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 story tells of Gary, a nine year-old boy, whose brother had died not long ago due to a bee sting. One day Gary goes out fishing and falls asleep. When he awakens, he finds a bee is hovering near his face. Due to the allergy he shared with his brother he is very scared, but then he hears a clap and the bee dies. He turns around and he discovers a man in a black three-piece suit with as is described in the story, glowing, burning eyes, as if there's a fire inside him, looming over him, with pale skin and claws for fingers, and horrible, sharp, shark-like teeth when he grins. 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, and that the man intends to eat him. Gary does not believe at first, but soon realizes that this man is actually the devil, and makes his escape by throwing his caught fish at the stranger; he then runs off as the creature swallows the fish whole and pursues the boy to the outskirts of the forest. The boy soon finds his father and makes up a false story about the trip; he does tell his father that his mother has died, but his father denies this. The boy is not sure if he believes his father or not till he sees his mother in the kitchen. The things the man said were false, but Gary is still haunted by the incident for the rest of his life.

Gary tells the story from his perspective as an old, terrified man. He is haunted by his belief that he only escaped from the devil by either pure luck or his own skill. At the end of the story, he is frightened by the possibility of death. Will he go to God, whom he has prayed to all his life? Or will the Man in the Black Suit return to take him away, now that he is too old to run away from him again?

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