Awkwardness, Forgetting, and Stephen King’s IT

I have a couple of items for today’s write-up on Stephen King’s IT:

1.  The members of the Losers’ Club want to make silver slugs to use against IT, and Bill and Richie go to Kitchener Precision Tool & Die to buy material stuff for that project.  Page 846 says the following:

“When Bill asked how much a couple of two-inch bearing molds might cost, Carl Kitchener—who looked like a veteran boozehound and smelled like an old horse-blanket—asked what a couple of kids wanted with bearing molds.  Richie let Bill speak, knowing things would probably go easier that way—children made fun of Bill’s stutter; adults were embarrassed by it.  Sometimes this was surprisingly helpful.  Bill got halfway through the explanation he and Richie had worked out on the way over—something about a model windmill for next year’s science project—when Kitchener waved for him to shut up and quoted them the unbelievable price of fifty cents per mold.  Hardly able to believe their good fortune, Bill forked over a single dollar bill.”

Conventional wisdom states that articulate, smooth, charming people with savvy are the ones who get what they want.  But there can be cases in which the opposite is true: a person who creates an awkward atmosphere can also get what he wants.  In this passage, Bill stutters, Carl Kitchener wants that awkward situation to end, and so he grants Bill’s request, before Bill can even finish making it.  I doubt that using awkwardness to one’s advantage works all of the time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are at least some times when it does work.

2.  After the members of the Losers’ Club kill IT as adults, they start to forget things—who their fellow members of the Losers’ Club are, who IT was, etc.  Mike Hanlon has been recording events in a journal, and he has also written down the names and numbers of his friends in the Losers’ Club.  But those names and numbers are starting to vanish.  Page 1125 has interesting thoughts from Mike Hanlon:

“I suppose I could preserve [the names and numbers]; I could just keep copying them.  But I’m also convinced that each would fade in its turn, and that very soon it would become an exercise in futility—like writing I will not throw spit-balls in class five hundred times.  I would be writing names that meant nothing for a reason I didn’t remember.  Let it go, let it go.”

I do not understand why the force that brought the Losers’ Club together to fight IT wants them to forget each other and their task after it is done.  Couldn’t that accomplishment inspire or instruct the members of the Losers’ Club as they continue through life?  Bill at the end of the book learns some lessons from the childhood that he is increasingly forgetting—about mortality, for example.  So why must they forget?  So that they might have a fresh beginning at life, or better fit into the world of adult realism (whereas, on some level, they needed a childlike faith even as adults to defeat IT, and that might not serve them well as adults)?

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I 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. 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.
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6 Responses to Awkwardness, Forgetting, and Stephen King’s IT

  1. Bridget says:

    I didn’t like the fact that they forgot each other any more than you did, but I can sort of see the purpose. Forgive me for stumbling over my words here, because I don’t have this fully formed in my mind, but I’m going to try: I think what King is trying to say here is, basically, that fate/God/the Turtle/whatever giveth, and also may taketh away. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I don’t necessarily believe this is true of God, but I think King does, and that lesson is that once you have accomplished what you have been brought together for…for what purpose are you to stay together?

    Even when they were kids, there’s a passage right at the end where they talk about how after they thought they defeated It that first time, even though they often got together, it was never all seven of them. The very last time all seven of them were together was when they stood in the stream, held hands, shared blood, and promised to come back if It wasn’t really dead.

    That higher power that brought them together no longer had any use for them to be together anymore. And while there is mostly a happy ending, that part has always nagged at me, and I think it’s supposed to. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Stephen King book that left me completely satisfied at the end, and I think that’s just something that we, as readers, have to deal with.

    I had an English teacher once who said that the last sentence of an essay should always be something that makes the reader think. I believe that’s an excellent rule for anything, don’t you say? If I were to write a book, I wouldn’t want my readers to close it and say, “Well, that was nice.” I mean, I would, but that’s not ALL I would want them to say. I would want them to take it with them, to carry it in their minds and hearts. And that is something that Stephen King does very well (even if carrying around some of his stories gives me nightmares!).

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  2. James Pate says:

    You’re probably right on that, Bridget. I have not read all of Stephen King, but what I have read (or seen on television) often depicts a Book of Job sort of God—not as arbitrary as God in Job, for Stephen King’s God does have a sense of justice, but as arbitrary in some ways: giving and taking away, for instance.

    I’d like to think that the people of the Losers’ Club were not just together to defeat IT, but that they genuinely liked each other. The book presents some of that, but, you’re right, it also presents them as being brought together for a purpose.

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  3. Bridget says:

    I do think they genuinely liked each other – which is why Mike had to fight so hard not to keep copying those names and addresses, because he knew he’d forget eventually.

    Reminds me of the end of Christine: I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that there’s a big, rather traumatic climax, and then years later, one of the main characters writes a card to another with a PS that says “How are you dealing with it?” and the other character writes back, “Dealing with what?”

    It’s partially a defense mechanism, I think. Or, at least, I think in the case of Christine, that’s how King intends it. In It, it’s perhaps a bit more. Perhaps that higher power that brought the Losers together is separating them because he/she/it thinks they will be better off without constant reminders of the huge trauma they went through. Friends or not, BEST friends or not, being around each other constantly could (not necessarily definitely would) be like ripping all those old scabs open again and again, and I don’t think King wanted that. But you have to remember that Ben and Bev get their happy ending, and they don’t seem to be forgetting each other…

    Anyway, sorry for the lengthy responses…but you always bring up such interesting points, and I thank you for that even if I’m clogging up your comments section!!

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  4. James Pate says:

    That could be it, too—so they could forget the trauma. Something else that I wonder: would they continue to have the success that they had as adults, even after IT’s death? I remember watching the movie, and, at the end of that, Beverly is pregnant, meaning the curse is broken. Would the blessings that they had as adults continue even after IT’s death? As Mike notes, their success was unusual—for instance, Eddie ran a successful limo company, in an area where many limo companies went under. And that had something to do with their interaction with IT.

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  5. Bridget says:

    In a way, yes, their success did have to do with their interaction with It. But I think it also had to do with the fact that they got away – remember, Mike is the only one who stayed, and the only one who didn’t make bundles of cash. So I’m not really sure how I feel about that.

    I haven’t seen the movie recently, so I’m going entirely off the book, which doesn’t mention anywhere that Bev is pregnant. So I don’t know if King intended that the curse would be broken or not.

    What I think he might have intended is to leave us unsatisfied – always leave them wanting more, right? You don’t know exactly what happens to everyone because that would be rather anticlimactic…

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  6. James Pate says:

    I think King had some sort of hand in the screenplay, though he didn’t actually write it.

    It’s interesting that you read the book without having seen the movie, since you could imagine the characters as King described them, rather than as the movie depicted them. Try as I might, I could not picture the adult Bill Denbough as a balding man with a pot belly! I pictured him as Richard Thomas, who played him in the movie.

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