The Sanctity of Life, and Stephen King’s IT

I have two items from Stephen King’s IT, both of which relate to the sanctity of life.

1.  Patrick Hockstetter was a part of Henry Bowers’ gang of bullies.  He was a psychopath, but his teachers were not overly concerned about him because he mostly kept quiet, in contrast to the disruptive Henry Bowers and Victor Criss.  Patrick killed his baby brother, Avery, and page 826 explains why:

“Patrick had not liked it when his mother brought Avery home from the hospital.  He didn’t care (or so he at first told himself) if his parents had two kids, five kids, or five dozen kids, as long as the kid or kids didn’t alter his own schedule.  But he found that Avery did.  Meals came late.  The baby cried in the night and woke him up.  It seemed that his parents were always hanging over its crib, and often when he tried to get their attention he found that he could not.  For one of the few times in his life, Patrick became frightened.  It occurred to him that if his parents had brought him, Patrick, home from the hospital, and if he was ‘real,’ then Avery might be ‘real,’ too.  It might even be that, when Avery got big enough to walk and talk, to bring in his father’s copy of the Derry News from the front step and to hand his mother the bowls when she made bread, they might decide to get rid of Patrick altogether.  It was not that he feared they loved Avery more (although it was obvious to Patrick that they did love him more, and in this case his judgment was probably correct).  What he cared about was (1) the rules that were being broken or changed since Avery’s arrival, (2) Avery’s possible reality, and (3) the possibility that they might throw him out in favor of Avery.”

When Patrick suffocated Avery in his crib, he got a thrill, and so he proceeded to kill animals to get that same thrill.  He had no respect for the lives of others.

The passage on page 826 is sad.  Patrick was selfish in that he desperately wanted everything to operate according to his own schedule and preferences, even at the cost of somebody else’s life, and that indeed is an inner pit.  But Patrick was also insecure.  He did not think that his parents had enough love to go around, for both him and also his baby brother.  And he did not know how to share the world with somebody else, for he felt that somebody else’s existence would threaten his own value.  Patrick’s feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and fear of being unloved are held by many people, including those who are not psychotic.  But those who are not psychotic do not resort to murder.  They try to cope with the world as it is, or they somehow learn that they are loved.  They recognize that other people besides themselves have innate value as human beings.  And that brings me to my second item.

2.  Bill Denbrough and Richie Tozer are investigating Georgie Denbrough’s room, after Georgie had been murdered by IT.  Richie notices pictures on Georgie’s wall.  Page 334 has the following:

“A third, which Georgie had colored himself, showed Mr. Do holding up traffic so a bunch of little kids headed for school could cross the street…Kid wasn’t too cool about staying in the lines, Richie thought, and then shuddered.  The kid was never going to get any better at it, either.  Richie looked at the table by the window.  Mrs. Denbrough had stood up all of George’s rank-cards there, half-open.  Looking at them, knowing there would never be more, knowing that George had died before he could stay in the lines when he colored, knowing his life had ended irrevocably and eternally with only those few kindergarten and first-grade rank-cards, all the idiot truth of death crashed home to Richie for the first time.  It was as if a large iron safe had fallen into his brain and buried itself there.  I could die! his mind screamed at him suddenly in tones of betrayed horror.  Anybody could!  Anybody could!

That is one thing that is tragic about death: it brings an end to a person’s story, as well as any potential for growth and development (although there could be an afterlife).  That being the case, who is any of us to bring to an end somebody’s story, someone’s opportunity to grow, to change, and to become a better person?  And what hits home for Richie is that he knew Georgie Denbrough.  Death was not some abstract entity that merely affected people “out there”, for it took someone he knew.  And that made Richie realize that he, too, could die, meaning that his own story could come to an end.  That sort of realization should lead one to value life, both one’s own and that of others.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to The Sanctity of Life, and Stephen King’s IT

  1. Cristiane Prates says:

    Very interesting review. Thanks for sharing it. I’d like to ask you for a big favor: I’m writing my monograph paper for university and I would like your permission to cite your blog concerning “It”. If you agree to that would you mind letting me know the city you write from? Thanks in advance.

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  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Hi Chistine! Yes, you have my permission to cite it. I write from Oriskany, New York. If you’d like to know more about me, I am a Ph.D. student in the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College. I have degrees from Depauw University, Harvard Divinity School, and Jewish Theological Seminary.

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