Stephen King and the Illusion of Childhood

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Stephen King and the Illusion of Childhood explores the application of magic and illusion in IT and The Shining. This article details the function of child characters in both novels, and demonstrates how their presence heightens and accelerates terror. In IT, Pennywise the Clown changes his appearance according to each character’s personal fears, acting as a manifestation of their individual traumatic memories. The first section of this article explores the need for children to acknowledge and confront their fear. Instances that are uncomfortable to the child result in an inadvertent tendency to repress this fear, destined to remain dormant until moments of stress and uncertainty where it will plague the individual throughout later life. The eventual confrontation of Pennywise symbolises each character confronting their darkest childhood fear in order to move on. While Pennywise embodies a variety of external fears and childhood monsters, The Shining’s Jack Torrance represents the fine margin between sanity and insanity. As opposed to a visible monster, Jack is a restructured creation of modern society: a silent monster suppressing a violent temperament and plagued by self-doubt and eventual insanity. The Shining explores the danger of a family unit pressurised by isolation (physical and societal), a wealth of internal psychological battles, and the malevolent forces at work in the Overlook hotel. These forces prey on Jack’s weaknesses in order to accelerate his insanity and attempt to kill his family.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-15
    Number of pages13
    JournalPennywise Dreadful: The Journal of Stephen King Studies
    Volume1
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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