It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It was his 22nd book, and his 17th novel written under his own name. The story follows the experiences of seven children as they are terrorized by an evil entity that exploits the fears and phobias of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It" primarily appears in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to attract its preferred prey of young children.
|Cover artist||Bob Giusti (illustration) |
Amy Hill (lettering)
|September 15, 1986|
The novel is told through narratives alternating between two periods and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes that eventually became King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.
King has stated that he first conceived the story in 1978, and began writing it in 1981. He finished writing the book in 1985. He also stated that he originally wanted the title character to be a troll like the one in the children's story "Three Billy Goats Gruff", but who inhabited the local sewer system rather than just the area beneath one bridge. He also wanted the story to interweave the stories of children and the adults they later become.
The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987, and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year. Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling hardcover fiction book in the United States in 1986. It has been adapted into a 1990 two-part miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, a 1998 television series directed by Glen Baretto & Ankush Mohla, and into a two-part film duology directed by Andy Muschietti; It was released in September 2017 and It Chapter Two was released in September 2019.
During a heavy rainstorm in Derry, Maine, six-year-old Georgie Denbrough is chasing a paper boat down a gutter. The boat is washed down a storm drain to the dismay of Georgie, who had received the boat as a gift from his older brother Bill. Peering into the drain, Georgie sees a pair of glowing yellow eyes. Startled, Georgie is suddenly confronted by a man dressed as a clown who introduces himself as "Mr. Bob Gray," a.k.a. "Pennywise the Dancing Clown." Pennywise offers Georgie a balloon which he cautiously refuses; however, the clown entices Georgie to reach into the drain to retrieve his boat and then severs his arm, leaving the boy to bleed out and die. His body is later discovered and brought back to the Denbrough house.
The following June, Ben Hanscom, an overweight eleven year old boy, is harassed by a gang of bullies led by Henry Bowers. On the last day of school, Hanscom hides from his tormentors in the Barrens, where he befriends Eddie Kaspbrak, a hypochondriac boy who believes he has asthma, and "Stuttering Bill" Denbrough, Georgie's elder brother who suffers from a stutter and rides on a rusty bike named "Silver." The three boys later befriend fellow misfits Richie Tozier, Stanley Uris and Beverly Marsh, who eventually refer to themselves as "The Losers Club."
As the summer draws on, the Losers realize that they have each had an encounter with a seemingly omniscient, alien shapeshifting demonic entity that takes the form of whatever they fear the most: Ben as a mummy, Eddie as a leper, Bill as Georgie's ghost, Richie as a werewolf, Stan as two drowned boys and Beverly as a fountain of blood spurting from her bathroom sink. Due to the unknown origin of the monster, the Losers refer to the creature as "It" and link It with a series of recent child murders, including that of Edward "Eddie" Corcoran who is killed by the monster in the form of the Gill-man.
Meanwhile, an increasingly unhinged and sadistic Henry Bowers begins focusing his attention on his African-American neighbor Mike Hanlon and his father. Henry kills Mike's dog and chases the terrified boy into the Barrens, where he befriends the other Losers. The Losers protect Mike and begin a rockfight with Bowers’ gang. Bowers is embarrassed and swears revenge on the Losers. He goes away, leaving the Losers alone near the Barrens. Mike tells the Losers that he was attacked by It in the form of a flesh-eating bird and they realise through Mike's picture book that It has been around for hundreds of years. The Losers begin to suspect that It has control over Derry due to the number of unsolved disappearances and violent tragedies that go unnoticed or seem forgotten by the adults in the town.
After further encounters with It in the form of Pennywise and various other manifestations, the Losers construct a makeshift American-Indian smokehole which Richie and Mike use to hallucinate It's origins. In doing so they discover that It came to Derry millions of years before in an asteroid-like impact, and that every 27 years It awakens from a slumber underneath the town's sewers, usually after some kind of terrible event or tragedy, to feed on children for a period of 12–16 months.
In late July, Eddie is hospitalized after an attack by Henry Bowers and several of his friends. Spying on them, Beverly witnesses one of the bullies, Patrick Hockstetter, trying to empty a refrigerator which he had been using to trap and kill injured animals, only to be killed by It in the form of flying bloodsucking leeches. Later, the Losers discover a message from It written in Patrick's blood warning them that It will kill them.
After Eddie is released from the hospital with a broken arm, Ben makes two silver slugs out of a silver dollar, believing that silver will harm It. At this point the narrative changes and "It" informs the reader that it existed originally in a void between our universe and others, in a dimension known as the Macroverse. It boasts to the reader that It is superior to anything on earth and confirms that it chooses to prey on children because It believes their fears are easier to interpret in a physical form, which It claims is akin to "salting the meat".
