behind him he heard sounds, snouts, people running. They weren’t cops. He had realized that right away. He knew every cop in Pikeville. A man couldn’t own a store, operate a business in a small town for twenty-five years without getting to know all the cops. They weren’t cops—and there hadn’t been any explanation. Potter, Fergusson, Jenkins, none of them knew why it was there. They didn’t know—and they didn’t care. That was the strange part. Loyce ducked into a hardware store. He raced toward the back, past the startled clerks and customers, into the shipping room and through the back door. He tripped over a garbage can and ran up a flight of concrete steps. He climbed over a fence and jumped down on the other side, gasping and panting. There was no sound behind him. He had got away. He was at the entrance of an alley, dark and strewn with boards and ruined boxes and tires. He could see the street at the far end. A street light wavered and came on. Men and women. Stores. Neon signs. Cars. And to his right—the police station. He was close, terribly close. Past the loading platform of a grocery store rose the white concrete side of the Hall of Justice. Barred windows. The police antenna. A great concrete wall rising up in the darkness. A bad place for him to be near. He was too close. He had to keep moving, get farther away from them. Them? Loyce moved cautiously down the alley. Beyond the police station was the City Hall, the old-fashioned yellow structure of wood and gilded brass and broad cement steps. He could see the endless rows of offices, dark windows, the cedars and beds of flowers on each side of the entrance. And—something else. Above the City Hall was a patch of darkness, a cone of gloom denser than the surrounding night. A prism of black that spread out and was lost into the sky. He listened. Good God, he could hear something. Something that made him struggle frantically to close his ears, his mind, to shut out the sound. A buzzing. A distant, muted hum like a great swarm of bees. Loyce gazed up, rigid with horror. The splotch of darkness, hanging over the City Hall. Darkness so thick it seemed almost solid. In the vortex something moved. Flickering shapes. Things, descending from the sky, pausing momentarily above the City Hall, fluttering over it in a dense swarm and then dropping silently onto the roof. Shapes. Fluttering shapes from the sky. From the crack of darkness that hung above him. He was seeing—them. For a long time Loyce watched, crouched behind a sagging fence in a pool of scummy water. They were landing. Coming down in groups, landing on the roof of the City Hall and disappearing inside. They had wings. Like giant insects of some kind. They flew and fluttered and came to rest—and then crawled crab-fashion, sideways, across the roof and into the building. He was sickened. And fascinated. Cold night wind blew around him and he shuddered. He was tired, dazed with shock. On the front steps of the City Hall were men, standing here and there. Groups of men coming out of the building and halting for a moment before going on. Were there more of them? It didn’t seem possible. What he saw descending from the black chasm weren’t men. They were alien—from some other world, some other dimension. Sliding through this slit, this break in the shell of the universe. Entering through this gap, winged insects from another realm of being. On the steps of the City Hall a group of men broke up. A few moved toward a waiting car. One of the remaining shapes started to re-enter the City Hall. It changed its mind and turned to follow the others. Loyce closed his eyes in horror. His senses reeled. He hung on tight, clutching at the sagging fence. The shape, the man-shape, had abruptly fluttered up and flapped after the others. It flew to the sidewalk and came to rest among them. Pseudo-men. Imitation men. Insects with ability to disguise themselves as men. Like other insects familiar to Earth. Protective coloration. Mimicry. Loyce pulled himself away. He got slowly to his feet. It was night. The alley was totally dark. But maybe they could see in the dark. Maybe darkness made no difference to them. He left the alley cautiously and moved out onto the street. Men and women flowed past, but not so many, now. At the bus stops stood waiting groups. A huge bus lumbered along the street, its lights flashing in the evening gloom. Loyce moved forward. He pushed his way among those waiting and when the bus halted he boarded it and took a seat in the rear, by the door. A moment later the bus moved into life and rumbled down the street. Loyce relaxed a little. He studied the people around him. Dulled, tired faces. People going home from work. Quite ordinary faces. None of them paid any attention to him. All sat quietly, sunk down in their seats, jiggling with the motion of the bus. The man sitting next to him unfolded a newspaper. He began to read the sports section, his lips moving. An ordinary man. Blue suit. Tie. A businessman, or a salesman. On his way home to his wife and family. Across the aisle a young woman, perhaps twenty. Dark eyes and hair, a package on her lap. Nylons and heels. Red coat and white Angora sweater. Gazing absently ahead of her. A high school boy in jeans and black jacket. A great triple-chinned woman with an immense shopping bag loaded with packages and parcels. Her thick face dim with weariness. Ordinary people. The kind that rode the bus every evening. Going home to their families. To dinner. Going home—with their minds dead. Controlled, filmed over with the mask of an alien being that had appeared and taken possession of them, their town, their lives. Himself, too. Except that he happened to be deep in his cellar instead of in the store. Somehow, he had been overlooked. They had missed him. Their control wasn’t perfect, foolproof.
