For my write-up today of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition, I’ll talk about three items from Chapter 18, which is about Nick Andros, a deaf mute who is beaten up by bullies in a rural southern area:
1. Pages 135-136 state: “Nick had gained a healthy respect for Sheriff John Baker these last couple of days. He was a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound ex-farmer who was predictably called Big Bad John by his constituents. The respect Nick felt for him was not because Baker had given him this job swamping out the holding area to make up for his lost week’s pay, but because he had gone after the men who had beaten and robbed Nick. He had done it as if Nick were a member of one of the oldest and most respected families in town instead of just a deaf-mute drifter. There were plenty of sheriffs here in the border South, Nick knew, who would have seen him on a workfarm or roadgang for six months ahead.”
In terms of a lesson from this passage, I learn to appreciate the kindness that others show to me rather than taking it for granted, for not everyone in the world is kind or fair. But this passage also reminds me that I like the character of Sheriff John Baker, and also his wife. They are good country folks. They’re hospitable. They’re genuinely interested in Nick’s story. They’re concerned about Nick’s well-being. They serve good meals. They talk country. They’re salt-of-the-earth people.
2. For the second item, I’ll touch briefly on Nick’s story. I thought that Stephen King captured what it would probably be like to be a deaf-mute—to figure out how to read lips, and possibly to learn the names for things at a later age than most kids. Not surprisingly, there was a span of time in which Nick was bitter in his world of solitude. But a kind therapist came along and helped him out, and Nick was then seeking to finish his high school credits so he could possibly go to college. I wonder if Stephen King did research on deaf-mutes to write about Nick Andros.
3. A peculiar character is Doc Soames. Doc Soames notices that many people in town are actually dying of the flu (which, of course, is unusual), and he speculates that somebody in the government made a mistake and is now trying to cover it up. Soames remarks to Nick that he used to dismiss the paranoia of the younger generation, which was frightened of their phones being wiretapped and authorities following them around and running computer checks on them. But now Soames realizes that the younger generation was right, while he was wrong.
This reminds me of one of my favorite movies, The Siege of Ruby Ridge, which starred Randy Quaid, Laura Dern, and Kirsten Dunst. They played members of the Weaver family, which had a standoff with the U.S. Government in the early 1990s. Randy Quaid played Randy Weaver, and Laura Dern played his wife, Vicki Weaver. Randy and Vicki were very religious and were afraid of the U.S. Government, which was one reason that they were living in the hills, away from civilization. This baffled Vicki’s parents, who were moderately religious and were rather patriotic. (Vicki’s father fought in World War II, I believe.) And other members of Vicki’s family thought that she was plain nuts, for they were more liberal.
In a very poignant scene, Randy and Vicki’s son had just been shot dead, and a government agent is calmly speaking with Vicki’s parents, but he does not tell them that their very own grandson has been shot. After the government agent leaves, Vicki’s parents learn from the news that their grandson was shot dead, and they are incredulous. “He was standing right here”, Vicki’s father says about the government agent who had just left. “Why didn’t he tell us? What kind of people are we dealing with?” Vicki’s father then sobs and and says “Vicki was right.” He meant that she was right to distrust the U.S. Government.
I think that the impression that the movie, as a whole, was trying to leave with us was that the government really botched up the siege at Ruby Ridge. I doubt that the movie wanted us to view the U.S. Government as evil, but I think that it was trying to say that radical groups aren’t getting their distrust of government out of the clear blue sky, for the government has done things that arouse suspicion and resentment. The scene in The Stand in which Doc Soames talked about the government brought these elements of the movie to my mind.