It (novel)

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It
It cover.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorStephen King
Cover artistBob Giusti (illustration)
Amy Hill (lettering)
CountryUnited States
GenreHorror novel
PublisherViking
Publication date
September 1986
Media typePrint Hardcover
Pages1,138
ISBN0-670-81302-8
 
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It
It cover.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorStephen King
Cover artistBob Giusti (illustration)
Amy Hill (lettering)
CountryUnited States
GenreHorror novel
PublisherViking
Publication date
September 1986
Media typePrint Hardcover
Pages1,138
ISBN0-670-81302-8

It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by an eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children. The novel is told through narratives alternating between two time periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes which would eventually become King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma, and the ugliness lurking behind a façade of traditional small-town values. The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987, and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year.[1] Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling book in the United States in 1986.

Plot[edit]

1957–1958[edit]

In October 1957, a six-year-old boy named George Denbrough chases his paper boat into a storm drain in Derry. To his surprise, the boat is caught in the sewer by Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The clown offers him the boat and a balloon, then kills George when he reaches into the drain to retrieve both his paper boat and the balloon from Pennywise's hands. His death unleashes a series of murders and disappearances of children in Derry.

Eight months later, during the summer of 1958, six children – Bill Denbrough (George's older brother), Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kaspbrak, Beverly Marsh, Richie Tozier and Stan Uris – are drawn together, mainly as a result of harassment from Henry Bowers, the town bully, and his friends. They take to calling themselves "The Losers Club," a reference to their social class as poor kids and their status as outcasts in school.

The children start experiencing strange and frightening events. One evening, Bill is looking at a picture of George, which suddenly turns and winks at him. When he tells of it to his friends, Ben admits to having seen and been nearly seized by a mummy the previous January, and Eddie recounts being attacked by a leper at an abandoned house. At first, Richie scoffs at the stories, but later he and Bill see a picture of Pennywise in George's yearbook that comes to life. They come to believe that the entity is responsible for the killings of children and decide to shoot it at the abandoned house where Eddie saw the leper, but end up only narrowly escaping being killed themselves. A few days later, while running from Henry's gang, Richie is attacked by the entity in the form of Paul Bunyan, but again manages to flee. Beverly hears the voices of the murdered children down the drain and witnesses a fountain of blood spurt from the sink. Although initially skeptical, Stan later admits that in earlier spring, he witnessed waterlogged corpses in the town’s standpipe.

As the summer goes on, the six kids realize that they are dealing with an extremely dangerous entity, which they dub "It", as it seems to be able to shape-shift according to what its victims fear the most. It mainly seems to only appear to children, and the Losers' Club decides that it is their responsibility to stop It. Their club gains its seventh and final member after they save Mike Hanlon from Henry's gang in a rock fight. Henry, who is not used to being defeated by the Losers, swears to kill them.

The children tell Mike about It, and he recounts a story of being chased by an enormous, trailer-sized bird in a field. He also brings the Losers an album of his father's old pictures of Derry, many of them showing Pennywise, who comes to life in one of them and threatens to kill all of the children. Bill, who has become the leader of the group, discovers an ancient ritual known as the Ritual of Chüd, in which a monster and mortal lock tongues and attempt to make the other laugh. He believes this ritual will allow them to defeat and kill It. With the group at a loss for what to do, Ben comes up with the idea of an old Indian smoke lodge ritual to induce visions and give guidance. When the idea is put into practice, Richie and Mike hallucinate (although the event is implied to be akin to time travel), see It arrive on Earth in prehistoric times and realize It has been here for millions of years. They express doubt over their ability to battle the monster.

Later, while Eddie is walking home from the pharmacy, Henry, Vic, Belch and a psychotic boy named Patrick Hockstetter, ambush and attack him. Henry breaks Eddie's arm in retaliation for the rock fight. When Patrick tries to dump dead bodies of animals he suffocated out of a refrigerator, he is killed by It in the form of flying leeches infesting the refrigerator, which Beverly partially sees. At first believing that it is all fake, Beverly soon learns otherwise when she is attacked by It in the form of leechs. One bites her, though she manages to escape.

After buying a first-aid kit and treating Beverly's wound, the Losers return to the refrigerator and discover a message from It written in Patrick's blood, warning them to stop before It kills them. Filled with rage, Bill vows to kill It at any cost.

After Eddie is released from the hospital, the Losers get together and Ben makes two slugs out of silver, believing the cinematic convention that silver will kill monsters. They go back to the abandoned house, where It attacks them in werewolf form, primarily focusing its efforts on Bill. After savagely slashing Ben across the abdomen when he tries to defend Bill, It is driven away after being injured by the silver slugs, but not before vowing to kill them all.

