Replacements (short story)

Replacements (short story)

cleanup = September 2008
importance = September 2008
plot = September 2008
unencyclopedic = September 2008
unreferenced = September 2008
Replacements is a short story written by award winning author Lisa Tuttle. It was published for the first time in 1992. Tuttle is know for her work with science fiction, fantasy and horror stories. She often writes stories dealing with feminism and specifically
feminist science fiction.

Infobox short story |
name = Replacements
title_orig =
translator =
author = Lisa Tuttle
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction short story
published_in =
publication_type =
publisher =
media_type = Print
pub_date = 1992
english_pub_date =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

Plot Summary:

The story begins when a man named Stuart Holder is walking to work one day. As he walks along a north London street, he spots a creature lying amid the trash strewn on the sidewalk. The creature is unlike anything he has ever seen “about the size of a cat, naked looking, with leathery, hairless skin and thin, spiky limbs that seemed too frail to support the bulbous, ill-proportioned body.” [Tuttle, Lisa. "Replacements." American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Penguin Group, 1996.] He feels extreme horror at the sight of the creature and his first reaction is to kill it by stomping on it and crushing it beneath his foot. Immediately he feels great remorse for killing the creature and becomes sick to his stomach at the thought of what has happened. For the rest of his walk to work, he is haunted by the thought of it and even sees another creature very similar to the one he just killed.
When he arrives at work, he first notices the women in his office acting strangely, but assumes that they are discussing secrets. He wants to call his wife, Jenny, and tell her about what happened with the creature, but he is worried what her reaction might be. He finally works up the nerve to call her, but she is at work and unavailable to speak with him. He becomes worried when she doesn’t return his call and calls for her again, only to find out that she has left work early for the day. Since it was strange for Jenny to leave work early, Stuart becomes quite worried about her and decides to quit early and head home as well. On his commute home, he is constantly paranoid and worried that he might have another run in with the creature.
When both Stuart and Jenny arrive at home, Stuart is unpleasantly surprised to learn that Jenny has brought home a creature just like the one he had killed on the street. She tries explaining that she rescued it and that it needs her to help it survive, but Stuart is so disgusted that he pleads with her to get rid of it. Jenny becomes defensive and explains that she will keep the creature whether he likes it or not. Stuart decides not to tell her about the creature he killed earlier in the day. The two argue about what to do with Jenny’s new “pet” but never come to a resolution.
As time goes by, the creature begins taking up more and more of Jenny’s time and attention. She stops driving Stuart to work so that she can spend more time with it, and she even sleeps with it alone in another bedroom. She takes the creature with her when she bathed or went to the bathroom and never leaves it unguarded for even a few minutes. Stuart begins to have thoughts of killing the creature, and he feels more and more distant from his wife. The final straw comes one night when he comes home. He walks in on his wife letting the creature drink her blood. She explains her actions but Stuart thinks she has gone mad. She makes it clear that if he cannot accept what she is doing, he must leave. Stuart decides that he cannot live with the creature and the woman Jenny has become, and he moves out of his home.


The story contains several elements which make it gothic in nature. It is an example of one of Tuttle's science fiction works. The idea of gender roles and feminism are also present within this short story.

As discussed by Alan Lloyd-Smith in "American Gothic Fiction", gothic works may contain the element of domesticity. We see this element at work here in Replacements. According to Lloyd-Smith, domesticity or domestic abjection deals with the strange within the familiar. [ Lloyd-Smith, Alan. American Gothic Tales: An Introduction. New York: Continuum, 2004.] In other words, it brings the gothic closer to home. Instead of a story taking place in the dark woods, or a haunted castle, for example, it takes place within the home. Most often, it uses things such as the home, gender, and family to create the gothic nature in the story.In Replacements, the action takes place in a familiar setting and centers on the relationship between a man and his wife. The couple appears to be normal until a strange creature disturbs the harmony of their marriage. The story is effective because it shows a strange and frightening event happening within this couple's home.

The idea of strangeness within the familiar is also discussed as being a trait of the gothic element of the uncanny. Included under the uncanny category is the idea of domestic terror. [ Lloyd-Smith, Alan. American Gothic Tales: An Introduction. New York: Continuum, 2004.] Stuart Holder feels terrified by the woman his wife has become, and by the fact that she has become completely obsessed with her new pet. The uncanny also deals with the idea of acting differently than one would expect, just as Jenny chooses this creature over her own husband. Finally, we also see the gothic element of perversity within this story. Lloyd-Smith discusses how the senses cannot account for events that are taking place. [ Lloyd-Smith, Alan. American Gothic Tales: An Introduction. New York: Continuum, 2004.] It is difficult for the characters to fully grasp the occurrences because the situation that they are in is so unusual. In Replacements, Stuart attempts to rationalize what has happened, but it seems that he cannot. He also has irrational drives and desires, such as when he stomps the creature to death for no reason in the beginning of the story.
Tuttle uses the gothic elements to show how a marital relationship is changed drastically by the introduction of a new element to the marriage. Jenny and all of the women in the story have found a creature that helps them feel wanted and needed. They find that they no longer need their husbands because they have found something better to take their place. Men like Stuart feel confused and replaced.The story is gothic because it shows a familiar situation with very strange elements included. Tuttle effectively uses gothic elements to show how a common situation becomes peculiar and frightening.


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