ASIDE FROM THE SHORT STORY, The HANGING STRANGER , SEE ALSO : 140+ Best Aesop’s Fables Story Examples With Moral And Summary
Maybe there were others. Hope flickered in Loyce. They weren’t omnipotent. They had made a mistake, not got control of him. Their net, their field of control, had passed over him. He had emerged from his cellar as he had gone down. Apparently their power-zone was limited. A few seats down the aisle a man was watching him. Loyce broke off his chain of thought. A slender man, with dark hair and a small mustache. Well-dressed, brown suit and shiny shoes. A book between his small hands. He was watching Loyce, studying him intently. He turned quickly away. Loyce tensed. One of them? Or—another they had missed? The man was watching him again. Small dark eyes, alive and clever. Shrewd. A man too shrewd for them—or one of the things itself, an alien insect from beyond. The bus halted. An elderly man got on slowly and dropped his token into the box. He moved down the aisle and took a seat opposite Loyce. The elderly man caught the sharp-eyed man’s gaze. For a split second something passed between them. A look rich with meaning. Loyce got to his feet. The bus was moving. He ran to the door. One step down into the well. He yanked the emergency door release. The rubber door swung open. “Hey!” the driver shouted, jamming on the brakes. “What the hell—?” Loyce squirmed through. The bus was slowing down. Houses on all sides. A residential district, lawns and tall apartment buildings. Behind him, the bright-eyed man had leaped up. The elderly man was also on his feet. They were coming after him. Loyce leaped. He hit the pavement with terrific force and rolled against the curb. Pain lapped over him. Pain and a vast tide of blackness. Desperately, he fought it off. He struggled to his knees and then slid down again. The bus had stopped. People were getting off. Loyce groped around. His fingers closed over something. A rock, lying in the gutter. He crawled to his feet, grunting with pain. A shape loomed before him. A man, the bright-eyed man with the book. Loyce kicked. The man gasped and fell. Loyce brought the rock down. The man screamed and tried to roll away. “Stop! For God’s sake listen—” He struck again. A hideous crunching sound. The man’s voice cut off and dissolved in a bubbling wail. Loyce scrambled up and back. The others were there, now. All around him. He ran, awkwardly, down the sidewalk, up a driveway. None of them followed him. They had stopped and were bending over the inert body of the man with the book, the bright-eyed man who had come after him. Had he made a mistake? But it was too late to worry about that. He had to get out—away from them. Out of Pikeville, beyond the crack of darkness, the rent between their world and his. “Ed!” Janet Loyce backed away nervously. “What is it? What—” Ed Loyce slammed the door behind him and came into the living room. “Pull down the shades. Quick.” Janet moved toward the window. “But—” “Do as I say. Who else is here besides you?” “Nobody. Just the twins. They’re upstairs in their room. What’s happened? You look so strange. Why are you home?” Ed locked the front door. He prowled around the house, into the kitchen. From the drawer under the sink he slid out the big butcher knife and ran his finger along it. Sharp. Plenty sharp. He returned to the living room. “Listen to me,” he said. “I don’t have much time. They know I escaped and they’ll be looking for me.” “Escaped?” Janet’s face twisted with bewilderment and fear. “Who?” “The town has been taken over. They’re in control. I’ve got it pretty well figured out. They started at the top, at the City Hall and police department. What they did with the real humans they—” “What are you talking about?” “We’ve been invaded. From some other universe, some other dimension. They’re insects. Mimicry. And more. Power to control minds. Your mind.” “My mind?” “Their entrance is here, in Pikeville. They’ve taken over all of you. The whole town—except me. We’re up against an incredibly powerful enemy, but they have their limitations. That’s our hope. They’re limited! They can make mistakes!” Janet shook her head. “I don’t understand, Ed. You must be insane.” “Insane? No. Just lucky. If I hadn’t been down in the basement I’d be like all the rest of you.” Loyce peered out the window. “But I can’t stand here talking. Get your coat.” “My coat?” “We’re getting out of here. Out of Pikeville. We’ve got to get help. Fight this thing. They can be beaten. They’re not infallible. It’s going to be close—but we may make it if we hurry. Come on!” He grabbed her arm roughly. “Get your coat and call the twins. We’re all leaving. Don’t stop to pack. There’s no time for that.” White-faced, his wife moved toward the closet and got down her coat. “Where are we going?” Ed pulled open the desk drawer and spilled the contents out onto the floor. He grabbed up a road map and spread it open. “They’ll have the highway covered, of course. But there’s a back road. To Oak