In this report I’m going to analyze Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark in terms of plot, theme, style and message.
The book is considered to be the classics of suspense. The plot of the book is complicated but clear and comprehensible. It is very tense and absorbing, menace and thrilling, exciting and vivid.
On the Christmas Eve the main character of the story, Brian, is standing with his mother Catherine and his elder brother observing the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree. Dornans family has arrived to New York because father Tom, who has leukaemia, desperately needs an operation.
Brian notices an unknown woman take the wallet his Mom has accidentally dropped. The wallet has St. Christopher medal inside, which is a gift for their father. Brian follows the thief into the subway. Later his mother would recollect:
“He hadn’t cared about the money. He followed her because he believed that medal would make his father get well.” (Clark, 1996, p.92)
The woman turns out to be Cally Hunter, sister of Jimmy Siddons, who is an escaped convict accused of murder. When Cally and Brian reach the apartment, Jimmy takes the boy hostage and kidnaps Brian to Canada in a stolen car and it flippes over. But the boy has precious St. Christopher medal with him, and finally he hears “the sirens screamed and wailed.” (Clark, 1996, p. 168) Happy end is very natural in this story and doesn’t make it sound unrealistic.
The book speaks about universal values, but it does it with fresh look and creative approach.
The courage of the seven-year old boys is worth admiring. When kidnapped, he thinks not about hi own life and security, but about giving St. Christopher’s medal to his ill father:
“He felt the medal dangling against his chest and closed his fist around it. Please get me back to Mom, he prayed silently, so I can bring you to Dad.” (Clark, 1996, p.44)
This is an amazing example of son’s life and self-sacrifice.
Family love and support are the milestones of this beautiful Christmas story. I would like to focus my attention on the relation between Brian and Michael. As all the teenagers, brothers sometimes face contradictions, but they love and care for each other. A force majeur situation is sometimes needed to make us realize the importance of those people, whom we see every day. When Catherine heard that her husband was feeling better, she said:
“Our family has known many happy Christmases, but this will be the best ever because we know what we so nearly lost.” (Clark, 1996, p.119)
The loving family of Dornans is contrasted to the relations between Jimmy and his sister:
“With eyes that denied any history of affection between them, Jimmy stood over his sister, again holding the gun to her head.” (Clark, 1996, p.47)
Still, the author strongly believes in the universal goodness of humankind, because “even Jimmy wouldn’t hurt a little boy.” (Clark, 1996, p.72)
The story teaches us not to lose hope in any situation, regardless of its dramatic nature. Simple thing like a prayer and mutual support help Dornans family to believe in the happy outcome of their troubled situation:
“On this very special evening, we ask you to continue to pray that Brian is safely returned to his family, and wish you and all of your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.” (Clark, 1996, p.121)
The style of the book is perfect. Mary Higgins Clark uses descriptive language, but never goes too deep into details. She has a unique ability of keeping the reader fully into the novel.
The atmosphere of Christmas Eve is full of deep imagery and symbolism. Although many artists were inspired by this theme, Mary Higgins Clark interprets it in her own way. Christmas has been traditionally considered family holiday, and young Brian only desires to spend this day with his family. Christmas details are very touching, and the very spirit of hope and belief is the strongest side of the book. Many mysterious coincidences (I dare call them miracles) happen in the course of the story.
The excessive symbolism of the story is definitely worth analyzing, and the main symbol is St. Christopher medal. It embodies Dornan’s heredity and everlasting family ties. The medal saved Brian’s grandfather in World War II and is intended to save his father’s life. During the thrilling ride to Canada the medal embodied “strong saint who carried the little kid across the dangerous river.” (Clark, 1996, p. 116)
Catherine is first sceptical when the Brian’s grandmother gives the medal to her. But Brian deeply believes in the supernatural qualities of St. Christopher’s medal. So the message here stresses the power of faith, and we are not to be afraid to turn dream into miracle, as it happened to the Dornans family.
As for the disadvantages of the book, I can name only a few. The course of the vents and the final outcome are quite predictable. The heroes are idealistic in a certain way, but I believe the story to be parable empathizing universal values. The author’s choice was to show that unbelievable things can happen to the most ordinary people, and this plot has been dominant in literature since Middle Ages. It’s surprising how such banal plot could make a readable story.
Now let me proceed with sharing my personal impressions of the book. I can’t say that I want to reread the story once again, but my impressions are solely positive. The book made me rethink many serious issues, for instance, the importance of family relations or the nature of crime. Still, I was able to analyze the book only on finishing it, because I couldn’t tear myself away. The author makes us sympathise the characters so much that they virtually become the members of your family.
To sum up, I would like to say that Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark is worth reading, and I would recommend it to any audience.