The Man in the Black Suit

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"The Man in the Black Suit"
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror
Published in Six Stories,
Everything's Eventual
Publication type Anthology
Publisher Philtrum Press
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Publication date 1995

"The Man in the Black Suit" is a short story by Stephen King. It was originally published in the October 31, 1994 issue of The New Yorker magazine. In 1995, it won the World Fantasy Award and the O. Henry Award for Best Short Fiction. In 1997, it was published in the limited-edition collection Six Stories. In 2002, it was collected in King's collection Everything's Eventual. King described the piece as an homage to Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown". He also states that the story evolved from one his friend told him, in which the friend's grandfather had come face to face with Satan himself in the form of an ordinary man. It was adapted into a short film with the same title in 2004 by Nicholas Mariani.

Plot summary[edit]

"The Man in the Black Suit" recounts the tale of Gary, a nine year-old boy, whose brother has died, not long ago, due to a bee sting. One day Gary goes out fishing and falls asleep. When he awakens, he's startled to discover a bee hovering near his face. Since he shares his brother's allergy, he's very scared, but then he hears a clap and the bee dies. Turning around, he discovers a man with burning eyes looming over him. Dressed in a black, three-piece suit, the man has pale skin and claw-like fingers; when he grins, he exposes horrible, sharp, shark-like teeth. The man—whose body odor smells like burnt match heads—tells Gary terrible things: that his mother has died while he was away, that his father intends to molest him, that he (the man) intends to eat him. At first, Gary doesn't believe him, but he soon realizes that the man is actually the devil. Throwing the fish he caught at the stranger, he makes his escape; the creature swallows the fish whole and pursues the boy to the outskirts of the forest. At home, Gary finds his father and makes up a lie about what happened when he went fishing, although he does insist that his mother has died. His father denies this, and the boy isn't sure if he believes his father or not till he sees his mother in the kitchen. The things the man said were false, Gary decides. Even so, he's haunted by the incident for the rest of his life.

The story is narrated by Gary, looking back from his perspective as an old, terrified man. He is haunted by his belief that he escaped from the devil by sheer luck or his own wits. As the story draws to a close, we learn that he's frightened by the thought of his approaching death. Will he go to God, to whom he has prayed all his life? Or will the Man in the Black Suit return to take him away, now that he's too old to outrun him?

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