I have two items for my write-up today on Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition:
1. Larry Underwood (see here) has come home to his Mom because he has a lot of debts, even though he has just written a hit song (“Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?”). On page 93, Larry’s Mom says the following to Larry:
“I think you came home because you couldn’t think where else to go. You didn’t know who else would take you in. I never said a mean word about you to anyone else, Larry, not even to my own sister, but since you’ve pushed me to it, I’ll tell you exactly what I think of you. I think you’re a taker. You’ve always been one. It’s like God left some part of you out when He build you inside of me. You’re not bad, that’s not what I mean. Some of the places we had to live after your father died, you would have gone bad if there was bad in you, God knows. I think the worst thing I ever caught you doing was writing a nasty word in the downstairs hall of that place on Carstairs Avenue in Queens…The worst part, Larry, is that you mean well…As it is, you seem to know what’s wrong but not how to fix it. And I don’t know how, either. I tried every way I knew when you were small…You’re a taker, that’s all. You came home to me because you know that I have to give. Not to everybody, but to you.”
I like Larry’s Mom because she put Larry’s favorite food into the refrigerator after he came home. She was obviously happy to see him because he was her son. Yet, she was unhappy to see him, because she thought he was a taker. And Larry had a hard time disagreeing with her on that point. Shortly before she told him that, he had been rude to a woman with whom he had a one-night-stand, and he realized that he could have handled that social interaction better than he did. But Larry’s Mom wanted him to stay so that they could play cards, and Larry did so, figuring that he was being a giver in that case by spending time with his mother.
How can a taker become a giver? It’s not that Larry at this stage of the book gave to no one. A big reason that he was in debt was that he threw drug parties for people who weren’t really his friends. When Larry wised up and threw them out, some of them thought that fame was making him stuck-up. Yet, he was doing the right thing. Can a taker become a giver simply by giving? Sometimes, I think that people can sniff when a person giving is really a taker, the same way that Larry thinks on page 94 that hotel doormen can smell when a man’s wallet is empty, regardless of how well-dressed the man may be!
Perhaps Larry made a little bit of progress when he decided to stay with his Mom because she enjoyed his company, for he was thinking there about somebody besides himself. But is that a character transformation, or is that simply a taker doing a random good thing? How can Larry, or anyone, fix his problem of being a taker? Maybe I will see an answer to this question as I continue to read the book.
2. Fran Goldsmith is about to tell her conservative mother about her pre-marital pregnancy (see here). On page 100, she thinks about the times that she had conversations with her mother in the sacred parlor: “It was there that they discussed Frannie’s ambitions, which always ended up seeming a trifle shallow; it was there that they discussed Frannie’s hopes, which always ended up seeming a trifle unworthy; it was there that they discussed Frannie’s complaints, which always ended up seeming very much unwarranted, not to mention puling, whining, and ungrateful.”
It must hurt always being made out to be a bad person. It’s better to be listened to. Sometimes, our complaints are whining and ungrateful, but it’s still good for them to be heard rather than casually dismissed. And for one’s dreams to be dismissed? Granted, not all dreams are attainable. But it’s probably better to encourage people to “count the cost” of pursuing a dream—to tell the person what achieving a dream may entail—rather than to shoot down the dream. I’m not saying that people should always be told what they want to hear, but rather that it’s better to listen to people and to understand their perspective before telling them some hard news. And, in my opinion, even hard news should be intermingled with some message of hope.