Are you a horror fan? If not, do not fret; brace yourselves. This is one article you do not want to miss. In order to prepare for the new movie’s release next week, here is an exposition on the novel to help corroborate why IT (2017) is a movie worth watching. Stephen King is the king of horror, although his works go beyond that. In the case of It, the book is more than just the evil centuries-old entity–which takes the form of a clown–named Pennywise and holds themes more than just scares and thrills. In this rather lengthy article, we break down King’s novel.
Warning: Potential spoilers for those who plan to watch the 2017 movie!
This indelible 1986 novel entails the lives of seven individuals, also known as The Losers, who are tormented by the thing–otherwise known as the eponymous character IT–which haunts their small town of Derry, Maine. This story oscillates between the Losers as children in 1958 and them as adults in 1985.
On a rainy day in the fall of 1957, six-year-old George Denbrough sails his paper boat that his older brother Bill made for him in the streets of the neighborhood. Racing ahead of George, the boat sinks into a stormdrain. Intending on retrieving it, George looks into the stormdrain and finds a clown in the sewer. The clown gives off a false amiability to the boy and pretends to return his boat. George reaches in, and the clown horrifically pulls off the boy’s arm. The boy screams in terror, but it is too late. As soon as the first neighbor, Dave Gardener, comes to his aid, George is already dead.
In June of 1958 (the last day of elementary school), overweight Ben Hanscom is chased by three school bullies–Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and Belch Huggins–and falls into a woodland area called the Barrens. (This happened because Ben refused to allow Henry to cheat on a test during school at one point, and Henry had to take summer classes in order to not repeat the fifth grade again.) At the bottom of the Barrens, Ben hides in one of the sewage pipes as the bullies find two young boys–William “Stuttering Bill/ Big Bill” Denbrough and hypochondriac Eddie Kaspbrak–making a dam out of sticks on the river. (Ben recalls a terrifying encounter with a mummy one cold late afternoon.) The bullies break the dam, hurt the boys, and run away. Eddie has an asthma attack, and Ben comes to their aid. Bill rides his bike to get a refill on Eddie’s aspirator. When he comes back, Ben introduces himself, becoming friends with the two boys in the process.
Meanwhile, a boy named Edward “Eddie” Corcoran runs away to a park after school instead of coming home on the account of a bad report card. (His abusive stepfather had murdered his younger brother, Dorsey Corcoran, the year before, and his mother tried to cover it up.) That night, the boy encounters Pennywise in the form of his dead brother, which then turns into the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He tries to run out of the park, but It/ the Creature detaches Eddie’s head from his body. The morning after, an African-American farm boy named Mike Hanlon rides his bike to the park (and recalls a horrendous encounter with a giant bird-like creature in the dilapidated Kitchener Ironworks area). Mike finds a pocket knife with “E.C.” engraved on the side, throws it into the nearby river, and pedals back home before he can even be found.
The three boys return to the Barrens later with two others–talkative Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier and Jewish boy scout Stanley Uris–and bond while building a better dam than before. After Bill tells the group about a haunting experience with his younger brother’s photo album, Eddie recounts a traumatizing encounter in a neighborhood by the traintracks earlier that year with a rotting homeless man whom he called the Leper. (Eddie was chased by the homeless man, and even had to escape from the house on 29 Neibolt Street.) However, Richie scoffs at all this in disbelief. Bill and Richie go to the Denbrough house to check out the album, only for the pages to come alive and the clown harassing the two boys.
Some days afterward, Richie watches a monster movie at the theater with Ben and has a latchkey girl, Beverly Marsh, tag along. Unbeknownst to Richie, Ben has had a crush on Bev. The three get into a fight with Henry Bowers and his friends, and they escape into the Barrens. Later, Bill and Richie investigate the house Eddie mentioned days before and encounter It in the form of the Teenage Werewolf. At home, Beverly hears voices coming from her bathroom sink, and blood comes gushing out of the drain. She tries to show her father what has occurred, but only she is able to see it. She leaves her house to tell her new friends (the only ones she can trust) and they volunteer to help her out. Stan also recounts his encounter with It in which he had to ward off dead children by speaking aloud the names of various birds.
