Short Story #26: The Cocoon by John B. L. Goodwin

Title: The Cocoon

Author: John B. L. Goodwin

Short Story #26 out of 365

Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

Date Read:  1/19/2014
Source:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur.
Book cover:  Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories for Late at Night edited by Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Arthur


Denny has followed in his father's footsteps and collects trophies from his explorations in the local wildlife.  His interest is on butterflies and moths and he continues to find interesting specimens in a vain effort to impress his father.  He stumbles upon one find that he has never seen before and it becomes an all-consuming interest of his throughout the fall, winter, and spring until the creature hatches from its cocoon.  With no container to hold the creature in, Denny decides to gas it so it can then mount it on his wall of insects.  After he does this, strange events occur.  The dead moth wreaks of some repulsive smell and the night time is filled with strange sounds.  With each passing night, Denny becomes increasingly worn out and visibly ill.  Finally, one morning the servant finds Denny dead on the floor in an almost cocoon like state.


Goodwin made the process of caterpillar to moth/butterfly absolutely fascinating and haunting.  His ability to capture the process and reveal nature in several ways is well done in this story.  Goodwin also plays with hints about the deeper nature of issues within the story such as a passing comment from Denny's dad that their mother is no longer legally able to contact him.  

However, it's the ways in which Goodwin depicts Denny--both as a boy exploring his own agency and as a representative human in using the environment as play things that is most fascinating.  This sentence I found most compelling:  "Armed with his forceps and his omnipotence, Denny explored each living leaf and twig."  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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