Literary Archives: The timeless work of Stephen King’s novel ‘It’

A look back at the bestselling novel, "IT," and its significance now with the importance of friendship and coming-of-age.

A look back at the bestselling novel, "IT," and its significance now with the importance of friendship and coming-of-age.

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Stephen King’s “IT” is known for its unsettling premise that centers around a demonic clown named Pennywise preying on children in a small town in Maine. The 2017 film adaptation of King’s over-1,000-page long novel from 1986 stands as the highest grossing horror film of all time and is a chilling yet heartwarming adaptation. Simply put, “IT” is a monumental horror classic that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves for its rich human story. 

Following seven kids one summer in the 1950s, the novel “IT” contains more about personal development and struggles than it does about a clown. Stephen King grounds his disturbing thriller in a layered examination about the difficulties of childhood and how friendship changes throughout time, a phenomenon terrifying by itself. 

The novel is a monumental piece of storytelling not only due to its transcending story of friendship and coming-of-age but due to how it changed the horror genre. Instead of rooting the story in plot and suspense, King makes the story about his characters, giving readers a chance to explore the struggles of seven individuals at different stages of their lives, using the horror within the story to complement their character arcs. 

Using Pennywise as a mechanism to ground seven friends together, King has his readers follow Bill Denbrough, Beverly Marsh, Richie Tozier, Eddie Kaspbrak, Ben Hanscom, Mike Hanlon and Stanley Uris as they deal with grueling emotional and personal struggles both as children and as adults. What makes “IT” work so well and King be so effective as a storyteller is how we get to know so much about his characters, causing us to genuinely care for them and be scared when they’re in peril from Pennywise. King touches on the anxiety and alienation youth often presents in such a realistic, powerful fashion that the clown ends up being secondary. 

Most people fail to look past the horror and realize how truly brilliant of a story “IT” is. While shocking and exciting, “IT” functions more like a drama than a horror story. We get to witness the transformation of seven vulnerable, tortured individuals who face their fears and struggles while also get to become engrossed in an adventurous and chilling story about fighting evil.

“IT” works not only as a novel, but also as a film. Both versions of the story captivate audiences to care for the characters and become engrossed in their personal struggles, while also enjoying the riveting nature of the story and feel connected to the disturbances that unfold. King makes us look at our deepest fears and presents the solution of how friendship and finding meaning in a frightening, difficult world is the best means of overcoming them. 

As “IT: Chapter 2” is set to be released on Sept 6 of this year. We get a chance to see Stephen King’s beloved characters make a second appearance on the big screen to finally defeat Pennywise, this time as adults. King does a tremendous job capturing the struggles of adolescence and adulthood, and after a terrifying and endearing first half of the novel being adapted, it goes without saying that “Chapter 2” will bring the rest of the story to life the way Stephen King intended.  

Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.

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