Grove. I got onto it once. It’s practically abandoned. Maybe they’ll forget about it.” “The old Ranch Road? Good Lord—it’s completely closed. Nobody’s supposed to drive over it.” “I know.” Ed thrust the map grimly into his coat. “That’s our best chance. Now call down the twins and let’s get going. Your car is full of gas, isn’t it?” Janet was dazed. “The Chevy? I had it filled up yesterday afternoon.” Janet moved toward the stairs. “Ed, I—” “Call the twins!” Ed unlocked the front door and peered out. Nothing stirred. No sign of life. All right so far. “Come on downstairs,” Janet called in a wavering voice. “We’re—going out for a while.” “Now?” Tommy’s voice came. “Hurry up,” Ed barked. “Get down here, both of you.” Tommy appeared at the top of the stairs. “I was doing my homework. We’re starting fractions. Miss Parker says if we don’t get this done—” “You can forget about fractions.” Ed grabbed his son as he came down the stairs and propelled him toward the door. “Where’s Jim?” “He’s coming.” Jim started slowly down the stairs. “What’s up, Dad?” “We’re going for a ride.” “A ride? Where?” Ed turned to Janet. “We’ll leave the lights on. And the TV set. Go turn it on.” He pushed her toward the set. “So they’ll think we’re still—” He heard the buzz. And dropped instantly, the long butcher knife out. Sickened, he saw it coming down the stairs at him, wings a blur of motion as it aimed itself. It still bore a vague resemblance to Jimmy. It was small, a baby one. A brief glimpse—the thing hurtling at him, cold, multi-lensed inhuman eyes. Wings, body still clothed in yellow T-shirt and jeans, the mimic outline still stamped on it. A strange half-turn of its body as it reached him. What was it doing? A stinger. Loyce stabbed wildly at it. It retreated, buzzing frantically. Loyce rolled and crawled toward the door. Tommy and Janet stood still as statues, faces blank. Watching without expression. Loyce stabbed again. This time the knife connected. The thing shrieked and faltered. It bounced against the wall and fluttered down. Something lapped through his mind. A wall of force, energy, an alien mind probing into him. He was suddenly paralyzed. The mind entered his own, touched against him briefly, shockingly. An utter alien presence, settling over him—and then it flickered out as the thing collapsed in a broken heap on the rug. It was dead. He turned it over with his foot. It was an insect, a fly of some kind. Yellow T-shirt, jeans. His son Jimmy… He closed his mind tight. It was too late to think about that. Savagely he scooped up his knife and headed toward the door. Janet and Tommy stood stone-still, neither of them moving. The car was out. He’d never get through. They’d be waiting for him. It was ten miles on foot. Ten long miles over rough ground, gulleys and open fields and hills of uncut forest. He’d have to go alone. Loyce opened the door. For a brief second he looked back at his wife and son. Then he slammed the door behind him and raced down the porch steps. A moment later he was on his way, hurrying swiftly through the darkness toward the edge of town. The early morning sunlight was blinding. Loyce halted, gasping for breath, swaying back and forth. Sweat ran down in his eyes. His clothing was torn, shredded by the brush and thorns through which he had crawled. Ten miles—on his hands and knees. Crawling, creeping through the night. His shoes were mud-caked. He was scratched and limping, utterly exhausted. But ahead of him lay Oak Grove. He took a deep breath and started down the hill. Twice he stumbled and fell, picking himself up and trudging on. His ears rang. Everything receded and wavered. But he was there. He had got out, away from Pikeville. A farmer in a field gaped at him. From a house a young woman watched in wonder. Loyce reached the road and turned onto it. Ahead of him was a gasoline station and a drive-in. A couple of trucks, some chickens pecking in the dirt, a dog tied with a string. The white-clad attendant watched suspiciously as he dragged himself up to the station. “Thank God.” He caught hold of the wall. “I didn’t think I was going to make it. They followed me most of the way. I could hear them buzzing. Buzzing and flitting around behind me.” “What happened?” the attendant demanded. “You in a wreck? A holdup?” Loyce shook his head wearily. “They have the whole town. The City Hall and the police station. They hung a man from the lamppost. That was the first thing I saw. They’ve got all the roads blocked. I saw them hovering over the cars coming in. About four this morning I got beyond them. I knew it right away. I could feel them leave. And then the sun came up.” The attendant licked his lip nervously. “You’re out of your head. I better get a doctor.” “Get me into Oak Grove,” Loyce gasped. He sank down on the gravel. “We’ve got to get started—cleaning them out. Got to get started right away.” They kept a tape recorder going all the time he talked. When he had finished the Commissioner snapped off the recorder and got to his