Later in mid-August, Henry, whose sanity had been steadily eroding the entire summer, is given a switchblade knife by Pennywise. After murdering his crazed and abusive father, Henry takes Vic and Belch to the Barrens and attacks the Losers, driving them into the sewers. The three follow them. Under Derry, It attacks the bullies in the form of Frankenstein's monster, decapitating Vic and mutilating Belch's face, with Henry managing to escape. The Losers press on and confront It in the form of a giant eye, which they successfully repel. They finally come upon It's lair, where it resides in the form of a giant spider, and, in what appears to be the Ritual of Chüd, the Losers encounter It and its natural enemy, The Turtle. Bill defeats It with some advice from The Turtle and It flees deeper into its lair. The Losers then gradually realize that they are lost in the sewers, and that with their common enemy having fled they have lost their purpose as a group, and begin to succumb to panic. In order to stop the group from panicking, Beverly has sexual intercourse with each of the boys. The gang finally escape from the sewers, emerging at sunset. Stan cuts their palms with a shard of a soda bottle and the seven make a blood oath to return to Derry if It should ever return.

1984–1985[edit]

In July 1984, the mutilated corpse of a homosexual man named Adrian Mellon is found from the canal after a fight with a group of homophobic youths had culminated with him being thrown off a bridge. Although the victim's boyfriend and one of the teens claims that he saw a clown kill Mellon under the bridge, neither of them admit this in court and all three teens are found guilty of the crime. A series of violent child murders hits Derry following Mellon's death, alerting Mike, now the town's librarian and the only one of the Losers Club to remain in Derry, who sees similarities between the recent killings and those from 1958. He calls up his six friends and reminds them of their childhood promise to return. Although they recall the events of 1958 only dimly, five of them return to Derry. However, Stan, who is implied to still remember the entire ordeal, commits suicide by slitting his wrists while taking a bath. He writes the word "IT" in his blood on the shower wall with his dying strength.

The remaining members of the Losers Club meet at a Chinese restaurant for dinner, where, after a long meal and stories from the intervening years, Mike tells them about his research into It. It awakens once roughly every twenty-seven years for twelve to sixteen months at a time to feed on children before going into slumber again. He suggests that, due directly to their intervention in the summer of 1958, they injured It so badly that the cycle, which usually came to an end in the winter months of the year, stopped abruptly and prematurely in August. The group holds a vote in which they decided to attempt to kill It once and for all. Mike suggests that before deciding exactly what to do, each Loser takes a walk around Derry to begin to gradually remember the events of 1958. As they finish the meal, their fortune cookies are revealed to contain a multitude of disgusting things, such as a human eye, signalling that It knows they're back.

While walking around Derry, many of the Losers witness manifestations of It. Ben goes to the library, his favorite place in Derry as a child, and sees It, first as Pennywise and then as a vampire. Eddie goes to an old baseball field and is attacked by It in the form of the leper that pursued him in his youth. Beverly goes back to her father's house and is greeted warmly by a kindly old woman who turns out to be It, who then takes the form of her father. Richie goes to a statue of Paul Bunyan and It appears to him there after Richie recalls that It tried to kill him in the form of the statue back in 1958. The four all escape danger. Bill, while not seeing It, does find his old childhood bike in a junk shop and purchases it.

Unknown to the Losers, three other people are also converging on Derry: Bill's worried wife, A-list movie actress Audra Phillips; Beverly's abusive husband, Tom Rogan; and Henry Bowers, who is driven by It to escape the mental institution where he resides, having been convicted for the murder of his father and the children killed by It back in 1958.

The Losers meet at Mike's library after closing time and reminisce about the summer of 1958. Afterwards, the Losers leave for their hotel rooms. Mike stays at the Library a little longer and is confronted by Henry. After Mike briefly taunts Henry, stating that Pennywise will most likely kill him after he kills the Losers, they fight and Henry stabs him in the leg. Mike badly injures Henry with a letter opener but Henry is able to escape, and Mike, using his belt as a tourniquet, calls the hospital and successfully gets help despite Pennywise's attempts to block him. Henry, with the guidance of It (in the form of Belch's reanimated corpse) goes to the hotel and attacks Eddie. Henry successfully breaks into Eddie's room, but Eddie manages to disarm and kill Henry by impaling him with a broken glass bottle.

Meanwhile, It gets Tom Rogan to kidnap Audra. Tom brings Audra to It's lair under the city. Upon perceiving It in true form (“the deadlights”), Audra becomes catatonic and Tom drops dead in shock. Bill, Beverly, Richie, Eddie and Ben, after calling the library and finding out that Mike may be near death and understanding that the town—which is essentially under the control of It—will not help them, realize that they are being forced into another confrontation with It. They descend into the sewers.