In the following month/ July of that summer, the Losers run into Mike at a gravel-pit by the Barrens; Mike had been chased by Henry Bowers–who also turns out to be his neighbor and another farm boy–and the other bullies. (Henry and his father have had bad history with Mike’s family; Henry poisoned and killed Mike’s dog, and Henry’s father had made racist slurs to Mike’s father.) Henry and his group engage in a fight with the Losers by throwing rocks at each other. The Losers get the upper hand, and Henry vows payback. As a result, Mike becomes the seventh and final child to become a Loser.
Some of the group members do research on how to take down It, and so they make a Native American smoke hole in their underground clubhouse. In the process, they learn the history of It (i.e., where it came from, how it feasts, how it operates, etc.). Days later, Eddie is put into the hospital after being chased and having his arm broken by Henry and his friends. Afterward, Beverly witnesses Henry, Victor, Belch, and another kid named Patrick Hockstetter lighting their farts on fire at the town dump site. (Patrick is a solipsistic child who is sadistic in his own way; he suffocated his baby brother to death, and has developed an obsession with dead animals.) Victor and Belch leave, and after having played with Patrick for an awfully long amount, Henry leaves as well, only for Patrick to be by himself. Beverly watches as Patrick opens the refrigerator where he keeps his dead animals, only for Patrick to be attacked by It in the form of leeches. Patrick is lured to his death into the Barrens.
After having done some research, the Losers assume that silver objects can destroy Pennywise, so they proceed to make silver bullets in Bill’s garage. This does not end too well, and the bullets are instead made into silver bearings. They all venture into the Neibolt house and fight off It in the form of–once again–the Werewolf. It goes back into the sewers and persuades Henry into doing Its dirty work; Henry finds a switchblade in the mail and gets rid of his father.
The Losers are chased by Henry and his friends into the sewer. Trying to find their way out, the Losers encounter Its lair. Meanwhile, Victor and Belch are murdered by the entity. Upon entering Its lair, Bill looks into the Deadlights of Pennywise and finds the Turtle–the creator of the universe–who tells him that It must be defeated through the power of pure faith. After putting It into hibernation, the children begin to lose their faith. Beverly keeps it alive by making a special connection with each of her male friends. They cut their palms with glass from a broken Coke bottle, and make a blood oath to come back to Derry and defeat the evil entity of It ever returns. They all stick true to that promise, except for Stan. The seven go their separate ways, this last moment being their last one a complete group.
In July of 1984, a homosexual couple–Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty–is assaulted during an annual town festival by three teenage boys: Steve Dubay, John “Webby” Garton, and Christopher Unwin. The three homophobes find the couple on a bridge one night after the festival and beat up Mellon. They then throw him off into the river below, where the clown gets to a now-dead Mellon. The boys run away but are later interrogated by the local police. They say a clown murdered Mellon, but no one believes them; they are then sent to jail.
In late-May to early-June of 1985, the Losers have grown up with feasible careers. (Stan is an accountant and is living with his Jewish wife Patty in Georgia; Richie is a radio talk-show host in Los Angeles; Ben is an architect and has lost a huge amount of weight; Eddie runs a limousine business and has a wife with peculiar physical similarities to his mother; Beverly runs a fashion company, but has become a slaving sycophant to her abusive husband, Tom Rogan; Bill had become a writer and lives with his actress wife, Audra Phillips; and Mike stayed behind in Derry since the events of 1958 and became a librarian.) The Losers are called upon by Mike to come back to town and defeat Pennywise once and for all. Everyone decides to go, except for Stan; triggered by an old haunted memory from his childhood, he slits his wrists in the bathtub. (Beverly leaves her husband with the help of her friend, Kay McCall.) Meanwhile, some powerful force lures Tom, Audra, and a now-imprisoned Henry Bowers into Derry as well.
