Stephen King’s IT Parade, Week 7: Are Kids More Dangerous Than Adults?

Stephen King’s IT Parade is author/editor Daniel Kraus’s 10-week journal of re-reading King’s classic. Join him on this long (very long) journey, if you dare.

CHAPTER 17-18 & THE FOURTH INTERLUDE

Shambling into Week 7, my copy of IT is beginning to fall apart. Pocket Books made a valiant effort with this almost cube-shaped paperback edition, but glue can only do so much against 1,478 pages. The spine is beginning to bulge like a pustule and poor page 1067 has quietly passed away in the night, dropping out of the book entirely, surely the harbinger of greater devastation yet to come. I can’t help but think it’s symbolically appropriate: like the adult characters in IT, who have completely forgotten their childhood, the book is degrading right from under me, a sort of Paperback Alzheimer’s.

Will I forget all of this as soon as I’m done?

These pages begin with a long (aren’t they all?) side-road about peripheral bully Patrick Hockstetter, depicted as a slow-moving, low-IQ sociopath. In one of King’s most upsettingly specific sequences—the kind of scene that sticks with you 30 years after you first read it, Paperback Alzheimer’s or no—Beverly watches the bullies light one another’s farts before Patrick starts playing with Henry’s penis, which causes Henry to freak out. It’s all distinctly grimy-feeling, which doesn’t get better once Bev learns that Patrick is keeping dead animals inside a junkyard fridge. Eventually the fridge releases disgusting, flying leeches that kill Patrick and assault Bev.

It’s interesting to consider Patrick Hockstetter alongside Bill’s statement, just a few pages later, that adults don’t trust kids. Richie responds by saying, “Because they think we’re dangerous.” Bill and Richie laugh, but the conversation’s proximity to the Hockstetter affair does muddy the book’s insistence, up to this point, that adults are the ones to be feared. This muddiness, though, is interesting; King may be saying that kids are the best of us, but they’re also the worst of us. They are humans in concentrate form, “pure,” yes, but only in the sense of being undiluted.

The adult cast of the 1990 miniseries.

No doubt this is why King likes writing about them. No doubt this is why so many writers like writing about them. In some ways, you have fewer options when writing about kids. In car terms, fewer gears. Go forward or go back. Do this or don’t do this. Adulthood adds decades of acquired nuance and, more importantly, hesitation when it comes to enacting decisions. The biggest side-effect of this, which, to King’s credit, is palpable in IT‘s adult sections, is weariness. There’s just so much to consider as an adult. There’s rarely a “right” thing to do, an action that can benefit you that won’t, in some way, disadvantage someone else.

IT‘s mirror structure of the Losers’ Club heading beneath Derry to kill IT, intercut with their adult counterparts doing the same exact thing, was a dicey prospect. It ran the risk of being repetitive and dull, with the adult version being a hollow echo of what the kids were shouting into the sewer. Instead, King is able to take beautiful advantage of how a journey is processed by the same person 27 years later. Think about some of the things you did as a kid that you’d never dare to do now because you now know too much about consequences—both for yourself and the people who might be affected by your injury or death.

Here’s how King closes Chapter 17:

For wasn’t it true that power, like It, was a shape-changer? It was a baby crying in the middle of the night, it was an atomic bomb, it was a silver slug, it was the way Beverly looked at Bill and the way Bill looked back.

What, exactly what, was power, anyway?

From the power of the infant, to the power of young love, to the power of adults at their worst (ie, the atomic bomb), it’s all here, all legitimate. Which kind does King prize most? You already know, but skip ahead to page 1159 for a final answer:

But it’s really faith that monsters live on, isn’t it? I am led irresistibly to this conclusion: food may be life, but the source of power is faith, not food. And who is more capable of a total act of faith than a child?

NEXT WEEK: CHAPTERS 19-20

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About the Author:

Dan Kraus is Booklist's Editor of Books for Youth. He is also the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielDKraus.

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