feet. He stood for a moment, deep in thought. Finally he got out his cigarettes and lit up slowly, a frown on his beefy face. “You don’t believe me,” Loyce said. The Commissioner offered him a cigarette. Loyce pushed it impatiently away. “Suit yourself.” The Commissioner moved over to the window and stood for a time looking out at the town of Oak Grove. “I believe you,” he said abruptly. Loyce sagged. “Thank God.” “So you got away.” The Commissioner shook his head. “You were down in your cellar instead of at work. A freak chance. One in a million.” Loyce sipped some of the black coffee they had brought him. “I have a theory,” he murmured. “What is it?” “About them. Who they are. They take over one area at a time. Starting at the top—the highest level of authority. Working down from there in a widening circle. When they’re firmly in control they go on to the next town. They spread, slowly, very gradually. I think it’s been going on for a long time.” “A long time?” “Thousands of years. I don’t think it’s new.” “Why do you say that?” “When I was a kid… A picture they showed us in Bible League. A religious picture—an old print. The enemy gods, defeated by Jehovah. Moloch, Beelzebub, Moab, Baalin, Ashtaroth—” “So?” “They were all represented by figures.” Loyce looked up at the Commissioner. “Beelzebub was represented as—a giant fly.” The Commissioner grunted. “An old struggle.” “They’ve been defeated. The Bible is an account of their defeats. They make gains—but finally they’re defeated.” “Why defeated?” “They can’t get everyone. They didn’t get me. And they never got the Hebrews. The Hebrews carried the message to the whole world. The realization of the danger. The two men on the bus. I think they understood. Had escaped, like I did.” He clenched his fists. “I killed one of them. I made a mistake. I was afraid to take a chance.” The Commissioner nodded. “Yes, they undoubtedly had escaped, as you did. Freak accidents. But the rest of the town was firmly in control.” He turned from the window, “Well, Mr. Loyce. You seem to have figured everything out.” “Not everything. The hanging man. The dead man hanging from the lamppost. I don’t understand that. Why? Why did they deliberately hang him there?” “That would seem simple.” The Commissioner smiled faintly. “Bait.” Loyce stiffened. His heart stopped beating. “Bait? What do you mean?” “To draw you out. Make you declare yourself. So they’d know who was under control—and who had escaped.” Loyce recoiled with horror. “Then they expected failures! They anticipated—” He broke off. “They were ready with a trap.” “And you showed yourself. You reacted. You made yourself known.” The Commissioner abruptly moved toward the door. “Come along, Loyce. There’s a lot to do. We must get moving. There’s no time to waste.” Loyce started slowly to his feet, numbed. “And the man. Who was the man? I never saw him before. He wasn’t a local man. He was a stranger. All muddy and dirty, his face cut, slashed—” There was a strange look on the Commissioner’s face as he answered, “Maybe,” he said softly, “you’ll understand that, too. Come along with me, Mr. Loyce.” He held the door open, his eyes gleaming. Loyce caught a glimpse of the street in front of the police station. Policemen, a platform of some sort. A telephone pole—and a rope! “Right this way,” the Commissioner said, smiling coldly. As the sun set, the vice-president of the Oak Grove Merchants’ Bank came up out of the vault, threw the heavy time locks, put on his hat and coat, and hurried outside onto the sidewalk. Only a few people were there, hurrying home to dinner. “Good night,” the guard said, locking the door after him. “Good night,” Clarence Mason murmured. He started along the street toward his car. He was tired. He had been working all day down in the vault, examining the lay-out of the safety deposit boxes to see if there was room for another tier. He was glad to be finished. At the corner he halted. The street lights had not yet come on. The street was dim. Everything was vague. He looked around—and froze. From the telephone pole in front of the police station, something large and shapeless hung. It moved a little with the wind. What the hell was it? Mason approached it warily. He wanted to get home. He was tired and hungry. He thought of his wife, his kids, a hot meal on the dinner table. But there was something about the dark bundle, something ominous and ugly. The light was bad; he couldn’t tell what it was. Yet it drew him on, made him move closer for a better look. The shapeless thing made him uneasy. He was frightened by it. Frightened—and fascinated. And the strange part was that nobody else seemed to notice it. The Short story entitled, “The Hanging Stranger,” is from americanliterature.com
The summary and analysis of Philip K. Dick ‘s short story “ The Hanging Stranger ” help you figure out what the story is really about. Allow us to indulge ourselves by delving into the great story analysis of the story The Hanging Stranger by Philip K Dick .