The rest of the Losers meet up for lunch at an oriental restaurant and try to catch up, but their fortune cookies turn into small manifestations of It. Mike tells them to look around town to refresh their memories, and then meet at his library that night. The remaining Losers do just that, and they do not like what they encounter. (Ben runs into Dracula; Beverly runs into the rotten witch from the Hansel and Gretel story; Richie is attacked by a lumberjack statue; and Bill comes across his old bicycle, Silver.) When they meet up at the library that night, they recall certain events from the summer where they crossed paths with the clown. In the process, the clown torments them via a beheaded Stan in a mini-fridge. The Losers eventually leave to sleep in their hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, Mike stays behind in the library and is attacked by an escaped Henry Bowers, and Tom kidnaps Audra and brings her down into the sewers to Its lair. Mike is found by the authorities and is brought to the hospital. An hour or so later, Henry goes after the remaining Losers–Bill, Bev, Richie, Ben, and Eddie–but is killed by Eddie. They vow to go back into the sewers and defeat It once and for all.
Down underground, they encounter a deceased Tom and a catatonic Audra. Eventually, after entering Its lair, they learn they learn that It is pregnant, something only Stan had known. They sense something wrong with Mike–a nurse (whose sister was one of Pennywise’s victims) is about to kill him–so they send their power of faith to his aid. Bill and Richie look into the Deadlights of It–in the form of a spider–once more to find the Turtle, which is unable to help them. Eddie intervenes by spraying It with his aspirator, but It bites his arm off and Eddie dies of anemia. Bill and Richie chase after It to prevent the entity from escaping for another 27 years, while Ben crushes hundreds of Its laid eggs. Bill rips out Its heart, which kills the thing, and the whole town explodes (i.e., the mall is destroyed on all sides, there is an earthquake that breaks the ground, etc.). The survivors are forced to leave Eddie’s body behind, but take an inert Audra with them.
They make it to the surface, only to find that the scars they made via blood pact have disappeared. In the aftermath, the remaining Losers go back home; Richie returns to California, and Ben and Bev enter a relationship. Their memories of the town and of each other begin to fade. Bill awakens Audra from her catatonic state by taking her a ride on his bicycle. The book ends with a poignant touch that may bring tears to the reader.
In the novel’s interludes, an adult Mike also recounts events that transpired in the town years before he and the Losers were born.:
1905: A lumberjack slaughters a number of men at a bar.
1906: The Kitchener Ironworks explodes, killing 102 people, 88 of whom were children partaking in an Easter Egg hunt.
1929: A small group of gangsters called the Bradley Gang were gunned down by a large group of Derry townsfolk.
1930: A KKK-esque group of men named the Maine Legion of White Decency burned down a nightclub called The Black Spot, which was occupied by African American army men, one of whom was Mike’s father. His father recalled having seen a pterodactyl in the night sky; this was one of Its forms.
A 1,000+ page novel which explores the unfortunate lives of seven individuals, Stephen King’s It is a great story that–by the end of the book–has a person ponder on the concept of living. What is it that makes a child a child, and what exactly is the idea of growing up?
The concept of fear comes into play throughout the entirety of this story as The Losers Club are forced to face the terror that takes on a myriad of forms. Another theme portrayed in this story is the idea of faith, and it is faith that emanates from the mind and heart of a child. As children, we are allowed to believe in the impossible, in a power so strong that fear cannot merely destroy it. As adults, such a reputed power ever so slowly begins to lose its flavor, and it is as adults that we forget who we once were.
Being a human being–whether it be as a child or as an adult–involves having to deal with the balance between fear and faith. Pennywise the Dancing Clown takes our fears and manifests them into a physical three-dimensional form. We should know better, though. No matter your race, your age, your shape, your size, or what generation you are born into, fear can be relinquished via the strong power of belief. This novel is a must-read for people of almost all ages. Stephen King’s It does a fantastic job at portraying relatable characters in an almost familiar setting.
The novel also offers some great words of wisdom:
“If there are 10,000 medieval peasants who create vampires by believing them real, there may be one–probably a child–who will imagine the stake necessary to kill it. But a stake is only stupid wood; the mind is the mallet which drives it home.”
“Go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness.”
“If there are certain preconditions for the belief in magic that makes it possible to use the magic, then maybe those preconditions will inevitably arrange themselves.”
If this breakdown was not enough to convince you to watch the movie, these reactions might persuade you into heading to the theater. Even the author himself has provided great feedback on the movie, and gave some words on his novel:
Will you face and conquer your fears? There are things out in the real world malevolent than clowns. For more Stephen King-related news and reviews, follow Geek Motivation on Twitter (@GEEKMOTIVATION) and Instagram (@geekmotivation).
Written by: John Tangalin