The Great Secret by George H. Smith
In The Great Secret by George H. Smith we have the theme of blackmail, fear, control, power and secrecy. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Smith is exploring the theme of blackmail. Neither Bolasky nor Waters are able to figure out as to why thirty people are being blackmailed. Bolasky has looked into the past of each blackmail victim and he has found nothing unpleasant. The entire affair is both a mystery to the police and the reader. That is till Maraat is interviewed by Waters. It is then and only then that the reader becomes aware of a special ability that Maraat has. He is able to predict the day a person will die. Though this may seem irrelevant as everyone is sure to die. Maraat has immense control over his victims. By telling them when they will die, which he did to five victims, a person’s life will change dramatically. Their outlook on life will change and the sudden changes in prioritization could be and are catastrophic.
Knowing when you will die will not only dictate all future actions but fear will be major factor as well. Nobody really wants to know when they are going to die. Ignorance in this case is blissful. It is better that there is secrecy and you do not know the date you are going to die. It is for this reason that approximately twenty-five people paid Maraat off. They realised the control that Maraat had over them and that it was better to not have him tell them when they were going to die. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Maraat is so calm. He knows that he is guilty of blackmailing people but he is also feeding into people’s fears and knows that he will get away with his crimes. Something that is clearer when Waters pays Maraat off after listening to him. Waters steely determination melts away when he confronts Maraat. Waters also knows that he has to let Maraat go. That he cannot charge him for blackmail because of the information that Maraat has on Waters and others.
There may also be some symbolism in the story that might be important. Maraat is clever enough to only blackmail wealthy people. He knows that it is futile to blackmail ordinary people who live from pay check to pay check. Doing so would not be of benefit to Maraat. The description that Smith affords Maraat, dark and strange, is also significant as it immediately places Maraat in a certain category. A person who cannot be trusted or who may be the bearer of ill will towards his fellow man. The fact that Smith places a spotlight on Maraat’s eyes when he is talking to Waters is also interesting as it suggests that Maraat knows something that Waters doesn’t know. Which is very much the case. Waters like the twenty-five other victims of Maraat’s blackmailing caves in and pays Maraat off. Something that Bolasky may not necessarily be happy with though the circumstances are different for Waters and Bolasky.
One aspect of the story that needs to be explored a little further is the five victims who committed suicide. It is possible that they accepted (at the time) the information that Maraat supplied them with but after consideration the desire to kill themselves was so overpowering With each of the five individuals knowing that they were waiting for the clock to tick. Something which would be nightmarish for an individual and could easily lead to a person’s death by suicide. Though Maraat is clever or has an extraordinary ability to predict when someone will die. He is also a ruthless man and finds affairs to be humorous. Knowing that the police cannot do anything to him. It is as though Maraat has a God like ability which others are afraid of. One is left to wonder how much more successful Maraat would be should he use his powers for good rather than bad. Throughout the story Maraat has thought only of himself and what he can gain from others. Even Waters succumbs to Maraat’s demands. Feeling as though he does not have any other option. Again nobody would like to know the date they are going to die.