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The End of Alice puts the
reader into the mind of a rapist and killer of children.† It is in many ways a disturbing experience,
even for those who have read the many novels and seen the many movies about
serial killers and psychopaths.† Part of
the disturbance comes from making him more understandable and even
sympathetic.† The killer is not alien and
mysterious, but rather self-aware and interesting.† The narrator's descriptions of his actions
show how he finds children sexually attractive, and the power of Homes' writing
forces the reader to identify with this monster, and thus to recognize the
seeds of monstrosity in oneself.† Another
disturbing quality of this novel stems from the difficulty in knowing what to
believe in the narrator's words.† We know
he is in prison and he has been there for twenty-three years.† He is forced into sex by on of the other
prisoners, and they have a long-term relationship, one might say.† That much is plausible.† He is receiving letters from a young woman
who lives in a street in which he committed one of his murders.† He is due to appear before a board to
consider his possible probation.† We can
also tell that some of his narrative must be fantasy.† In the final crescendo of the book, he describes his relationship with the girl Alice, and
according to him, she seduced him, and made him have sex with her.† She almost asks him to kill her.† This cannot be the truth, we can be
sure.† It is too implausible and it
conflicts with other information he provides.†
But what should we believe when the letters from the young woman
describe her having sex with the twelve-year-old boy she has been spying
on?† Is it feasible that he really gets
revenge on the fellow-prisoner who has been forcing sex him on him for all
those years?† Is there any truth in his
belief that Alice was seductive and
manipulative?† In the end, this is just a
novel and there is no final answer to these questions.† Yet in reading through these pages and having
to confront such questions, we have to confront the nature of this man, a
paradigm of evil in modern western culture.†
The experience may be too unpleasant and discomforting for many readers,
but it is a tribute to Homes' writing that even though the book is often crude
and occasionally disgustingly pornographic, it is also compelling reading.† There's no moral ambiguity here either.† The killer is clearly a pathetic and wretched
man.† His own actions may be tied to his
unhappy childhood, his sexual abuse at the hands of his mother, the abuse from
his grandmother, or an inherited mental instability, but none of these factors
exonerates him for his own actions.† The
reader is never asked to feel sorry for the man.† Nevertheless, merely understanding him is
© 2003 Christian Perring.
All rights reserved.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology
Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in
medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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