restricted access Shirley Jackson’s “The Tooth”: Dentistry as Horror, the Imagination as a Shield

On her way to a dreaded dental appointment to have an aching tooth pulled, Clara Spencer meets a solicitous stranger, Jim, and by the end of the story runs off with him, in many interpretations to perdition. But since 1) Shirley Jackson (who herself had much dental work and hated it) has suffered from typecasting as a horror writer, 2) dental gas anesthesia protocols of the time as Clara is anticipating could lead to sexual hallucinations, and 3) contemporary literature celebrated escapist fantasy (e.g., the invisible giant rabbit in Harvey), this article proposes instead that Jim is Clara’s own imaginative, comforting, therapeutic creation.