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Literature / October In The Chair

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October begins its story...

"October in the Chair" is a short story by Neil Gaiman. It was written as a dry run for The Graveyard Book.

The months are gathered around, to tell stories around a campfire. October is the MC, waiting for his turn to tell a story. He narrates about a tiny boy named Donald who runs away from home after being bullied by his brothers.

Tropes for this story include:

  • And Then What?: When Donald gets far enough from home, he realizes that he doesn't actually know where he wants to go.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The characters in the Framing Device are personifications of the months.
  • As You Know: The months remind each other that they can't retell a story from before, as they chide September for doing that.
  • Big Sister Instinct: May tells September to leave April alone when April complains about sausage juice burning her.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Deconstructed; Donald running away when his brothers are supposed to be watching him and skive off to flirt with a girl they both like. Logically, that means they'll get blamed for abandoning babysitting duties when his parents find out that Donald is missing. He doesn't think that his parents will care about it, and that his brothers would bully him worse once he's returned home.
  • Downer Ending: Donald realizes he will never make it to the ocean because his parents will send the cops to find him, and his family will never be sorry for making fun of him. He asks Dearly if he can stay in the graveyard, and walks into the house where something inside will allow him to reside permanently. The months are very unsettled by this.
  • Driven to Suicide: Donald decides to stay in Dearly's graveyard rather than try his luck at walking to the ocean. He has to ask something in the farmhouse for that favor. Dearly thinks he has to die first for that to happen.
  • Exact Words: Dearly says "nobody lives" in the house next to the graveyard. He clarifies that it's not empty.
  • Framing Device: The months tell their stories over a campfire, roasting sausages and drinking apple cider. October goes after September and June make their attempts.
  • Genre Savvy: Donald reads a lot of books, so he knows that you may meet monsters and people in the same area. He also notes that any monsters would be preferable to his human brothers. This helps him adapt quickly to meeting a friendly ghost in the graveyard.
  • Homage: The story is dedicated to Ray Bradbury, who loved Halloween and boys who strove to make their own adventure.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We're never told what is in the farmhouse, only that whatever it is doesn't seem to be human. The months agree that it's better not to know.
  • The Runaway: Donald is the youngest child in his family, who is bullied by his brothers, ignored by his parents, and tolerated by schoolmates and teachers. He decides to run away the day that his siblings are supposed to watch him and try his luck with making it all the way to the ocean. The narration mentions he walks on a road with no sidewalk and has to jump into ditches to avoid getting run over by cars. He makes it as far as Dearly's graveyard and it's implied that he dies at the end of the story, before they can find him; Donald knows they probably called the police.
  • The Runt at the End: How Donald got his nickname, Runt. Unfortunately, his brothers are just cool/liked by others enough for it to stick and overshadow his real name.
  • Story Within a Story: October tells his story about Donald as part of a tradition with his brothers and sisters.
  • This Is Reality: The reason why Donald decides to go into the farmhouse is that he realizes his parents would send cops after him to pick him up and chide him for running away, with his brothers increasing their bullying as punishment for getting them in trouble. He would never make it to the ocean or return a hero, like the protagonists in his favorite books.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Donald takes it quite calmly that Dearly is a ghost, with his own grave. He prefers hanging out with a dead kid than with anyone else.