Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson

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This is a guest post by Martin Dugas.

Born of Man and Woman, a 1950 short story by Richard Matheson, is about a young child, apparently a monstrosity, who is kept chained in the basement by its parents and frequently beaten.

Non-spoiler summary

This extremely short story is told by the main protagonist, the young child himself, in the form of a personal diary written in broken English. It gives us a brief look into the every day life of an abused child who really doesn’t know what it is to be a child. He is kept chained in the basement by his parents, and frequently beaten. Nevertheless, he remains curious. He is able to pull his chain out of the wall and is able to observe what happens outside, in the real world, through a little basement window.

At one point during the story, the child relates an incident where his young sister (which he refers to as a “little mother”) comes to see him in the basement with her pet. When the pet smells him and attacks him, he crushes it to death.

The last journal entry takes place after a beating from his father. As the child is going over the events in his mind, we learn that he knocked the stick from his father’s hand and made some noises. Then, he begins to ponder over some tactics to use if his parents do not treat him better in the future.

My thoughts on this story

  • The first few sentences of the story are intriguing; I found myself hooked right away.
  • Matheson brilliantly depicted the passing of days in his story, from a child’s viewpoint, by using unique analogies, such as “This day it had water falling from upstairs” and “This day it had goldness in the upstairs.”
  • The last sentences of the diary, along with the fact that he bleeds green blood, provide a clear hint as to why this short story belongs to the science fiction genre.

Interesting tidbits

  • Word count: 1,239
  • This short story was written by Matheson when he was in his early twenties. It was his first professional sale. It became the title piece in his first short story collection published in 1954.
  • “Born of Man and Woman” was nominated for a 1951 Retro Hugo Award in the Best Short Story category.
  • Famous author Stephen King said that Richard Matheson influenced him the most as a writer.

Where to find the story

Author bio and blog

Martin Dugas is a civil engineer. Fluent in both English and French, he writes in both languages. He is a science fiction junkie and blogs at http://martindugas.wordpress.com.

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