The Power of Names in “Twilight at the Towers”

As part of my MFA program, I’m taking a class on monsters in the horror genre. I read Twilight at the Towers, by Clive Barker, as an assignment for that class. The below blog post may contain spoilers.

In this story, Ballard slowly realizes that the British Security Service, his organization, has suppressed the monster inside him, and that the KGB has monsters as well. Interestingly, although this is a werewolf story, the author makes no mention of the monsters being wolves until the final scene. Rather, there’s talk about rage and transformations, without naming the monster.

Twilight at the Towers seems to suggest that, for the wolves, humanity is a cage while being a wolf is freedom. I might take that further and say that being one’s true self is freedom.

When we first meet Mironenko, an agent of the KGB who wants to be brought under the protection of the British Secret service, the man speaks of the rage inside him. He’s desperate to escape the KGB. In contrast, after his first transformation, he feels physical pain but emotional freedom: “But that sense of imminent rebellion had disappeared, to be replaced with a dreamy peacefulness. And at its heart, such happiness.” (Barker, Clive. “Twilight at the Towers.” The Books of Blood. Vol. 6. Crossroad, 2013. Kindle file.) Having given in to his wolf nature, Mironenko became a happier person. Ballard experiences a similar phenomenon later in the story, which contrasts with the pain he feels when trying to bury his dreams of the wolf.

Throughout this story, names are given the power to control. Wolves are nameless, and to become a wolf is to become nameless and free.

At some point, Ballard believes his friend Odell is dead and would be forgotten. He thinks, “Coming here tonight raised the ghost of Odell, whose name would now be scrubbed from conversation because of his involvement with the Mironenko affair.” Ballard believes this name-scrubbing is a bad thing. But the truth is that Odell has become a wolf and thus no longer has a name. Thus, it’s appropriate that his name be scrubbed, and this scrubbing signifies Odell’s freedom.

As described by Ballard’s thoughts when he hears his name during his own transformation: “No, thought the man in the mirror. There was nobody of that name here. Nobody of any name at all, in fact, for weren’t names the first act of faith, the first board in the box you buried freedom in? The thing he was becoming would not be named, nor boxed, nor buried. Never again.” As Ballard’s true nature is revealed, his freedom comes along with it, and he relinquishes his name.

Most importantly, I believe, is that the monster Ballard and others become remains unnamed until the final pages of the story. At that point, all these hints about freedom and names finally come together. Ballard joins a clan of others of his kind—who are called wolves for the first time in the story. And Ballard immediately knows that names are forbidden among his kind.

This is the most at peace we ever see Ballard. In the end, he discovers his true self and is able to shed his name and his chains completely. He becomes what he was always meant to be.

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One Response to The Power of Names in “Twilight at the Towers”

  1. Matt says:

    True self is definitely a motif I noticed in this story and it made me think of The Wolfman, where they seemed to struggle a lot more to cage the beast within. It felt like a different perception in Barker’s story.

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