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Literature / The Body Snatcher

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The Body Snatcher is a horror short story written by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in December 1884.

The story centers around Fettes and Macfarlane, who once attended medical school under anatomy professor Robert Knox, tasked with illegally delivering bodies for the doctor's uses. No matter how much Fettes wants out, he is always forced to keep silent under peril of implicating both him and Macfarlane of their crimes.

But when their employer faces a shortage of bodies for study, the pair are tasked with raiding a churchyard for another body. That's when things don't go too well for them...

A film adaptation of the same name starring Boris Karloff can be viewed here.

Dig up the following tropes for further study:

  • At Least I Admit It: Macfarlane doesn't deny murdering Gray when confronted by Fettes, reminding him of his involvement in delivering bodies.
  • Blackmail: Macfarlane's method of making sure Fettes doesn't tell anyone of the bodies, pointing out he is involved in the crimes with him.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Fettes drinks at the tavern to cope with his guilty conscience.
  • For Science!: The reason behind Dr Knox's need to acquire bodies, being a professor in medical school.
  • Grave Robbing: What a pair of shady men have been doing at the request of Dr Knox. Fettes and Macfarlane later on are called to do the job themselves.
  • Jerkass: Gray, who is rude and obnoxious to Macfarlane.
  • Loosely Based On A True Story: The short story references Dr. Knox and the grave robbers allegedly hired to supply him bodies during his stint as a professor of medicine.
  • Offing the Annoyance: Macfarlane killed Gray because he couldn't stand his obnoxious attitude around him.
  • Villain Protagonist: Macfarlane, and Fettes to a lesser extent.
  • Wham Shot: Fettes and Macfarlane investigate the body they're transporting to find that it's the body of Gray they picked up, which they thought was destroyed.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Fettes suspected Jane Galbraith, a woman he saw alive last, was murdered.