Last night, I read pages 1001-1052 of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition.
Here are some jewels from last night’s reading:
1. On page 1002, Lloyd thinks “of how nice it would be if Julie Lawry’s firm, rounded body could be grafted onto Shirley Dunbar’s skills and gentle, uncomplaining nature.” Earlier, on page 997, Lloyd reflects about Julie that she’s “Easy to slap the make on, but watch out for the fingernails afterward.” Isn’t that what many men want in a woman: looks and character?
2. Tom Cullen is on the run from Randall Flagg now. He was spying on Flagg’s team, but now he has been found out, and so (with Nick Andros’ guidance via dreams) he is going through the desert by night to get back to Boulder. On page 1017, Tom reflects that he met plenty of nice people on Flagg’s team, but they had no love inside of them because they were afraid, and “Love didn’t grow very well in a place where there was only fear, just as plants didn’t grow very well in a place where it was always dark.” Stephen King may have gotten this idea from I John 4:8, which says that there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. I admit that fear inhibits me from loving others. I suppose that I can get to the point where I respect people as human beings, but I have difficulty reaching out to them when I am afraid of them. But should I conclude that God will throw me into hell because of that? That’s pretty stupid, since that only makes me more afraid, and, as Stephen King aptly observes, fear is not fertile soil for love.
3. Trashcan Man has blown up one of Flagg’s bases, thereby eliminating some of Flagg’s equipment and killing most of his pilots. Trash’s demons from his past are haunting him again, and the sight of an explosion soothes Trash’s soul. But Trash realizes that he was wrong to do that to Flagg and to Flagg’s community, after they had welcomed him and given him a role in their society, and so he seeks to atone for his sins by finding a missile for Flagg.
What interested me was what takes place on page 1019: Trash knows that he has screwed up, but he reflects back on his past and concludes that life has been preparing him for where he is now. That reminded me of when Harold was wounded, abandoned, and about to shoot himself. As Harold scribbled out a note, he thought back to how writing was a comfort to him in the past amidst his loneliness—-something that gave him opportunities to perform labors of love—-and how he used to watch movies all by himself. It intrigues me how, even when a person (or Trash and Harold, at least) has screwed up, he can still deem his life to be of such value that he reflects back on it—-on his experiences, both good and bad, his loves, his dislikes, etc. And, in my opinion, every life has that kind of value, wherever a person may end up.
While I’m talking about Harold, let me add that I prefer how the book handles Stu’s reaction to Harold’s death over how the miniseries depicts it. In the miniseries, Stu is aware that Harold has killed himself, and he says, “May God have mercy on his pitiful excuse for a soul.” I did not like that reaction because I felt that Stu should at least have sympathized for Harold, since Stu did enter into a romantic relationship with Fran, whom Harold loved, and that was a significant reason that Harold was resentful. In the book, Stu initially does feel contempt for Harold, which is not surprising, since Harold’s act did take innocent people’s lives. But, when Stu sees Harold’s corpse, he reflects on the waste that Flagg created: Flagg influenced Harold to commit a deed that took the lives of Nick and Sue, which was a waste of good and talented people, but Harold, too, was a victim of Flagg. Harold was a person of value who could have contributed to the Boulder community, but now here he was, dead. And Stu is angry at Flagg for using Harold then disposing of him when he had no more use for him.
4. People are sneaking out of Flagg’s community to live elsewhere, and Lloyd is invited to go with them. But Lloyd chooses to stay with Flagg because Flagg delivered him from rotting in jail and gave him leadership responsibilities in his community, plus Lloyd realizes that he is not as smart as the people who are leaving, and while the old Lloyd would have been content to sit back and let smarter people be in charge, he is now used to being a leader, and so he prefers to remain a leader by staying in Flagg’s community. I identify with much of this, but what I particularly like is something Lloyd thinks on page 1029: that he gives orders and things turn out all right most of the time. That would be a confidence builder: for our plans and our ideas to work out.
5. Glen, Stu, Ralph, and Larry are still on their journey to the West. Ralph remarks that they will need God’s provision when they go through Utah, for there aren’t many stores where they can get food, plus the water is sparse. (Mother Abagail commanded them not to take any food and water, so they have to get it on the journey.) When Larry wonders why they have to walk to the West, when driving there would have been so much faster, Glen goes into a discourse on the desert being a cleansing experience, and he appeals to the experiences of Native Americans, people in the Bible, and others. Their journey through the desert was detaching them from their attachments, and that would somehow prepare them for their stand against Flagg. It will be interesting to see how this plays out: will their desert experience make them single-minded in their stand against evil, as well as resistant to any temptations that Flagg may throw their way?
A couple of people remark that they feel better as a result of the de-toxing desert experience. I wonder to what extent that would be true for me, though. Glen compares the desert experience to a person who loves TV having to deal with his TV breaking down, as well as being cut off from his books, his friends, and his stereo. Some may feel good after dealing with the loss of those distractions, but those distractions help me to be in a fairly decent mood. Otherwise, I’d be alone with my mind, hashing through the resentments of life, exposed to my own perspective and no other (unless God spoke to me). At the same time, there would be a possibility that such an experience would illuminate me on what is important and what is not. Glen, for example, becomes so deflated in terms of his ego that he is at peace with dying on his mission.