Last night, I read pages 1052-1104 of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. In this post, I will talk about Larry Underwood.
Larry has interested me as I’ve read this book because I can identify with his journey, at least the beginning and the middle of it. No, I’m not a rock star, or even musically-talented, for that matter, but, like Larry, I can be a well-intentioned taker, and I can even come to the point where I shed all pretense and recognize that about myself.
After the super-flu, Larry tries to atone for that sin. Larry does not like to be identified with his hit song, “Baby Can You Dig Your Man?”, because that reminds him of the time when he was a taker. Mother Abagail on her deathbed says that Larry was trying to do penance for a life that was a closed book. When Stu breaks his leg while he, Larry, Glen, and Ralph are heading West to confront Randall Flagg, Larry does not want to leave Stu behind. Glen asks Larry whom he is trying to save: Stu, or something in himself. Was Larry trying to abandon his selfish past, or any callous selfishness that still remained within him?
But Larry finds that he has grown and has found a degree of inner peace. On page 1068, Larry is being put into one of Flagg’s jails, and pages 1068-1069 say: “[Larry] sat on the bunk and listened to the silence. He had always hated to be alone—-but in a way, he always had been…until he had arrived in the Free Zone. And now it wasn’t so bad as he had been afraid it would be. Bad enough, but he could cope.”
On page 1074, we read regarding Larry: “…the old wound in himself had finally been closed, leaving him at peace. He had felt the two people that he had been all his life—-the real one and the ideal one—-merge into one living being. His mother would have liked this Larry. And Rita Blakemoor. It was a Larry to whom Wayne Stuckey never would have had to tell the facts. It was a Larry that even that long-ago oral hygienist would have liked.”
Larry there is thinking about people in his past. His mother was the one who called Larry a taker, one who only came around when he wanted something. Wayne Stuckey confronted Larry because Larry was going into debt by throwing parties for fair-weather friends. The oral hygienist slept with Larry, and Larry was a jerk to her the next morning. And, after the flu, Larry tried his best to be selfless and others-oriented in his relationship with Rita, but he found a sense of relief after she died of an overdose. Now, as Larry reflects about his relationships with these people, Larry is in jail, and he has found that he has grown. He is selfless. He is responsible. He is at peace, even when he’s alone. And he’s not having to work hard at this, for his real self and his ideal self are merging into one. That’s a hope that religions and philosophies (not all, but several) have offered: that we can arrive at the point where being good is not a great struggle for us, but flows naturally.