Memories of one’s childhood seem the most intense. They are these things you can’t grasp. But you know how they feel. Yet they still seem so distant. Maybe it’s because you are not the same you were back then. There is something different. The memory seems as if it happens and as if it has also not happened. Mutually exclusive, yet dependent on each other when it comes to describing this fact.
It is a weird reality. Friends you were extremely close to now seem impossible to talk to. It’s as if they are completely different. But maybe it is just you. Flannery O’Connor once wrote that if you have lived through childhood, you will have enough to write about for the rest of your life.
Stephen King writes about childhood. In his book, IT, he addresses questions of crucial social issues, such as racism, prejudice, and domestic abuse. The children all fight their fears, the fear of being alone in this world — forever.
In this review, I will briefly look at the plot outline. Then, I will comment on childhood briefly, and then elaborate on why the infamous, rather disturbing sex scene between 12 year olds, could have been a crucial part of the book.
Plot Outline — Serious Spoilers
IT is one of King’s most complex books. It is also probably his longest, comprising of 1,400 pages.
In order to progress his plot, King uses an unlikely group of friends. Seven children unite under one common feature: being unpopular. Self-titled as the “losers club.”
Bill Denbrough, commonly referred to as “Stuttering Bill” the most unlikely group leader;
Ben Hansocom, an overweight boy, with a keen interest in reading and education;
Riche Tozier, the brilliant witty boy of many voices (one of my favorite characters from the movie);
Mike Hanlon, the black kid who desires acceptance and finds it within the confines of the group;
Eddie Kaspbrak, the asthmatic, funny kid who finds within the group a thing he has never dreamed of — courage (one of my favorite characters from the movie as well);
Stan Uris, the Religious reflective kid;
and last but not least: Beverly March, the only girl in the group, reminiscent of a Tolkien novel. Girls don’t tend to be very common characters in books of the 20th century.
The monster simply called IT by the kids, has a grudge against these kids, probably for not coming up with a better nickname. In the summer of 58 they all however manage to escape his appetite. It seems as if he is forever defeated. They take a pledge, if IT returns, that they will come back and fight it again, protecting Derry from his killing.
After 28 years of supposed silence, a young homosexual claims to have seen a clown under a bridge with a bunch of balloons.
Mike Hanlon remained in Derry for those 28 years — God knows why — and calls the entire group to hold to their promise. The monster came back. It was time to defeat it once more.
This novel, however is not simply about killing a monster. It is more about childhood and friendship.
King helps us relive our childhoods through these characters and this unlikely story.
He did this for me. I was sitting there in my comfy armchair. Everything was dark in the room. The only thing that gave me light was the lamp that was shining on my book with a warm yellow light.
And as I read these lines:
“All of us. All of us are here.
And he sees them, really sees them, for the last time, because in some way he understands that they will never all be together again, the seven of them — not this way. No one talks. Beverly holds out her hands, and after a moment Richie and Ben hold out theirs. Mike and Eddie do the same. Stan cuts them one by one as the sun begins to slip behind the horizon, cooling that red furnace-glow to a dusky rose-pink. . . . Bill can see the first faint swirls of mist on the water, and he feels as if he has become a part of everything — this is a brief ecstasy which he will no more talk abou than Beverly will later talk about the brief reflection she sees of two dead men who were, as boys, her friends.
A breeze touches the trees and bushes, making them sigh, and he thinks: This is a lovely place, and I’ll never forget it. It’s lovely, and they are lovely; each on of them is gorgeous (1442–3).”
I awoke to my own memory. It’s over. My childhood is over. It dawned on me.
This is exactly how I feel. I am there with the kids. Yet I am not looking at Beverly. I am with different people. I am with my close friends from childhood, whom I have not really been with in 5 years. They are gone forever — because they are different — I am different.
It made me terribly sad, for some reason. It is like the song by Ed Sheeran, Castle on the Hill. It is a memory, that everyone can identify with. This is why King’s novels are so popular. They position you in the past. In innocence.