Philip K. Dick , whose full name was Philip Kindred Dick, was an American science-fiction writer who was born on December 16, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, and died on March 2, 1982, in Santa Ana, California. His novels and short stories often show the psychological struggles of characters who are stuck in fake environments.
He is an underrated master of science fiction, and he wrote dystopian stories most of the time. In his cautionary stories, which were often funny and had gothic elements, he wrote about the effects of totalitarian regimes, monopoly power, and scary bonkers timers, among other things.
A Handful of Darkness (1955), The Variable Man and Other Stories (1957), and The Preserving Machine (1969) are among Dick’s story collections (1985). Several of his short stories and novels have been adapted for film, including “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (Total Recall, 1990 and 2012), “Second Variety” (Screamers, 1995), “ The Minority Report ” (Minority Report, 2002), and A Scanner Darkly (1977; film 2006). The Man in the High Castle was adapted (2015–19) as a serial drama.
Throughout, The Hanging Stranger , Dick emphasize the themes of bravery by being a hero in his own situation and cycle of actions in a way the the events happen over and over again.
The genre , The Hanging Stranger is a short story that also belongs to a scary classic science fiction thriller. It is a story of paranoia mixed with a lot of fear of insects.
In the story, Ed Loyce was shocked to find a stranger’s dead body hanging from a lamp post. But when he tells his friends and neighbors about the sad display, they act strangely, which makes him realize something disturbing.
The story emphasizes the moral lesson that to be practical, when you see something wrong, try to correct it.
Time needed: 2 minutes.
Here are the characters in the short story The Hanging Stranger by Philip K Dick.
Loyce TV Sales and Service is owned by Ed Loyce. He noticed that there’s a man hanging on the lamp post and nobody cares.
He works at Loyce TV Sales and Service as a salesman.
He works at a shoe store near the park.
He is a stationary clerk.
She works at the jewelry store by the town park.
She is Ed Loyce’s wife.
They are Ed and Janet Loyce’s sons.
He tries to record Ed’s statement.
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This short story, called “ The Hanging Stranger” is written by Philip K Dick . In the summary and analysis, Ed’s curiosity helps him think about the current situation and give in to it. Undeniably, one of the most important symbols in the story is the idea of a society that only cares about itself.
Based on the analysis of the short story, Ed starts to figure this out when he sees the monsters fly into the government building and take over. In fact, the “stranger” who was hung from a tree was another sign.
If you have any questions or suggestions about this post, “ The Hanging Stranger by Philip K Dick Short Story Analysis With Summary , Characters, And Theme 2022 .” Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.
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- Short Stories
The Hanging Stranger
Story Background “The Hanging Stranger” was published in Science Fiction Adventure in December 1953. It is currently most easily available in the third volume of The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick (now known as Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick ). It can be found on pp. 13–25 in that Second Variety version.
Plot Summary Ed Loyce is returning to his business, a television repair store, after working all day fixing the foundation of his house. When he enters town (Pikesville) he sees something strange hanging from a lamppost. On closer inspection he finds that it is a dead body.
Loyce talks to his employees about the horrific discovery he made. Don Fergusson insists that there must be a good reason for it being there, some sort of public service announcement. Jack Potter confessed he saw it before but was confused by Loyce thought there was anything wrong with it begin there. Loyce looks at the man again and realizes he is from outside the town. As Loyce becomes more flustered by the indifference of the other members of the town to the hanging body, a crowd gathers. As Loyce begins yelling for the crowd to do something about the body, police arrive to break up the gathering.
