Last night, I read Chapter 28 of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. It focuses on Fran Goldsmith. I have two items:
1. Fran’s mother and father have just died from the superflu, and there are thoughts running through Fran’s mind that appear on first sight to be disconnected, when actually they are connected with each other. She thinks about how her father died, and also that it is “a beautiful summer’s day, flawless, the kind that the tourists came to the Maine seacoast for” (page 247). Fran then connects the two thoughts: “It was a beautiful warm day and her father was dead.”
I’m not entirely sure what the connection between these two thoughts is, but I can speculate. Did Fran feel slapped in the face because her father died and it was a beautiful day, as if nature were mocking her? Did she feel encouraged by the beautiful day? Or perhaps the point is that nature is indifferent to us: that there will be days that we consider to be beautiful even when we are not around to enjoy them (and a lot of humanity is dying off at this point of the book). Heck, scientists have said that there were such days before there even were human beings! On page 250, Fran sees the superflu in a “Book of Job” sort of way (though she does not mention the Book of Job): “Some weird disease seems to have spread across the entire country, maybe the entire world, mowing down the righteous and the unrighteous alike…” Nature seems to be disinterested. At the same time, I should note that a big point of the book is that some are immune to the superflu, for a reason maybe known only to God (in the book, that is).
2. Chapter 28 is where we first meet Harold Lauder. So far, I prefer Corin Nemec’s depiction of Harold in the miniseries to Harold in the book. In the miniseries, Harold had a crush on Fran since he was a little boy, and he was polite and gentlemanly to her and her father. He was also a poet who wrote a few poems for a notorious literary publication. And, after the superflu took most of the people in his town, he reflected to Fran that he remembers all those guys who used to give him wedgies, and he wanted them back.
Harold in the book, by contrast, strikes me as vulgar, cold, and not especially talented in writing. Harold checks Fran out while talking with her, and Fran speculates that he has an X-rated movie going on in his head. He does not seem to be affected by the death of his parents and his older sister, for he cavalierly remarks that life goes on. He also uses the deaths of many in town as an opportunity to get free stuff for himself, such as somebody else’s nice car and new shoes in a store. He wrote bizarre stories in the second-person. In contrast to the miniseries, he did not even offer to help Fran bury her father. He calls Fran “my child”, which reminds me more of Isaac on Children of the Corn than Harold in The Stand miniseries. But Harold does speak intelligently. There is one more difference between the book and the miniseries: in the miniseries, Harold essentially trusts the government, for he and Fran head to the Centers for Disease Control in Vermont to get advice on what to do next. In the book, by contrast, he realizes that the government created the virus and botched things up. But whether he and Fran will still try to get in touch with the government, I will have to see.
I prefer Harold from the miniseries, but I can still make do with Harold in the book and learn lessons. For instance, how did Harold get to be so cold? Fran speculates that Harold had never had a date in his life and that influenced him to have a worldly disdain for the world and for himself. Harold’s older sister was also a popular person and spoke about Harold with disgust. Harold may look at the world with disdain because he doesn’t fit into it, but to not care about the death of his very own parents? That is cold.