Short Story #4 -The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet

The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet can be found here http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0602901h.html

This one was written in 1937 the most recent one yet!

Spooky Daniel Webster has been dead and buried and yet mysterious noises and movements haunt his grave! Biggest man? I assume not the tallest or fattest but the most influential. I’m sorry but some of the stupid stories that some people decide to create about others, whether good or bad, are just idiotic, the man spoke and the river sank into the ground, who seriously comes up with this garbage, hyperbole to the max! Then some people actual believe the stories, it confuses me why they would agree with such things! It’s not a criticism to the story or Benet, but more a criticism of how some people go way too far! So we are getting some tale about a man who ‘fought’ with the Devil, from a man who used to be told the tale. So we are getting a retelling of a story?

Ah luck, sometimes the best and sometimes the worst. The more interesting story about luck, is about how everyone reacts differently to their dished out luck. He would sell his soul to the devil for 2 cents? Crazy! He literally sold his soul to the devil? I hope he got a better deal than just 2 measly cents. It seems it was a better deal than just 2 cents, his luck has turned and all is well and he soon could be in a lot of power, but of course he is not happy. The deal was for 7 years of ‘good luck’ in exchange for his soul. Now he has second thoughts about this deal and doesn’t want to sell his soul after all, when his soul is gone, is he supposed to die? What exactly will happen to him? Will he become ‘half a man’ or just an empty shell? Or will nothing at all happen? Or is he supposed to be taken to hell, which is the devil’s domain, and because the soul is ‘what’s important’ he goes to hell, and his body rots? I don’t know what these things are supposed to be, and frankly I don’t care in real life, but for this story I’d like to know the specifics of what would happen if he lost his soul.

He wants to challenge in a court, an agreement between him and the devil. Would any court seriously do this, no! But for the purpose of the story, I would say yes. So one of the men whose contract appears to have run out is now an insect in the devil’s pocket, is he being transported to hell? Shouldn’t there be an easier way to send him there? But the man extends his contract for 3 more years, with conditions, what conditions are these? Worse treatment in hell perhaps? So off goes Mr. Stone to go and see old Daniel Webster for some help.

Talking Latin to the farm hands? How old is this tale if people are actually speaking Latin, it is DEAD and being forced to learn it, is atrocious, but if it was of your own choosing, good on you! This Daniel Webster, sure is a little strange, he dropped everything to help this man, and then feed him enough food for 5 men, and then talked of the history of the people in town and then asked him how he could help (it is good that he helps people, but I wonder why). So Daniel AGREES to help him, which makes utterly no sense really. Now this Daniel sounds like an alcoholic, he never leaves a jug or case unfinished! I assume that the devil is coming, because it is his last day. What do they expect to do, sorry I’m not going with you, I’ll see you in court?

So the devil arrives and Daniel and the devil argue it out, but neither backs down quickly. Eventually Daniel demands a trial in any court, and says some cr*p (utter garbage really!) about no American can be taken by a foreign prince, I have to say that some Americans (not all) are quite stupid sometimes, and think they are amazing, not quite the case (America, I’m sure is a nice place, tarnished by the idiocy of a few). So then the devil conjures up some ‘undead’ jury. I don’t know any of these ‘American’ men, but obviously they are ‘important’ to American history. The judge sounds plainly crazy, witch trials really? Why would you agree to a court full of people that were conjured by the devil himself, when it is he you are fighting? Sounds like Daniel is extremely smart and has a profound effect on people with his mighty words. They considered their verdict, extremely quick! They didn’t quite say guilty or innocent, or whatever, but applauded Daniel’s eloquence. But they vanish, and he has won and now Daniel and the Devil are physically fighting. And Daniel is clever and makes sure the devil writes up a new ‘contract’ saying he will never disturb Mr. Stone again, or any other man in New Hampshire (cause they are all special or something) till doomsday.

So Daniel has to think what to do with the devil, and nearly lets his bull on him, but the devil talks his way out of it. And he tells Daniel’s future!!!! And says things about his kids dying and war, and other not so pleasant stuff.

To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this. Sure it was kinda interesting, but there was no real message, at least to me and the plot was not that interesting. And frankly, there were things I’m way to sceptical and cynical about for me to take this seriously. Apparently this won a Pulitzer Prize, no surprise since it is all about America and American life (which apparently is preferable for the prize). The only thing I really like about this, is the mention of freedom. That no one should be a slave. That is true, and yet slavery lives on, even today. So many smart ideas are created, and so many great thoughts, but they never seem to take hold. Humanity is set in its old ways for a VERY LONG TIME. We claim to be the best and smartest animals on Earth, yet we just ruin everything. The Earth is practically dying, we aren’t even happy and half the animal’s on the world are in danger of extinction, the whole problem with humans, is the fact that we exist. Humanity is stupid and nothing changes. Can we fix it? Probably not…

Now the next short story (#5) that will be reviewed tomorrow is…. Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find – NOT Good Country People as the original list on the other website suggests.

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4 thoughts on “Short Story #4 -The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet

    1. Admittedly, it has been ages since I’ve read the story, and reading through my review of it, it does sound overly harsh. I think I just found it to be too far-fetched, obviously it is fantasy (and other fantasy is way more far-fetched than this, and yet I don’t question that) and whimsical. I just obviously didn’t appreciate it when I first read it, though I think now, I might have a different opinion of it. Thanks for your comment.

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