Henry the Lost Soul

On pages 921-922 of Stephen King’s IT, Henry Bowers as an adult is trying to kill Mike Hanlon with a knife, for Henry is serving as an instrument of IT.  Mike quietly tells Henry to put the knife down, and then Mike says:  “I’ll call the police.  They’ll come and get you and take you back to Juniper Hill.  You’ll be out of Derry.  You’ll be safe.”

Page 922 contains Henry’s reaction (with a racial slur, since Henry is a racist): “Henry tried to talk and couldn’t.  He couldn’t tell this hateful jig that he wouldn’t be safe in Juniper Hill, or Los Angeles, or the rainforests of Timbuktu.  Sooner or later the moon would rise, bone-white and snow-cold, and the ghost-voices would start, and the face of the moon would change into Its face, babbling and laughing and ordering.”

It often communicated with Henry from the moon, even when Henry was a child.  Henry was a useful tool for IT because he was destructive, which had to do with his childhood, in which he was abused by his father.  When Mike first sees Henry as an adult, he witnesses “the tired bewildered look of the badly used child who had been set on a poisonous path for some unknown purpose” (page 921).  Mike continued to reflect, “Henry had grown up within the contaminated radius of Butch Bowers’s mind; surely he had belonged to IT even before he suspected IT existed.”

But IT intensified Henry Bowers’ evil.  Pages 940-941 explain this rather well, from the perspective of Ben Hanscom.  Henry had moved beyond being the schoolyard bully who punched kids and gave them Indian-burns, for Ben recognized that, if IT was using Henry, Henry would kill.  Ben went on to reflect about how bullies liked to stay below the “sight-line” of adults.  When Henry was merely a schoolyard bully, adults would pass by, tell Henry to stop his bullying, and go on their way, and Henry would then resume his bullying.  As Henry degenerates under the influence of IT, however, he no longer cares about the sight-line separating children from adults, for he attacks the adults who order him to stop bullying.

When Henry is an adult at Juniper Hill, an asylum, IT taunts Henry about the success and wealth that the members of the Losers’ Club have as adults (e.g., Bill is a famous writer, etc.), and that provokes Henry to want to kill them.

What is sad is that there was no redemption for Henry Bowers.  There was no place where he felt he could go to be safe.  He had scars from his childhood.  He feared that, anywhere he went, IT would taunt him from the moon and augment his own inner demons, such as his resentment and his hatred.  It’s possible for many of us to degenerate, if we feed the bad wolf.  (I think here of the old Native American story about the good wolf and the bad wolf, and the wolf who becomes stronger is the one we feed.)  How could Henry, or anyone with hurts and resentments, find healing?  Through God?  Through therapy?  Through being loved?  Through interpreting one’s life (past, present, and future) in light of a positive narrative—or a helpful narrative—rather than one that is twisted and degenerate?

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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