While in the sewers, the remaining Losers use their strength as a group to send energy to a hospitalized Mike, who fights off a nurse that is under the control of It. Later, deep within the sewers, It appears as George but Bill overcomes the illusion. They reach It's lair again. Bill and Richie engage It in the Ritual of Chüd again and manage to severely injure It. Eddie helps them and saves their lives, but he is killed by It in the process, having his arm bitten off, eventually bleeding to death. Beverly stays with Eddie and the traumatized Audra, who has been woven into a giant spider web by It. When Bill, Ben and Richie get to It's lair, they discover It has laid eggs and they're about to hatch. Ben stays behind to destroy the eggs while Bill and Richie chase down It. Bill and Richie follow It deeper into the cavern and attack. After Richie wounds It with his voices and fists, Bill crushes It's heart between his hands, finally killing the monster. At the same time a storm sweeps through Derry and the downtown area collapses. Later, Mike, writing in a journal, concludes that Derry is finally dying.

The novel ends with the various Losers returning home and their old lives. As a sign that It really is dead and a watchman is no longer needed, Mike's memory of the events of the book also begin to fade, much to his relief. Ben and Beverly leave together, Richie heads back to his DJ career and Bill is the last to leave Derry. Before he goes, he takes Audra, who is still catatonic, for a ride on Bill's bike, "Silver", hoping that they can beat her catatonia the same way he and the rest of the Losers beat It for the first time in 1958. They succeed, and the story ends with Bill musing over his forgotten childhood and the friends with whom that time was shared.

Characters[edit]

The Losers' Club[edit]

The Losers are the children who are united by their unhappy lives, their misery at being the victims of bullying by Henry Bowers and their eventual struggle to overcome It. Two characters, Richie and Bev, appear in King's novel 11-22-63 when Jake goes back to Derry in 1958.

It[edit]

A mysterious entity, It is a monster of unknown origin which preys on Derry's children every three decades, stating It finds the fear in children akin to "salt(ing) the meat". Among It's powers is shape shifting into a form that induces fear while killing the victim, normally assuming the form of a fanged clown and calling itself "Pennywise the Dancing Clown", an evil clown modeled after Bozo, Clarabell and Ronald McDonald. It can also manipulate people into doing It's bidding, either by assuming a form most familiar to them or promising them their desires. Thus, having control over what happens in Derry, many of the child murders It commits are never solved, as the adults of Derry either act as though nothing is happening or have forgotten about It. It's true form as perceived by the human eye is that of a giant spider that houses It's essence: namely writhing orange lights (termed "Deadlights"), looking directly into which can either kill a person or drive them insane.

It's awakening and return to hibernation mark the greatest instances of violence during It's time awake, such as the disappearance of over three hundred settlers from Derry Township in 1740–43. During the 1950s, a great storm which flooded part of the city awoke It, whereupon It murdered George Denbrough before going on a feeding spree. However, the Losers' Club forced It to return to an early hibernation when heavily wounded by the young Bill Denbrough in the first Ritual of Chüd. As the story opens, It awakens when three young bullies beat up a young homosexual couple, Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty, with It killing the former after he is thrown off a bridge. When the adult members of the Losers' Club gathered, It recognized them as a threat and resolved to drive them away through both illusions and by controlling Henry Bowers, the Losers' long-time childhood bully. Bill, Richie, Beverly, Eddie and Ben managed to confront It's spider form after It arranged to have Audra in its possession. It was finally destroyed in the second Ritual of Chüd with an enormous storm that damages the downtown part of Derry to signify It's death.

Other characters[edit]

25th Anniversary Special Edition[edit]

Cover for the 25th anniversary edition

On December 13, 2011, Cemetery Dance published a special limited edition of It for the 25th anniversary of the novel (ISBN 978-1587672705) in three editions: an unsigned limited gift edition of 2,750, a signed limited edition of 750, and a signed and lettered limited edition of 52. All three editions are oversized hardcovers, housed in a slipcase or traycase, and feature premium binding materials. This anniversary edition features a new dust jacket illustration by Glen Orbik, as well as numerous interior illustrations by Alan M. Clark and Erin Wells. The book also contains a new afterword by Stephen King discussing his reasons for writing the novel.[2]

Adaptations[edit]

In 1990, the novel was adapted into a television film featuring John Ritter as Ben Hanscom, Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier, Richard Masur as Stan Uris, Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon, Annette O'Toole as Beverly Marsh, Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough, Olivia Hussey as Audra Phillips, Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak, Michael Cole as Henry Bowers, and Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown/It.[3]

In 1998, United Studios Ltd. adapted the story and created the television series Woh, which aired on Zee TV in India.

On March 12, 2009, Warner Bros. announced that a new adaptation of Stephen King's novel had started. Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Doug Davison are set to produce.[4] In 2010, the screenplay was being re-written by Dave Kajganich.[5]

On September 21, 2010, film director Guillermo del Toro announced that he would like to direct new adaptations of the Stephen King novels It and Pet Sematary, but stated that he is very busy and unlikely to be able to make them any time soon.[6]

On June 7, 2012, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the novel would be adapted into a two-part film, directed by Cary Fukunaga.[7]

References[edit]

External links[edit]