RIP Short Story Friday: “The Body-Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson (Brief Thoughts)

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  • RIP Short Story Friday: “The Body-Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson (Brief Thoughts)

Today is my first day to report on my ghost stories reading project. I’m tackling the Everyman’s Pocket Classics Ghost Stories volume, aiming to read one or two stories a week.

My first ghost story was a rather tame one, even by my “I scare easily” standards. In “The Body-Snatcher” (first published 1884), an unnamed narrator explains a strange encounter between his friend, Fettes, and a visitor to the inn, Doctor MacFarlane, and then  subsequently tells the story of the two doctors, and just why they look at each other as if they see a ghost.

Although the story was entertaining, it was, as I said, a rather tame one. The questionable ethical role of the two men, who are grave robbers seeking bodies for the medical school to dissect, gave the reader an interesting quandary to ponder, and the payback at the end helped provide satisfaction for the story as a whole.  Nonetheless, there was nothing impressive about Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing.

Read “The Body-Snatcher” online.

I’m looking forward to Maupassant’s “The Horla” for next week. I’ve read it in the past and enjoyed it.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I admit that I always find RL Stevenson’s atmosphere and tone impressive during his more gothic stories (not a huge fan of the swash-buckling & adventure novels). I remember reading this awhile back.

    1. Amanda » I really enjoyed Treasure Island but Kidnapped didn’t do much for me. I’m glad to hear that the atmosphere helped this story for you. I don’t know, it just didn’t do much for me this time around.

  2. Not sure if I’ll read this story, but I’m glad you’re doing the short story challenge. This may be the part of the RIP challenge I’m most excited about, since I so rarely read short stories that can be classed as something other than literary fiction – I just need to remember, now, to actually seek out some stories to read. Looking forward to reading your story posts on upcoming Fridays.

    1. Ellen » oh good, I hope I can keep it up. I’m so bad with schedules. And I found with this post that it’s really HARD to write about a short story…since it’s so short and all…

  3. I decided to do the short story challenge also-I think perhaps you might like “The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen more-Stephen King said it might be the best horror/gothic type story ever written-I read it for the challenge today

  4. I have never heard of the Everyman’s Pocket Classics Ghost Stories But it sounds terrific…I hope it’s filled with true and delightful ghost stories despite the lukewarm beginning. I expected much more from a Robert Louis Stevensone story titles “The Body Snatcher”. I guess all of his creativity and ability went into the title on this one! I look forward to hearing about the rest of the collection.

    1. Amy » it is a fun collection because it has older classics as well as some newer ones. the story wasn’t that bad! Amanda says above she really liked the atmosphere, so maybe it just didn’t do something for me. You may really like it 🙂

  5. I just read this a few days ago and felt it was a great let-down. Somehow, the ending didn’t work for me at all. Just when I was about to feel a little comfortable with Stevenson’s style and was close to understanding what Amanda calls his atmosphere, the ending abruptly ended any attempt at coming to grips with the story. It is hard to explain. Perhaps Stevenson’s style just isn’t for me?

    1. Iris » I wasn’t crazy about this one either. I don’t know what it was. I wasn’t let down, just kind of blah about the end. Sorry it didn’t work for you either 🙁

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