This is an introduction for a paper written for one of my California State University graduate school courses.

The Shadow Knows

       Before the advent of television, radio was the rage.  Huddled around pre-transistor radios the size of furniture, fans of The Shadow hoped they had precisely tuned in their local station before the broadcast of the phrase, “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?  The Shadow knows.” The maniacal laughter that followed touched a chord within Shadow fans, and they knew that some poor wrongdoer was about to come face to masked face with someone who would hold them accountable for their evil ways and provide some entertainment in the process. Perhaps those listeners, held spellbound by the Shadow’s methods, unconsciously feared that fictional man might discover some secret aspect of their lives, scraping off the thin veneer of the self, the persona they showed to the world, and exposing their cheaper psychological plywood in all its textural ugliness.  Readers of The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad had a less fearful protagonist than listeners to The Shadow, but the process of digging deeper than the surface to find something ugly or, at least, unwanted beneath remains the same.  In his short novel, Conrad explores the Self and the necessity of facing its darker shadow side before one can be satisfied.


I used the historical method to get to my thesis.  Of course, no real history of a shadow exists besides the implied origin following "and there was light." So, I looked for the most recognizable connection to a shadow of any kind.  While you probably have never heard of this old radio program, my audience was a professor older than myself--imagine that--and she recognized the popular allusion. Double-spaced in the MLA format, this was all but three lines of the first page of a five-page paper.


Back to Writing Home Page