Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Catastrophe and Growth in The Stand

Last night, I read more than I usually do of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. I read pages 850-904. Here are two items:

1. In the part of the book that I read last night, Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross blow up the house where the Free Zone committee meeting is being held, thereby killing and injuring innocent people. Before they committed this deed, they had second thoughts. Nadine reflected on how she fell from her moral principle of not killing people. Harold, too, wondered if he should go forward with the plan. But, at a certain point, Harold’s journal was found by Fran and Larry, and that contained his psychotic musings as well as his expression of his desire to kill Stu Redman. Harold and Nadine had to flee at that point. They could no longer stay in the Free Zone, for they were considered subversives. But they couldn’t go to Flagg without destroying the committee, for Flagg would not accept them if they did not do what Flagg wanted. They felt that they had no option but to go forward with their plan. But was there no other option for them? Some of the committee members talked about sending them into exile. Harold and Nadine did not have to go to Flagg, but they could have lived in one of the numerous other isolated towns and cities throughout America, and Harold’s intelligence and resourcefulness would have helped them to survive in those areas.

I could identify with Harold’s resentment in the book, as well as his desire for revenge. But the consequences of his act were devastating and jarring. Innocent people lost their lives—-people with names and faces and identities, fears and hopes, strengths and weaknesses. Even people who liked Harold and valued his contribution to the Free Zone, such as Teddy Weizak, died. Harold, too, was a victim of his own act. While he enjoyed doing it, he felt a deep inner impoverishment afterwards. He does not want to continue his relationship with Nadine, for he realizes that she belongs to Flagg. I cannot say that I comprehend Harold’s state of mind after his act—-perhaps it can be defined as solemnity. But, on page 892, Harold is likened to “an unwelcome drunk who has tried to enter a cozy little suburban tavern where everybody knows everybody else.”

Larry feels bad after the explosion, for he thinks that he should have been able to see it coming. After all, he was aware of Harold’s intelligence and resourcefulness, having followed Harold to Boulder, and he and Fran saw that Harold was working on something when they snuck into his house to look for his journal. That made me think about how sad it is that someone could use his talents for evil rather than for good.

The aftermath of the explosion leads some people to a deeper faith. Mother Abagail returned right when the explosion was about to occur, and the news of that led people outside of the house right before it exploded, thereby saving lives. Stu says on page 898: “I’ll tell you something, Fran. There’s more in the world—-and out of it—-than I ever dreamed of back in Arnette. I think that woman is from God. Or was.” And yet, as is often the case in Stephen King’s books, God has a tough or a cruel side. Stu is afraid that Mother Abagail will require something sacrificial from Stu. When Fran says that Mother Abagail would never harm anybody, Stu responds: “Mother Abagail does what her God tells her to…That’s the same God murdered his own boy, or so I heard.”

A final note that I want to make for this item is how Fran differs in this book from how she is in the miniseries. A reason that I felt sorry for Harold in the miniseries was that he loved Fran his whole life, and Fran essentially fell for Stu and forgot all about Harold, even though she said that she cared for him as a friend. In the book, however, that’s not exactly what happens. She feels guilty about ditching Harold and thus responsible for Harold’s resentment, such that people have to tell her continually that she’s responsible for herself, not for others. She is suspicious about what Harold may be plotting. She is also somewhat happy for Harold when he has a girlfriend, Nadine. Fran’s not as cold in the book as she is in the miniseries.

2. The growth and changes of the characters stood out to me in last night’s reading. Fran reflected that Stu would never have chaired a small or a large meeting at one point in his life, but the aftermath of the plague put him in a position in which his hidden potential could come out. Larry Underwood, who once found his identity in being a rock star who wrote a hit song (“Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?”), has now left that past behind, such that, when Fran tries to figure out who wrote “Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?”, Larry does not tell her that he was its author. Perhaps he associates that past with selfishness, and he wants to move past that.

There is also degeneration, as Nadine Cross descends morally and mentally. Then there’s the kid Joe, who has become normal as he has resumed his previous identity as Leo, and yet he sometimes goes back into Joe-mode—-which appears to be where his telepathic abilities are strongest. He prefers his identity as Leo, though. I don’t know what to say about his development as a character.

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