“The Yattering and Jack” is a short story by Clive Barker that centers around the Yattering, a lower demon tasked with driving Jack Polo insane because his mother promised the demon Beelzebub his soul, and she never delivered. However, Jack appears oblivious to all of the Yattering’s attempts. As the story progresses, we learn that Jack isn’t as oblivious as he’s letting on, and he is a worthy opponent for the Yattering. Barker uses perspective and blends horror and humor to create a unique and effective monster story in this unconventional take on a demonic haunting.
While some horror stories include the antagonist’s perspective, I have yet to read a story that uses perspective between the monster and a victim in a more effective manner than “The Yattering and Jack.” Nearly the first third of the story is told strictly from the Yattering’s perspective as he tries and fails again and again to drive Jack insane. Only after the Yattering decides its last chance will be “Christ’s Mass,” when Jack’s family will be home, do we begin to get Jack’s perspective of the situation and the game he’s playing. He’s aware of the lower demon and intends to defeat it by trying to drive it insane through his indifference. By holding back on Jack’s perspective, Barker is able to further develop the Yattering before their final showdown. We learn the Yattering went through significant training to torment “client,” and he works under a demon named Beelzebub. We also learn that this lower demon cannot go outside the house or touch his victims. Through telling the story from the Yattering’s perspective for the first third of the story, Barker not only characterizes the lower demon, but also enables us as readers to understand his frustration.
The way Barker uses perspective also adds to the unique balance of humor and horror in the story. The first third of the story, where the Yattering tries and fails again and again to affect Jack, is rather humorous. The idea that all this poor lower demon wants to do is drive this oblivious man insane was full of absurd humor, which becomes funnier when we learn that Jack is actually aware of what the Yattering is doing and is intentionally ignoring it in the hope of making the lower demon crazy. While Yattering does horrible things like murder cats, everything is painted in a humorous light though his exasperated perspective. The horror only really takes the driver’s seat when Jack’s daughters come home for the holidays, and the Yattering torments them. By this point, we are privy to both the lower demon and Jack’s perspectives. Both fully intend to drive the other mad. The conflict comes to a head in a scene where, after the Yattering explodes their Christmas tree, Jack tells his terrified family that he’s going for a walk. The Yattering tries to keep him inside, but with the help of his daughter, Jack escapes and tricks the Yattering to not only leave the house, but also try to choke him. Since he broke not one, but two of the cardinal demon rules, he must now serve Jack. How Barker uses the perspectives of the Yattering and Jack to further blend horror and humor ultimately elevates this tale to a unique and effective monster story.
While “The Yattering and Jack” is not a conventional demonic story, it is an effective monster story. Because Barker starts the story from the perspective of the antagonistic monster and maintains this perspective through the first third of the story, we are able to understand the lower demon as well as its limitations. The inclusion of Jack’s perspective raises the stakes and helps simultaneously further the humor and then transition to more of the horror of the situation, particularly when the Yattering begins tormenting Jack’s family. The final confrontation is so satisfying because we understand the Yattering, the monster, and its weaknesses as well as Jack, the victim, and what he has to lose. “The Yattering and Jack” by Clive Barker underscores the importance of perspective and how humor and horror can work together to create an effective monster story.