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STEPHEN KING’S AMERICAN VISION FROM CHILDHOOD TO ADULTHOOD: CARRIE, THE LONG WALK, AND IT’S CHILDREN DIE FOR THEIR FUTURE

Pennington, Nathanial Gage (2019) STEPHEN KING’S AMERICAN VISION FROM CHILDHOOD TO ADULTHOOD: CARRIE, THE LONG WALK, AND IT’S CHILDREN DIE FOR THEIR FUTURE. Masters thesis, Radford University.

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Abstract

Stephen King’s impact on modern Gothic horror and American culture is unquestionable. By examining three of his novels, this thesis analyzes what King reveals about culture and its inadequacies, especially concerning adolescence and trauma in American society during the 1970s and 1980s. The organization is chronological, beginning with his first novel Carrie (1974), moving to The Long Walk (1979), and finishing with IT (1986), what some critics consider his masterpiece. In Carrie, I will examine how King uses adolescent trauma as a tool to show how American cultural norms of conformity lead to segregation of Others and a generational legacy of “fitting in” via exclusion, scapegoating, and fanatical belief. I argue that King suggests trauma – the spectacle of trauma as well as the processes of gazing and staring inherent in that spectacle – can result from the enforcement of conformity while also serving as a window into the psyche of an individual as well as the psyche of the American culture. Moving from constructions of femininity to those of masculinity, The Long Walk shows how capitalism acts as a primary source of toxic masculinity by suggesting that this capitalistic way of understanding the world produces a type of collective trauma for the young men in the novel, whether by the rigid endorsement of heteronormative standards, the fear of falling over the homosocial cliff into the homosexual canyon, or through the uses of patriotism to control possibly “alternative” ways of being and experiencing the world. Setting this novel apart from Carrie is its focus on a collective trauma, rather than the individual trauma. Because of this shift of focus, the novel gives us a wider lens in which to view the traumas that are perpetuated by American culture. Also, Carrie follows that of a teenaged girl, while The Long Walk focuses almost exclusively on teenaged boys. This provides variety in who we see the trauma in as well and makes suggestion about gender roles at the same time. Finally, Stephen King’s IT uses trauma and fear, from children to adults, to reveal inadequacies in American culture. By recognizing the trauma of child abuse, child neglect, racism, misogyny, domestic abuse, and homophobia, IT works to unveil the source of these traumas in the process of claiming and healing traumatic experiences, and hopefully, ultimately providing a solution to these negative aspects perpetuated by cultural hegemony of marginalized groups. IT provides the most variety out of the three novels as it discusses the trauma of African Americans, women, and men. Also, the novel discusses more closely the trauma of young children, and how that trauma is translated into their adulthood and the impact that it has on them there, especially through nostalgic constructions of the past that operate according to a principle of forgetting as much as remembering.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Nathanial Gage Pennington
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2020 20:16
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2020 20:16
URI: http://wagner.radford.edu/id/eprint/553

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