A theme that recurs in Stephen King’s IT is having a thought that one is unable to articulate.
I first encountered this theme on page 245, where Bill reflects on how he misses his dead brother Georgie, and yet he is afraid of encountering Georgie’s ghost. The narrator states: “These were not things of which [Bill] could have spoken; to his mind the ideas were nothing but an incoherent jumble. But his warm and desiring heart understood, and that was all that mattered.”
Another example occurs on page 494. A mocking coach says to a crying young Ben Hanscom after other kids have persecuted Ben for being fat: “You think I’m going to comfort you?…I’m not. You disgust them and you disgust me as well. We got different reasons, but that’s because they’re kids and I’m not. They don’t know why you disgust them. I do know. It’s because I see you burying the good body God gave you in a great big mess of fat. It’s a lot of stupid self-indulgence, and it makes me want to puke…”
Again, we see the theme of people (in this case, kids) having feelings that they are not able to articulate or understand.
Then there is page 786. Eddie Kaspbrak has just been severely beaten up by Henry Bowers and his gang, and yet Eddie feels a sense of relief. The passage says: “[Eddie] didn’t know…why he should feel, in spite of the pain, such intense relief. Was it maybe just because he was still alive, that the worst he had suffered was a broken arm, and there were still some pieces to pick up? He settled for that, but years later, sitting in the Derry Library with a glass of gin and prune juice in front of him and his aspirator near at hand, he told the others he thought it was something more than that; he had been old enough to feel that something more, but not to understand or define it. I think it was the first real pain I ever felt in my life, he would tell the others. It wasn’t what I thought it would be at all. It didn’t put an end to me as a person. I think…it gave me a basis for comparison, finding out you could still exist inside the pain, in spite of the pain.”
There are more examples of this theme in the book, but these were my favorites. And I identify with this theme, because there are thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I am not able to articulate to myself or to others. Yet, they’re there.
I have three thoughts:
1. On page 514, adult Mike says to other members of the Losers’ Club: “Since the turn of the year I’ve been keeping a journal. And when a man writes, he thinks harder…or maybe just more specifically.” One way to understand one’s feelings is to express them through writing, for writing can force one to come up with words and to focus. In Mike’s case, he was trying to organize the vast jumble of questions and insights that he had about IT into something coherent.
2. After the coach insulted young Ben for being fat, Ben lost weight and performed successfully in the track trials. The coach, outraged, punched Ben. Ben said to him: “I’ll tell you what, Coach. You get one free, on account of you’re a sore loser but too old to learn any better now. But you put one more on me and I’ll try to see to it that you lose your job. I’m not sure I can do it, but I can make a good try. I lost the weight so I could have a little dignity and a little peace. Those are things worth fighting for.”
As adult Ben tells this story to the others in the Losers’ Club, Bill, a writer, doubts that Ben as a child could have actually talked like that. Ben responds: “I doubt if any kid who hadn’t been through the things we went through ever did…But I said them…and I meant them.”
There is a degree of reflection and articulation that comes with maturity. I do not always have those things, to be honest, perhaps because I am too busy worrying about myself and my life. Pain can deepen a person, but it can also turn a person so inward that he or she does not reflect on the outside world. But having a sense of self-worth may also be a part of being a deeper person, for Ben as a child was able to articulate what he wanted, his personal dignity, and what he considered worth fighting for. At times, I compare my blog with those of others and I wonder, “Man, why can’t I be that deep?” But I have to start where I am. And the books that I read help me to reflect on the outside world and what is within me—on what is good, what is bad, and where I should go from there.
3. I recently started Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. On page 18, as Fran Goldsmith talks with her boyfriend, Jesse (whom I picture as Michael Shanks from Stargate SG-1), she tells him that she doesn’t want to marry him. When Jesse asks why not, she replies: “I have to think of my reasons why not. I’m not going to let you draw me into a discussion of my reasons why not, because right now I don’t know.”
There are times when we cannot articulate our feelings about other people. I think that obsessing over this can be a bad thing, for one can be so busy trying to express why somebody else is “off”, that he does not focus on showing love for that person. But, especially in cases where one is considering whom to marry, trying to express those feelings may be a good thing.
On page 17, Jesse asks Fran “can’t we just talk”, when Fran and he are talking. But Jesse believes that there is a difference between talking and talking. This has something to do with the issue of articulation. Maybe it’s relevant because communication involves both sides articulating what they feel, and each understanding what the other is saying.