The Doppelgänger Writes Back:
J. M. Barrie’s “The Body in the Black Box”
This article discusses an early short story by J. M. Barrie entitled “The Body in the Black Box” (1885) in the context of late Victorian gothic writing and the nineteenth-century tradition of the doppelgänger. Publication of the story, in the Christmas number of the weekly newspaper Home Chimes, has not previously been documented, and the article outlines the contexts of composition and publication before offering a close reading of the text. It examines the setting of the story in contemporary London and Barrie’s deployment of gothic tropes and imagery, and identifies links with some of the author’s other works, including Peter Pan. The main claim of the article is that, despite its brevity, the story is worthy of critical attention because of its original variation on the doppelgänger theme. With reference to other fictional doubles in works by Edgar Allan Poe, James Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson and others, the analysis shows how, in its narrative technique and through the use of a framing device, the story reverses the conventions of the doppelgänger tradition by writing the tale from the perspective of the double.
J. M. Barrie; “The Body in the Black Box”; Victorian horror; Home Chimes; doppelgänger; doubles; duality; shadow.
Date of Acceptance: 5 July 2021
Date of Publication: 8 July 2021
Double Blind Peer Reviewed
Nash, Andrew. 2021. “The Doppelgänger Writes Back: J. M. Barrie’s ‘The Body in the Black Box.’ ” Victorian Popular Fictions, 3.1 (Spring): 55-67.
Return to Contents page of VPFJ 3.1