The girl in Dark Spring is only 12. Her father is away and she does not get along with her step mother, who is there physically, but not emotionally. The maid, who the girl bonds with, is let go by the step mother due to jealousy. Her life situation is less than ideal. Neglected, the girl’s loneliness and abandonment lead to deep thoughts of self-deconstruction. These thoughts within her imagination included rape and murder, some of which the girl found pleasure in. This developed masochistic impulse is hard to interpret–the idea of brutal pain and stimulating pleasure. The girl’s mind is horrifically distorted.
The girl finds comfort in pleasuring herself to the point of irritation. This is a type of fetish developed within her own mind. Along with her obsession (or fetish) with her own father, these different thoughts through her disturbing imagination leads to a madness. Despite it being her father, I found the relation of a woman being obsessed with a man in line with the surrealist movement. It is the defamiliarization of the expected or traditional. However, it is clear from the narrator that these psychological issues arise from her abandonment. She is left alone to think and create these thoughts. These relate to the erotic and madness ideas of the surrealist movement.
The other idea from this novel is the idea of honesty. Zurn is so honest with the audience about her thoughts, no matter how disturbing or inappropriate they may be perceived. This is troubling to me because I have trouble imagining a lot of what the narrater imagined only as a child. In the end, the entire “story” seems to be prophetic, “He imagines how her body will hit the ground, and how these beautiful pajamas will be covered with blood and earth.” The ideas of this story come full circle when the narrator continues on in life contemplating life and eventually commits suicide a year after publishing this novel. Was this really a story of the past? Or was it of the past, present, and future for the narrator? Dark Spring is dark, but is compelling in how it merges past, present, and future within text and reality.
Abuse, neglect, and mental illness and lead to her self-destruction. Zurn is a victim of abuse and neglect–did they lead to mental illness? Her story is one that exposes the realities of bad parenting. This type of morbid story makes me feel bad and realize the privilege I had for loving parents. I was always busy and didn’t have the time to think like the girl narrator, I was quite the opposite. Is Zurn unique that she had these distorted sexual and horrific thoughts? Or does one’s mind take a path of its own when it is neglected? This novel is deep and makes one think. It is a tragedy that started young. Unfortunately, Zurn never seemed to overcome the depression of her childhood, which led to her taking her own life.