The Pounding Room by Bentley Little
In The Pounding Room by Bentley Little we have the theme of fear, uncertainty, curiosity, trust and letting go. Narrated in the first person by a man called Charles Nichols it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Little may be exploring the theme of fear. Charles is afraid of the environment he finds himself in. This fear is further heightened when he removes the sack to reveal the head of his father (and mother). For the life of him Charles cannot figure out their meaning nor can he understand anything that is happening in the room. The continuous pounding on the table remains alien to Charles and he is happy to abandon his position in the corporation as soon as he can. For Charles life is too complicated when it comes to working at the corporation. He had assumptions about his role and did not anticipate the horrors that he has had to encounter. As to the symbolic meaning of the heads in the paper sacks. It is difficult to say for certain what they represent and each reader may interpret them to have a different meaning. Though it is possible that each head represents authority.
Charles does not trust Gibbonz nor does he like him. This too may be significant as Gibbonz is the sole representative of the corporation. It is possible that Little is suggesting large corporations can’t be trusted. Charles after all is working in an uncertain environment, which he is afraid of. Though it is noticeable that Little allows for Charles to be curious. A trait that is common among people (including the reader). It is this curiosity that gets the better of Charles and he removes the sacks. Though Charles is as lost as the reader as to the significance of each person in relation to the environment he is in. Again Little could be suggesting that large corporations have too much control over the world and like the pounding on the table are determined to control their and others environment. So unusual are events that Charles feels as though somebody is playing a first day prank on him. It is that difficult for Charles to interpret what is happening that he immediately thinks someone is pulling a prank on him.
The fact that time goes so fast in the room may suggest that Charles is being controlled himself. He does not feel as though time has gone quickly. Yet Gibbonz tells him it is five o’clock already. He does not recall having lunch. Yet the woman knows his name from having lunch with him. If Charles is being controlled then the information he is relaying to the reader may not be accurate. If anything so unusual are the circumstances that the reader may naturally suspect that Charles is an unreliable narrator. He is after all reporting on the fantastical. Small heads of famous men implanted on muscular bodies. It is unrealistic yet the reader has no alternative but to trust Charles as he is the only witness to events.
The end of the story is also interesting as Charles appears unable to let go of what has happened. Despite the passing of time Charles still has events freshly imprinted on his mind. The reader suspecting that it will be some time before Charles is able to comprehend fully (or partially) what has happened to him? One thing is certain is that Charles will not be returning to work. Though again it is noticeable that Charles does not need to return to work in order to remember what has happened. He simply is unable to let go of events. Even though he had not fully completed two days of work. Such is the impact on Charles memory the reader understands that what has occurred is something that is beyond frightening for Charles. He naturally wants to understand events (curiosity) but he may remain unsatisfied and may continue to be so for the foreseeable future. As for the corporation itself. It appears to remain undamaged by events and it is likely that Charles’ role has been filled by someone else. Who like Charles may not fully understand what their job is or what the relationship is between themselves and the people whose head is covered with sacks.