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Literature / Miriam

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"Please, child... a gift from my husband."
"But it's beautiful and I want it. Give it to me."

An early example of the Creepy Child trope, this short story by Truman Capote was first published in 1945. It follows the mental decline of a widowed woman named Mrs. Miller as the titular character, a Creepy Child and Oracular Urchin of some magnitude, slowly destroys her life by stealing her possessions, forcing her to buy her things, and eventually forcing her to let her move in together. The story has a very ambiguous ending, with the reader left unsure about what Miriam really is, and this had made it a favorite on the school discussion circuit.

This story provides examples of:

  • Author Avatar: Capote said multiple times in interviews that Miriam is supposed to be him paying his parents (who abandoned him) back.
  • Creepy Child: Miriam, though it is implied that she might not be quite human...
  • Creepy Doll: Near the story's end, Miriam brings one of these to Mrs. Miller's apartment when announcing her intention to move in with her.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: After Miriam shows up to move into her apartment, Mrs. Miller has a minor breakdown and runs to her neighbors to beg them to get the girl to leave. Miriam, her box full of clothing, and her Creepy Doll are nowhere to be found when someone goes to look.
  • Little Professor Dialogue: Specifically pointed out and played for creep-factor.
  • Mind Screw: No one is quite sure what Miriam is and how she is related to Mrs. Miller, or what her job on earth is.
  • Psychological Horror: The story explores mental decline.
  • Significant Name Overlap: Mrs. Miller's first name is also Miriam.
  • Snow Means Death: Snow in general is a major symbol in the story, especially in association with Miriam.
  • The Stinger:
    Mrs. Miller stiffened and opened her eyes to a dull, direct stare. "Hello," said Miriam.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Is Miriam real, or a figment of Mrs. Miller's imagination?
  • Tragic Keepsake: In her jewel case, Mrs. Miller keeps a cameo brooch that was a gift from her late husband. Miriam finds the brooch and demands that Mrs. Miller give it to her. Mrs. Miller finds herself unable to stop Miriam or talk her out of it.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Miriam is a Creepy Child with white hair.