During questioning, Loyce tells the police he was working underground all day. The police tell him that this explains why he was acting strange. He missed the explanation for the hanging body. After the questioning, Loyce remains suspicious. The men he talked to were not local police that he know and they never gave him an explanation for the body. Loyce ducks away from the public through the hardware store. He tries to get away from an undefined malevolent force, evading the twin symbols of authority of the police station and City Hall. Beyond City Hall he sees a solid dark vortex with a dense swarm of things coming out of it.
Loyce sees that the creatures coming from the dark vortex are aliens, with insect-like wings. He sees some of them go into City Hall. The people of the town went on with their daily life, but they seems to all have had their consciousness taken over by the invading aliens. On a bus, Loyce watches the actions of the other passengers. One observes him carefully with alert eyes while pretending to read a book. When an old man gets on the bus, sits across from Loyce and passes something to the other, Loyce escapes the bus by using the emergency escape door. The bus passengers follow him. The man with the book tries to confront him directly. Loyce beats the man and escapes.
Loyce goes to his house to see his wife Janet. He tries to explain the situation to her and insists of leaving town immediately with her and the twins, Jim and Tommy. A creature in vague form of Jimmy attacks Loyce. After a struggle, Loyce kills it with a kitchen knife. After this conflict he notices an alien presence in his mind. He decides to leave town by foot, keeping Janet and Tommy behind.
Loyce crawled almost ten miles to avoid being seen. His clothing is shredded and he is dirty and injured, but he got out of the Pikesville. He tries to tell a gas station attendant what has happened in the town. He asks to be taken to Oak Grove.
Loyce is being asked questions by the Commissioner, who is recording the conversation. The Commissioner says he believes Loyce. Loyce provides his theory of what is going on. The creatures have invaded the town, working first from the highest levels of authority. What is actually being played out in Pikesville is an old conflict of Biblical significance. But he still cannot explain why the body was hanged from the lamppost. The Commissioner suggests that it was bait, to make Loyce—or others who avoided being controlled—stand out. The Commissioner says that it will all make sense soon and Loyce is taken away by police men.
Clarence Mason leaves the vault of the Oak Grove Merchant’s Bank and is shocked to find that he seems to be the only one who notices that there is a body hanging from a telephone pole.
Analysis I read “The Hanging Stranger” as thinly veiled political allegory. It is not hard to see but we can through the story again, highlighting a few key moments. Ed Loyce leaves for his office and comes across a monstrous crime. When Dick was writing this, lynchings were still common in the United States and were likely presented with the same indifference. We do not need lynchings today to notice people responding to crimes the same way the people of Pikeville responded to the man hanging from the lamppost. Notice with me that the man hanging from the post is an outsider. When Loyce ends up on another lamppost, it is again as an outsider. When the president orders a drone strike on a family or a bank forecloses on a poor family, only a handful of us respond with the horror of Ed Loyce. Most people seem to assume that these horrors are just a normal part of life, totally reasonable within the system. As the people of Pikesville point out Loyce must be either drunk or sick to suggest otherwise. The public display of the enemies of the state, from a historical perspective, is not abnormal anyway. It is only modern cultures that did away with that, even as they sustain prisons and executions. As Loyce pretends to accept the hanging body he uses the language that is all too common among apologists for state violence. “I thought something had happened. You know, something like that Ku Klux Klan. Some kind of violence. Communists or Fascists taking over. [. . .] I’m glad to know it’s on the level.” (16) As long as something, no matter how vile, is “on the level” most people will accept it.
We are not given any explanation of what is going on that is authoritative. The closest we get to an explanation is that these Lovecraftian horrors have taken over the leadership of the town before, in one massive occupation, took over the people of the town. At one point Loyce—while trying to avoid the police station—notices that the creatures fly into the City Hall building, reinforcing the political reading of the story. The few people that avoided having their consciousness co-opted were exposed through their resistance and obvious bewilderment and the changes taking place. The controlled people are not perceptibly different from those going through their everyday lives in late capitalism. “Dulled, tired faces. People going home from work. Quite ordinary faces. None of them paid any attention to him. All sat quietly, sunk down in their seats, jiggling with the motions of the bus. The man sitting next to him unfolded a newspaper. He began to read the sports section, his lips moving. An ordinary man. Blue suit. Tie. A businessman, or a salesman. On his way home to his wife and family. [. . .] Going home—with their minds dead. Controlled, filmed over with the mask of an alien being that had appeared and taken possession of them, their town, their lives.” (18–19) It seems that no matter how total the alien invasion is, the economy continues on much as it had.
