?The Knife Thrower? By Steven Millhauser Essay, Research Paper
“The Knife Thrower” Theme Essay
The story “The Knife Thrower”, by Steven Millhauser , presents a rather disturbing theme. We are shown, through the narrator, the progression of Hensch’s skill and then come closer and closer to drawing blood, until, at last, someone dies.
Through the narrator we see that the audience is there for one reason-to see blood. “It was here that he had introduced into the chaste discipline of knife throwing the idea of the artful wound, the mark of blood that was the mark of the master…without such dubious enticements we’d have been unlikely to attend the performance at all.” This was recounted to the reader early on, while waiting for the performance to begin.
Hensch brings us quickly to the first bloody act. The assistant comes forth and declares she is going to be “marked”. The audience’s reaction is one of anticipation. “Hensch chose a knife from his box, held it for a moment, then raised his arm and threw. The knife struck beside her neck. He had missed-had he missed?-and we felt a sharp tug of disappointment, which changed at once to shame, deep shame, for we hadn’t come out for blood; only for-well something else!” They say this and yet when they see her blood they applaud and, indeed, in the next two acts, Hensch pierces a teenager’s arm and pins a your man’s hand to the wall.
The theme of “The Knife Thrower” is that people try to make themselves come across as the image of virtue, however, they really want to see or participate in violent acts. When faced with the truth people will do anything to deny it. We are shown this in the last act when the assistant asks the audience-an audience member, to make the ultimate sacrifice. “Of course the final act had probably been a setup, the girl had probably leapt smiling to her feet as soon as the curtain closed, though some of us recalled unpleasant rumors of one kind or another, run-ins with the police, charges and countercharges, a murky business.”
We as a group do not agree with the theme. We think that if we were in this situation, someone from the audience would speak up. People do not crave blood and walk around denying it. If we do, then we deny it so well we don’t even know it exists. We feel that man has become hypocritical of this desire for blood. “And it was certainly true that a man in Hensch’s position had every right to improve his art, to dream up new acts with which to pique curiosity, indeed such advances were absolutely necessary…Like the rest of us he had to earn his living, which admittedly wasn’t easy in times like these. But when all was said and done, when the pros and cons were weighed and every issue carefully considered, we couldn’t help feeling that the knife thrower had really gone too far.”
The story “The Knife Thrower” has shown us a somewhat controversial theme: people are trying to make themselves the image of virtue. We do not agree with this and find it to be insulting.