What a Dead Mother Can Tell Us

The story Sleepless by Jay Kristoff deals with a guy named Justin. He turns out to be a serial killer and his online girlfriend is the next victim. However, in the end the hunter becomes the hunted. In the following though, I will explore the relationship between the hunter and his divided selves.

While reading the novel especially the relationship between Justin and his mother caught my eye. Over the duration of the story the reader is kept in the dark about the fate of the mother. Their interactions can be interpreted as weird, but the author wrote it in a way that you would only notice those signs on your second read-through. In the end it gets reveled that the only thing left from her is a corpse. So, I want to take a closer look at Justin’s conversation with the corpse or, more precisely, with himself, signifies.

The mother first appeared during the online chat between wolfboy_97 (Justin) and 2muchc0ff33 (Cassie). At the moment where they were about to get intimate, she interrupted the conversation. This situation repeats itself multiple times throughout the novel. The reason is that “She’s just like the others”, “She’s nothing but a tramp”, “Wicked. No good. Dirty girls”. If you think about the fact that Justin is basically telling himself at the same moment that she’s no good but also defending her, things get interesting. It gets clear that he is still indecisive about what he really wants and can’t commit to a sexual connection to Cassie. Therefore, the interruption symbolizes an escape route that hands over his responsibility. Thus, his mother is his justification to avoid the situation. In addition, we can see Justin’s doubt in his ability to form a relationship with women. If his only goal was to avoid sexual interaction, his mother’s words could be anything, they wouldn’t matter. However, she insults her untruthfulness in particular. This indicates Justin’s unsureness and hesitation. So, his doubts about committing to a relationship and trusting others surface.

Another interesting situation is when his mother asks him, if he is a good son and she tells him if he keeps this up, he is going to burn in hell. In this instance the mother symbolizes his remorse. It seems that Justin is partially aware of the crimes he committed. However, due to the fact that his mother is the one who says it and not himself, he isn’t fully admitting it. Once again, he shifts the responsibility away from himself. “She does this sometimes. Tells me to take her back to the place the county put her after the accident”. In this instant Justin’s partially awareness gets noticeable again. He knows that he shouldn’t have dug her out of the ground. But again, because he isn’t saying it on his own, he is still shifting the responsibility away. The reason being that he needs to be able to justify his actions so that he can continue his behavior.

To conclude Justin is conflicted and has commitment issues. His insecurities can be seen in the one sentence which he repeats multiple times “There’s no delete key IRL”. Justin’s Mother in “Sleepless” portrays his remorse and doubt, but also his justification. His remorse about his crimes, the doubts about commitment and trust and the justification of shifting responsibility to continue his actions.