In Stephen King’s IT, Ben Hanscom has a crush on Beverly Marsh, but, while she likes Ben as a friend, she loves Bill Denbrough. After the Losers’ Club gives IT a temporary setback in an old house, Ben observes that Bill is starting to feel the same way about Beverly that she feels about him. Here are some of Ben’s thoughts on pages 875-876:
“Good luck, Big Bill…If that’s the way it is. But you’ll never love her the way I do. Never…I love you, Beverly…just let me have that. You can have Bill, or the world, or whatever you need. Just let me have that, let me go on loving you, and I guess it’ll be enough.”
The Losers are kids in that part of the book, but, when they become adults and reunite in Derry, Ben starts to feel the same jealousy when he notices that Beverly and Bill are gravitating towards each other. On page 902, Bill thinks the following:
“If he had been able to send Ben a thought, Bill would have sent this one: It doesn’t matter, Ben. The love is what matters, the caring…it’s always the desire, never the time. Maybe that’s all we get to take with us when we go out of the blue and into the black. Cold comfort, maybe, but better than no comfort at all.”
What Bill may mean is something like “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”, only, here, Ben did not love and lose because he and Beverly were never a romantic couple. But Bill’s point is probably that Ben should find some degree of comfort (even if it is cold comfort) in loving Beverly, even if he never has the opportunity to have a romantic relationship with her. There are times when our love is what defines our character, even if we may not have an opportunity to act on that love.
What I admire about Ben is that he loves Beverly, even though he knows that she loves somebody else. I do not totally know on what basis he loves her. Part of the attraction is physical because he writes her that poem about her red hair, but he may also like her because she is a nice person, and she has courage and spirit. His love for her is more than lust because he is protective of her, which indicates true love. At some point in the book, Beverly thinks to herself that Ben would be willing to die for her, and she is probably right about that.
For some reason, I can identify with Ben, and I am not sure why. I have had a number of crushes over the course of my life, but I can’t say that I felt about any of them the way that Ben feels about Beverly Marsh—loving them, whether or not they loved me back in a romantic fashion. I cannot say that I am utterly self-absorbed, for I have rooted for the success of other people. But I also cannot say that my attitude towards women I like is similar to Patrick’s on the Little House on the Prairie episode, “Meet Me At the Fair”—Patrick crossed his fingers, hoping that Mary would win the quilting contest, even though she was not with him but with his dashing, charming boss. Maybe it’s good that I don’t get so attached. But Bill and Ben would say that the reward is actually in loving somebody else—in caring.