Voodoo by Fredric Brown
In Voodoo by Fredric Brown we have the theme of separation, hate, greed, trust, confidence and freedom. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Brown may be exploring the theme of separation. Both Mr and Mrs Decker’s marriage is over. Yet due to disagreements they are unable to settle on a divorce. Mrs Decker wants fifty percent of everything while Mr Decker does not agree with this. If anything both characters because of their disagreement over finances hate one another. This may be significant as Brown may be highlighting the negative side of marriage. When things fall apart between two people. It may also be a case that Mrs Decker is being greedy by eventually demanding one hundred percent of everything in the marriage. She believes she has a right to it though the narrator never goes into the details. Only suggesting that Mrs Decker has learned voodoo and she has the ability through black magic to kill Mr Decker.
In order to prove she knows voodoo Mrs Decker issues Mr Decker with a challenge. She will perform voodoo on him and should she kill Mr Decker she will claim everything in the marriage. Should she fail in her task she will forfeit any entitlement she may have. What is interesting about Mrs Decker challenge is that both characters have alternative views on voodoo. Mrs Decker firmly believes in it while Mr Decker considers it to be nonsense and not really a craft. Either way the risks are high for both Mr and Mrs Decker. Mrs Decker if she loses will get nothing out of the marriage and will be assured to live her life in poverty. While Mr Decker has a more serious risk. The loss of his life. If anything so high are the risks that the reader is left to assume that both Mr and Mrs Decker are very confident about what will happen. However as the story progress it becomes clear to the reader as to why Mr Decker is so confident. He hands Mrs Decker her own hair. Taken from her hairbrush. He can’t lose the bet that both characters have made with each other.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which is important. Brown by immediately introducing the possibility of a divorce leaves little to the reader’s imagination. The divorce sets the tone for the story. Things are not going well and in many ways the voodoo acts as an instant divorce. As though one of the characters is in for a sharp shock. That shock ultimately happens to Mrs Decker who has acted somewhat naïvely by trusting Mr Decker to supply a sample of his own hair. If anything Mr Decker has the advantage throughout the story. He refuses to give Mrs Decker fifty percent of everything as he feels she doesn’t deserve it and now the sample of hair he provides ensures that Mrs Decker will accidentally kill herself. It’s a win-win situation for Mr Decker.
Which may be the point that Brown is attempting to make. He may be placing a spotlight on patriarchal society and how the male has the advantage over the female. Regardless of how cunning or intuitive the female may be. On paper Mrs Decker’s idea to use voodoo suggests that she will overturn her situation and get everything. She will replace Mr Decker on the social hierarchy ladder. However this never happens as Mr Decker outsmarts Mrs Decker. Again she is too trusting of Mr Decker and pays for this trust with her life. Mr Decker at the end of the story is left with everything and the opportunity to pursue happiness with another woman should he want to. There is nothing to stop Mr Decker living his life as he sees fit. There are no obstacles in his way. All Mr Decker has to do is ring an ambulance and an autopsy will show that Mrs Decker died of heart failure. If anything Mr Decker might feel as though things have resolved themselves in a satisfactory manner. He has everything and a new lease of life. He also has the freedom that he has longed for.