Beyond the Door is a low fantasy short story by writer Philip K. Dick. It was first published in an issue of Fantastic Universe in January 1954.
Larry Thomas begrudgingly buys his wife Doris a gift. The gift is a cuckoo clock and something that will magnify the difficulties in their relationship and call time on their marriage.
Beyond the Door now belongs in the public domain and is free to read by everyone. Please click on the link below to read the short story.
Now, this story was a tricky one to decipher. My first theory about the story is pretty simple, the clock is somehow haunted by the mother of Doris and protects her throughout her life.
“A real old cuckoo clock like my mother had.” She turned the clock over and over. “Just like my mother had, when Pete was still alive.” Her eyes sparkled with tears.”
I don’t care much for this idea, because I found the honesty of the story far more enjoyable. Okay, that honesty is hidden amongst the writer’s words, but Philip K. Dick’s understanding of human behaviour is one of the reasons I find myself drawn to his work.
From the start of the story, Larry already seems to be carrying some resentment or anger. I mean, who buys someone a present and quickly diminishes its importance.
“I mean, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.” He scowled. “What’s the matter with you? You’ve got your clock, haven’t you? Isn’t that what you want?”.
Then we have Doris, a woman who is not happy in her current situation, who finds comfort in a clock that reminds her of better days.
“Do you hear me?” she whispered. “I think you’re the most wonderful cuckoo in the world.” She paused, embarrassed. “I hope you’ll like it here”.
It’s not long before Larry turns his anger towards the clock, probably jealous because of the affection his wife shows to it. Doris is also showing her affection to something else, named Bob and it’s not long before Larry learns of his wife’s infidelity.
“I came over to look at the clock,” Bob said. “Doris told me that it’s a rare antique and that—” “Nuts. I bought it myself.” Larry walked up to him. “Get out of here.” He turned to Doris. “You too. And take that damn clock with you. “He paused, rubbing his chin. “No. Leave the clock here. It’s mine; I bought it and paid for it.”.
I think it is interesting that Larry decided to keep the clock, but not surprising. I think the story tries to confuse the reason this tale is playing out the way it is. Unfortunately, it is a common situation. Anger, resentment and jealousy can lead to a life of misery if it isn’t dealt with properly. Just as Doris found some solace in the clock, so did Larry, with negative effects. There is also a strong sense of male chauvinism with Larry, and I wonder if this is simply a sign of the times or a change in attitudes towards relationships? On a personal level, I have always thought that most people love antiques, regardless of gender.
“That young punk with his books and his antiques. A man shouldn’t be interested in antiques; that’s for women.”.
Sadly, things do not get any better for Larry, as his hatred for Doris and the clock slowly detach him from reality.
“The clock said nothing. Larry walked up in front of it. “Isn’t that right?” he demanded. “Don’t you have anything to say?”
To me, the story is simply about a man, in all his psychosis, believes a clock is somehow against him. The truth is, the clock is nothing more than a piece of wood with some faulty mechanics hidden inside its shell.
“The cuckoo came out fast, straight at him. Larry was looking down, his brow wrinkled in thought. He glanced up, and the cuckoo caught him squarely in the eye. Down he went, hammer and chair and everything, hitting the floor with a tremendous crash. For a moment the cuckoo paused, its small body poised rigidly. Then it went back inside its house. The door snapped tight-shut after it.” The man lay on the floor, stretched out grotesquely, his head bent over to one side. Nothing moved or stirred. The room was completely silent, except, of course, for the ticking of the clock.”.
I think it’s quite insightful and a little sad that I sit here, reviewing a short story that is sixty-seven years old and nothing has changed. Technology has changed immensely, but us humans have barely evolved. I do believe that some great strides are being taken in tackling mental health. But yet, these things happen. Anger and these types of issues can destroy a person’s life. I’ve seen it, and I am guessing you have, at some point in your life.
As for the ending, I think it just points out the fact that anyone can suffer from these emotions.
“I don’t mean suicide,” Bob murmured under his breath, looking up at the clock on the wall. “I meant something else. “But no one heard him”.
Could my theory about this story be wrong? Well, more than likely, yes. I started to read another review that said, this story is all about the evolution of the computer, which immediately stopped me from reading. I’m just not ready for that. The most important thing to take away from a story is, did I enjoy it and did I learn anything? Yes on both counts, and its definitely a tale that will stick with me for a long time.
Thank you for visiting today, have you read Beyond the Door and what are thoughts about it? Please tell me what you think about the story in the comments below.