In an age of conformity, Dick’s “The Hanging Stranger” was a celebration of resistance against the horrors and banalities of late capitalist life. It induces fear in us, not because of the Lovecraftian creatures that have apparently taken over the world, but because that will apparently change very little about hoe we interact with each other and go about our daily lives. Resources Background to “The Hanging Stranger.”
Another blogger’s take on this story.
Dangers of indifference to horrible things.
9 responses to the hanging stranger.
This is an interesting interpretation. I would raise only one concern. Why would Dick write the Protagonist, Ed, as being representative of those in society who do not accept state violence, while also having him act almost as an apologist of state violence while in the police car. Ed seems to seems to imply that if the state hung the man, the mans hanging would be justified, it would be “on the level.”
Remember, Ed doesn’t run from the police car because he’s shocked by the brutality of state imposed violence, but because he doesn’t recognize the police officers, claiming he knows every officer in the city and that they are not among those he knows.
Of course, I’m not saying your interpretation is incorrect. I actually agree with it. Perhaps, Dick wrote the character as an allegory for those who do not conform to state violence, while seperating the characters actual views from the dissenters who he represents.
Thanks for your comments. You may be right. I was reading Dick through a fairly narrow lens when I wrote this series.
It’s difficult to see his stuff ever as purely allegorical or satirical.It usually possessed a more literal but not anodyne surface.As a short piece therefore on the theme of lynching,it can be seen as an existential treatment on the horrors of an ancient practice that has become commonplace,but is only realised by an intelligent observer,
It’s difficult to see his stuff ever as purely allegorical or satirical.It usually possessed a more literal but not anodyne surface.As a short piece therefore on the theme of lynching,it can be seen as an existential treatment on the horrors of an ancient practice that has become commonplace,but is only realised by an intelligent observer.
I certainly agree that we need to read Dick’s works on a literal (and political) level.
Yes well,lynching was a political issue when he wrote this I suppose.
Lynching had been on decline since 1920s, but still happened from time to time. Nothing like the 1910s and 20s when there would be a lynching somewhere pretty much weekly.
The story was written before the Civil Rights Movement was taking off. Dick was conscious of Jim Crow (he addressed it directly in the story “James P. Crow”.
But whether we are talking about a culture that accept lynching, or one that does not realize everyone is becoming parrots of a political leader (“Mold of Yancy”, one year later), the point seems to be that we cannot see out of the black iron prison, yes?
I just agree that this is a political, not a metaphysical problem.
Yes,I suppose I have to agree with you,it is a political problem,one in which we are morally unaware,but the black iron prison was a favourite metaphor of Dick’s,that often described the condition of our existence that trapped and deceived us.The peculiar delusions of “Time Out of Joint” and “The Man in the High Castle” would be quintessential examples of this I think,but it became particularly pertinent to “Valis” and successive novels.In this case,it depends entirely upon everything that can be called political it appears.
I always found this to be a pretty weak story, foremost on the quality of the prose. It’s badly written, the descriptions are sub-par, and the narrator makes some ridiculous leaps of logic in the process.
As far as the political interpretation, I agree that there are traces of it present in the story (perhaps Dick intended it) but again it’s terribly executed. The citizens of Pikeville that are unaffected by the hanging are all under the alien mind-control – a fact that undermines the political message. And the explanation is unambiguous. I think that by the end of the story it’s pretty clear what happens.
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The Hanging Stranger Summary
Summary and analysis of the hanging stranger by philip. k. dick.
The Hanging Stranger | Summary
Ed Loyce a forty-year-old man heads towards his TV shop at five in the evening after a day of digging and heavy labor in his basement. As he is trying to park his car, looking for a spot, he is shocked to find a corpse hanging from the lamppost and it was more shocking still that none was paying it any mind. Overcome by the confusion he asks his acquaintances about the same, only to find that none of his friends thought it to be weird or out f place in a society like theirs. He makes a scene that attracts people and police arrive to break the crowd, upon inquiring with the police they ask him if he were not in his shop that day, and tells him that his absence explains his surprise at the hanging corpse. They then tell him that there would be a short procedure and he can leave after that, Loyce gets suspicious as he notes that, he who knew every policeman in his town personally, has never seen these people before and he escapes.
