At this juncture, we’re more than halfway through this terrifying tour of Derry. Although, I should call it a hypnotism rather than a tour. Stephen King has taken our imaginations hostage, enchanted us into the horrific nightmare of Losers, and constructed a tragedy so elaborate it’s hard to believe you aren’t really a part of it. In fact, I superimposed my own childhood memories, fears, and sometimes-triumphs onto this story, sharing their drama, hovering in the fray like the lost friend they all ignore.
As we edge closer and closer to the “end” of It, giving a synopsis becomes so much more delicate. My purpose in Bit by Bloody Bit was never to give away any important plot details, but rather to share my reading experience with you as it happens, from a fresh and virgin perspective (keep in mind I use that term rather loosely!). I know it would be amiss for me to recap the details of Stephen King’s It, “Part 3: Grownups,” which is why I am compelled to reveal the spirit of this particular section and the emotional point I have reached having just finished it.
“Grownups” is probably most palpable to me now than it would have been if I read it in my early youth. Now at the 30 year mark, I find the experiences of our present-day Losers quite personal and relative to my own. I’m not haunted by a supernatural monster from my past, but I have experienced the surreal moments of facing my past and in turn being more self-aware in the present. While It is still an integral part of the Losers’ journey, and the ultimate metaphorical battle with themselves, “Grownups” is also the psychological trip of reliving childhood experiences through the adult lens.
It won’t be too much of a spoiler to say “Grownups” features the inevitable reunion of the Losers. The reunion is perhaps as iconic as poor Georgie and his yellow slicker. After the reunion, the Losers set out to reacquaint themselves with Derry, invoke those old memories and conjure the spirit of their younger selves. I half tumbled through their recollections while reliving my own. For Ben Hanscom, the object that triggers his memory is the Derry library. The unchanged structural pieces have such a strong impact “he felt literally lost in time, not really sure how old he was.” He inadvertently looks up the iron staircase “hoping, as he had hoped as a kid, to see a girl in a skirt coming down those steps.” King’s preoccupations with the power of memory are obvious in It and I am far from the first to mention it. But, reading “Grownups” I felt the power of memory. Or more importantly, I was truly aware of it. For Ben Hanscom it’s the library, for me it’s my Grandmother’s house. Growing up I was there almost every weekend. From high school on the trips to Grandma’s got less frequent and returning to her home now feels like going back in time. I fall into a sort of happy, childlike state at Grandma’s. I grow physically tired because I feel so safe and at peace. Sometimes I’ll nap for hours and I even pick up old childhood habits. Reading It those idiosyncrasies, family dysfunctions, and childhood traumas are exposed as universal truths and I feel liberated.
Surely King took his own personal experiences with memory and infused them into It. How else could he prompt waves of remembering, the kind that occur when you see an old friend? How else could he know the instinctual habits that return upon retracing the steps of your old childhood stomping grounds?
For some readers, It will be much too long, too involved, too scrupulous its plot to hold their attention. For others, like me, it will be more than a scary book, but a mirror reflecting your own memories and encouraging meditation on a world you perhaps forgot.
Seeing a chunk of the book left, equal to that which I just finished, has me wondering where the story could go from here, but after “Grownups” I am still on board and remain ever curious about what next psychological trip King has in store.
Please come back next week for my thoughts on “Part 4: July of 1958.”
If King’s It is your favorite horror novel you MUST check out Cemetery Dance Publications’ 25th Anniversary Special Limited Edition (pictured below)! This is a beautiful superfan collectible sure to haunt generation after generation just like the titular monster It!