My 43rd story of my annual “Deal Me In” short story project was the eight of spades, representing “The Queer Client” by Charles Dickens. I own this story in my anthology “Great Short Stories of the World” which I purchased at Half Price Books specifically to provide fodder for my project. 🙂
It’s a rather straightforward tale of revenge, and was originally published within Dickens’ serialized The Pickwick Papers as “The Old Man’s Tale About the Queer Client.” The queer client is a newly rich man, Heyling, who suffered greatly from poverty when younger, losing his wife and son who literally die from poverty and hunger while he is in debtor’s prison, a victim of a ruthless, unforgiving old man. Providentially, Heyling unexpectedly comes into some money and begins to plot his revenge.
He surveils the old man and, during a day at the beach, in a chilling scene, Heyling reveals his identity and refuses to come to the aid of the old man’s drowning son.
As if that weren’t revenge enough, later, he orchestrates the financial ruin of the old man who, rather than face the music (legally) for his bankruptcy, flees and goes into hiding. Heyling hires an attorney (thus becoming the titular “queer client”) to track the old man down so that he may exact additional vengeance.
I’ve read other, better works centering on the theme of revenge ( <ahem> “The Mysterious Mansion“) but this one got me thinking about incidents of revenge in literature and art. I was even reminded of the great lyric from Phil Collins’s 1980 release “In the Air Tonight.”
“Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend
But I don’t know if you know who I am…”
Then, coincidentally, someone posted this link on social media where Mandy Patinkin muses about his favorite line in The Princess Bride (not the one you might think, but one that deals with the revenge theme)
Then there’s the all-time #1 villain in the Star Trek franchise, Khan, whose lust for revenge powers “Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan” (guess the title kind of gives that away too). He also speaks the memorable line about a “Klingon Proverb” that “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold,” adding that, “It is very cold… in space.”
But what about revenge in literature? What are some of the best examples? There are many classics, but what are your favorites? (This would be a good topic for “The Broke and The Bookish’s” weekly Top Ten Tuesday meme if the haven’t explored it already.) Let’s see who can come up with the best literary tale of revenge…
(below: MY favorite scene from The Princess Bride is different)