On the way back while escaping he witnesses insect-like creatures which he concluded are aliens coming out of a patch of darkness near the city hall., Now knowing that these aliens are also capable of skin changing he wanted to go back home and escape, and as he boarded a bus he notices that most people on the bus have a vacant expression in their eyes all except for one, and Loyce shared a knowing glance with him, terrified he runs out of the bus thinking that the stranger could either be an alien or a survivor. The man follows him and in an ensuing tussle, Loyce kills the stranger. Running back home he decided to flee to the neighboring town. He tells his wife to pack up and tries to explain the situation to his wife but without any success, as she had gone out in the morning and had gotten brainwashed.
Hearing the calls and noise one of his sons comes down, and the other son, now replaced by an alien now assaults him, armed with a butcher knife he kills the alien but not before the alien tries to take over his mind, he escapes the influence of the alien after it as killed but his remaining family had been turned into statuesque existences by then. He gets second thoughts about trying to escape via road as it could be blockaded by the aliens. This forces him to crawl all the way to the nearby town only to be discovered by a farmer who reports him to the police. He gets interrogated by the police officer after a lot of liberation and tells Loyce that he has chosen to believe Loyce’s story. Loyce also reveals his theory that the insects might be demons or fallen angels trying to take over the world, reminding the officer how Beezlebub is often depicted as a fly. The officer also adds his views into the conversation telling him how it was a freak chance that Loyce escaped and that the hanging corpse could have been but a bait to lure out the people who were not brainwashed yet. Loyce tells him how the man who was hanged was a stranger to the town and the police officer tells Loyce to follow him and how would understand everything, he opens the door to the street and Loyce sees a group of police officers waiting outside the station near a platform near a telephone pole, the officer smiled coldly. Later that day Mason who worked at the bank was returning home when he saw a body hanging in front of the station but what surprised him the most is how nobody else seemed to notice it.
The Hanging Stranger | Analysis
The story opens by telling us how the protagonist has spent his entire day in the basement without going out, though it might strike as mundane it is an important detail that drives the plot. When he sees the hanging corpse he is caught off guard and is confused by the reactions of his acquaintances. The efficiency by which the aliens dealt with the people of the town reveals how well put together their plan for world domination is, even putting in place mechanisms and fail-safes to deal with any slip-ups. The story also works as a metaphor for authoritarianism and political victimization.
The aliens who appear as Lovecraftian horrors in the story can be easily read as the political elite, whose life and circumstances are worlds apart from the situation of the common man, the rules that they set for their gains drain people of life. here the brainwashing and mind control becomes representations of the ideology of the ruling class taking over the minds of people who are conditioned to accept unbelievable atrocities, creating a new normal. Public execution has been used as a method to deter dissent and destroy the morale of the thinkers from antiquity, the outliers who weren’t indoctrinated into the system and managed to hold on to their identities, “A freak chance. One in a million”, the people who realize that something is wrong and speak-up about it and get hunted down for it, and whose death could be used to stirrup the public more to churn out the ‘radicals’ who believe in different things than the ruling class, all these elements come together smoothly to form the story of unsuccessful revolutions, and political persecution, telling a tale of hopelessness and desperation. The society’s reaction to Loyce telling them about the body is one of apathy ( “Are you sick?” ) while some others move on as if nothing happened, and a few more believe that if the person is hanged there might be a good reason for it all the while, not questioning the moral and ethical implications of the same is also emblematic of the condition the society is in and how it relates to authoritarianism.
The Hanging Stranger | Title of the Story
The title of the story, The Hanging Stranger is of great symbolic significance in the story. The story begins with Loyce discovering a hanging stranger and finally by the end of the story, ends up as another hanging stranger, becoming nothing but bait to attract the outliers who could be filtered out through violence. The title is apt also in the sense that the key events of the story are kicked off by the discovery of a hanging stranger by the protagonist who is then fated to become another.
The Hanging Stranger | Literary Techniques
Written in the third person with a limited omniscient narrator, the story follows Loyce as he tries to tackle what might as well have been an apocalypse. The story is fast-paced and is able to maintain tension throughout the length of the story through it. The story also employs several literary devices the primary ones being symbolism ad metaphor. The hanging man is symbolic of every political sacrifice used as bait by the opposition, through the veils of time. There is also the irony of the protagonist trying to escape and by the end being turned into the tool for the proliferation of his enemies and victimization of his kind. The story, therefore, can be read as a metaphor for authoritarian regimes and the persecution of hapless individuals who are unlucky enough to find themselves under such despotic regimes.
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