Human Remains

“Human Remains” by Clive Barker was an interesting look into the thoughts and feelings of Gavin. Actually, Barker took a closer look at Gavin’s absence of feelings and emotions. Not being encumbered by sentiment was a good quality for someone working in the sex for money field. Gavin prided himself on “Indifference [being] a trademark of his, even a part of his attraction” (Barker, 465). He was only able to get a minute amount of pleasure out of dealing with his customers and did not form attachments to any of them, not even the ones he entertained thoughts of marrying down the road. Gavin did not have any feelings to speak of for his family or friends. He couldn’t even remember when his father died. When we first meet Gavin, he is already the remains of a human: a beautiful husk with no emotions to differentiate him from other pretty objects.

The only thing that seemed to stir any type of emotion within Gavin was his beauty. From the beginning of the story, he is interested in maintaining his beauty and felt that “…it was just a question of preserving the perfection” (Barker, 466). This is only one instance where Barker foreshadows what is to come of Gavin and his refined, finished article (Barker, 466). Gavin muses on the amount of time he has before his beauty begins to fade and “Calculate[s] the odds against him in the race between time and opportunity (Barker, 467).

The statue that Gavin spies in Reynolds’ tub is the answer to his queries. A being that is able to take on the physical characteristics of a person and then steal his soul, it offers Gavin the opportunity to have his beauty immortalized. Gavin isn’t even mad at the creature, or afraid of it, as he understands, “Of course: it saw my face, and wanted it for itself, and it couldn’t steal the face of a dead man, so it let me be” (Barker, 497). His beauty is irresistible, even to otherworldly creatures. Gavin understands that. The best part is, after it takes his beauty from him and then absorbs his soul, he will be “[taken], [called] beauty, [lifted] naked out of the street and through Heaven’s window” (Barker, 491). The creature knows Gavin’s inner desires to be immortalized in his physical perfection, and to have his imperfect, emotionless soul delivered to a different place.

After finishing the story, I question whether or not Gavin really had a soul to take or had it already been gone. The reader is never told why Gavin has this obsession with his beauty and is so stunted when it comes to his emotional development. I can only guess that his soul has been slowly taken from him during his short time in the cruel world.

Works Cited

Barker, Clive. “Human Remains”. Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1998. 465-507. Print.


About rjjoseph

I am a Texas based writer who must produce words to exorcise the voices that will never quiet until I give them their due.
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1 Response to Human Remains

  1. Kate says:

    Good point–maybe Gavin never really had a soul to begin with. He was so dead from the start. But, the creature must have stolen something… The most frightening thing in this story was Gavin’s lack of feeling. I think Barker captured that emptiness really well.

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