Shambleau and Addiction

I found Shambleau by C.L. Moore to be an intriguing but strange read.  Northwest Smith, the main character of this story, appears to be arrogant and the typical “hero” figure.  He saves Shambleau without knowing who she was or asking any questions of why she was being pursued which is interesting considering that he thinks of himself as “a cautious man.”  He also brings the strange girl into his apartment which seems rather foolish considering he saved her from a lynch mob.

I think his naivety and lack of knowledge about Shambleau is what made him such easy prey to her.  He’s drawn to her in some inexplicable way despite of his reservations.  When she doesn’t eat he makes up an excuse, “she must have had some of the food concentrate after all.”  There are numerous warning signs throughout that he chooses to ignore.  The buildup in this story to her eventually revealing herself as the Medusa figure led me to believe that this could be about addiction, whether that’s love, drugs, or something else, or even toxic relationships.  Smith disappears for three days after she envelops him in her “cloak of living horror.”  He had the chance to run away from her but instead fell under her spell. It is not until Yarol comes that he is saved from her, and even then, the story ends with it seeming like he’s going to seek out another Shambleau.  His voice wavers when Yarol makes him promise to never seek one out.  In relation to addiction or toxic relationships this could be seen as the person who goes back or stays in a relationship that they know is unhealthy for them.  Northwest became addicted to that feeling of ecstasy and when someone is in that mindset, reason doesn’t matter.

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One Response to Shambleau and Addiction

  1. cks14 says:

    I completely agree with your idea that this plays on the idea of toxic relationships. I saw Smith as someone who was stuck in a relationship that he is completely mislead and deceived and drawn in that he can’t stop from going back. And no matter what the warning signs were, he couldn’t help himself from ignoring them because of this false reality that wasn’t really there. I saw Yarol as the friend that everyone who is in this situation has that tells them how bad the relationship is for them and how they need to stop and get out but like Smith who struggled to even say he would stay away, people in these toxic relationships can’t help but go back no matter who tells them its harming them.

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