As one reviewer so eloquently put it, shunning off the naysayers and critics:
“If [this] is the work of an “inadequate writer”, a producer of “penny dreadfuls”, without any “aesthetic value” or other high-flown pretentious gibberish babbled by people who would most likely want to cast Stephen King and his readers to hell for destroying the image of “Literary Reader”?
Like Huck Finn, I’d shout loud “All right, then, I’ll GO to hell!”
Literary Heaven might have a better climate; but Literary Hell sure has better company.”
About the Sex Scene
There is one particular passage in the book, that has raised some eyebrows. There is a kids sex scene. Yes. The question is not, why Stephen King for the love of god did you include a child sex scene? The question for me is:
Why did they have to be 12?
Not that kids having sex at 14 is anything I fantasize about, but why did King not move the number up, just for conscious’ sake. Maybe — I realize this a big maybe — this is to serve the plot in some way.
I remember my first romantic encounters were around that time as well. I was 13. I remember the long hugs, the holding of hands, laying underneath the same blanket, watching the sky, laying under the stars breathless from the excitement of being there with the person you love, thinking that that would last forever. As kids do. That life wouldn’t change things.
Kids do have sex with each other.
One reviewer offers her advice:
“There was power in this act, all right,” Bev reflects, “a chain-breaking power that was blood-deep.”
When she experiences her first orgasm (with Ben), “she feels her power suddenly shift to him; she gives it gladly and goes with it.” This was the only material power that bev had to confront the creature, the only “talisman “ she had. The others had their… Richie his voices, Eddie his aspirator that he envisioned was “battery-acid” to the creature… brought about only by the power of his imagination and faith. Bill had Silver and the mantras that he used to cure his stuttering.
This was completely within her character… asserting her power as the Priestess or shaman of the group, and saved them all from being lost forever. A great ritualistic metaphor by King, I think.”
I understand that some would think this to be patriarchal and insensitive. To think that the only power Beverly had to offer was her sexuality, somehow objectifying women. I grant you that much. There is a lot to question. Could we exclude it from the book? Most likely. Yet, there is some bond that is created here, that seems essential to the plot.
The book explains it like this:
“The others are there — Eddie with his aspirator clutched tightly in one hand; Ben with his big belly pushing palely out through the tattered remains of his shirt; Richie, his face oddly naked without his glasses; Mike, silent and solemn, his normally full lips compressed to a thin line. And Beverly, her head up, her eyes wide and clear, her hair still somehow lovely in spite of the dirt that mats it.
. . . [Bill] looks at Beverly and she is smiling at him. She closes her eyes and holds her hands out to either side. Bill takes her left; Ben her right. Bill can feel the warmth of her blood mixing with his own. The others join in and they stand in a circle, all of their hands now sealed in that peculiarly intimate way (1442–3).
Is this intimate folding of hands the same as the sex scene? Is it possible that King sees no difference between the two actions?
This, mind you, is after they get out of the sewer, escape the monster IT, and have their disturbing little sex scene.
One thing is certain, King wanted to connect the characters with the most intimate bond. For some, that is sex. Sex could be the most intimate bond of them all.
This could be King’s way of saying that there is something that has bonded the characters forever. They are forever together, because of this experience. Despite growing up in separate places and not seeing each other they come back to Derry to reflect on their past.
It seems like something that hasn’t happened. And they barely remember it. As if it was all a dream. Even such vivid scenes are forgotten.
Will it be the same with us? Maybe it will.
But one day we’ll write about it. One day we’ll remember. After the light fades. And all this goes away.
I will write about this one day, [Bill] thinks, and knows it’s just a dawn thought, an after-dreaming thought. But it’s nice to think so for awhile in the morning’s clean silence, to think that childhood has its own sweet secrets and confirms mortality, and that mortality defines all courage and love. To think that what has looked forward must also look back, and that each life makes its own imitation of immortality: a wheel.
Or so Bill Denbrough sometimes thinks on those early mornings after dreaming, when he almost remembers his childhood, and the friends with whom he shared it (1473).
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