The kids return to the house on Neibolt Street where Eddie, Bill, and Richie had previously encountered It and It attacks them in the form of a werewolf. Beverly shoots a slug from Bill's slingshot at the werewolf, injuring It, and causing It to flee back to the sewers. It, now seeing the Losers as a threat, manipulates the mind of Henry Bowers, making him kill his violent alcoholic father and providing him with a switchblade.
Henry and his two closest friends, Victor "Vic" Criss and Reginald "Belch" Huggins, follow the Losers into the sewers with the intention of killing them. It attacks the three bullies in the form of Frankenstein's monster, ripping Vic's head off and mutilating Belch's face. Henry, driven insane, chases the Losers and gets lost. He eventually washes out of the sewers into a nearby river and is blamed for all of the child murders. Meanwhile, Bill discovers the "Ritual Of Chüd," an ancient ritual that allows him to enter the Macroverse to confront It. During the ritual Bill encounters Mataurin, an ancient turtle and the creator of our universe (which it vomited up following a stomach-ache), who explains that It can only be defeated during a battle of wills.
Bill enters the monster's mind through the Ritual of Chüd and discovers that It's true form is a mass of destructive orange lights which It refers to as the "Deadlights". With the help of Mataurin, Bill is able to defeat It and send it back to its slumber. After the battle, the Losers get lost in the sewers until the Losers perform an orgy to bring unity back to the group. The Losers then swear a blood oath to return to Derry should It return in the future.
In July 1984 at the annual Derry carnival, three youths brutally attack a young homosexual man named Adrian Mellon and throw him off a bridge. They are arrested and charged with murder when Mellon's mutilated corpse is found. One of the murderers claims that he saw a clown dressed in a silver suit kill Mellon underneath the bridge. Adrian's partner, the other victim in the attack, had also noticed the clown but the prosecutors convince him not to mention it during the trial.
When a string of violent child killings occurs in Derry once again, an adult Mike Hanlon, now the town's librarian and the only one of the Losers to remain in Derry, calls up the six former members of the Losers Club and reminds them of their childhood promise to return should the killings start again. Bill Denbrough is now a successful horror writer living in England with his actress wife, Audra. Beverly Marsh is a fashion designer in Chicago, who has married an abusive man named Tom Rogan, who is similar to her abusive father. Eddie Kaspbrak has moved to New York City, where he runs a limousine rental company and has married a hysterical codependent woman similar to his hypochondriac mother.
Richie Tozier lives in Los Angeles and works as a disc jockey. Ben Hanscom is now thin and a successful architect, living in Nebraska. Stan Uris is a wealthy accountant residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to Mike's phone calls, all of the Losers had completely forgotten each other and the trauma of their childhood, burying the horror of their encounters with It. However, all but Stan reluctantly agree to return to Derry. After Mike's phone call, Stan is in such fear at the thought of facing It again that he slits his wrists in the bathtub, writing "IT" on the wall in his own blood. Tom refuses to let Beverly go and tries to beat her, but she lashes out at him before fleeing, causing him serious injury. The five return to Derry with only the dimmest awareness of why they are doing so, remembering only absolute terror and their promise to return.
The Losers meet for lunch in a Chinese restaurant, where Mike reminds them that It awakens once roughly every 27 years for 12–16 months at a time, feeding on children before going into slumber again. The group decides to kill It once and for all. At Mike's suggestion, each person explores different parts of Derry to help restore their memories. While exploring, Eddie, Richie, Beverly and Ben are faced with manifestations of It (Eddie as Belch Huggins in leper form, Richie as a Paul Bunyan statue, Beverly as the witch from Hansel & Gretel and Ben as Dracula). Bill finds his childhood Schwinn, "Silver", and brings it to Mike's.
Three other people are also converging on the town: Audra, who is worried about Bill, Tom, who plans to kill Beverly, and Henry Bowers, who has escaped from Juniper Hill Mental Asylum with help from It. Mike and Henry have a violent confrontation at the library. Mike is nearly killed but Henry escapes, severely injured. Henry is driven to the hotel where It instructs him to kill the rest of the Losers. Henry first attacks Eddie, breaking his arm once again, but in the fight Henry is killed.
It appears to Tom and orders him to capture Audra. Tom brings Audra to It's lair. Upon seeing It's true form, Audra becomes catatonic and Tom drops dead in shock. Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie and Eddie learn that Mike is near death and realize they are being forced into another confrontation with It. They descend into the sewers, and 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. They reach It's lair and find It has taken the form of a giant spider. Bill and Richie enter It's mind through the Ritual of Chüd, but they get lost in It. In order to distract It and bring Bill and Richie back, Eddie runs towards It and uses his aspirator to spray medicine in It's eye and down It's throat. Although he is successful, It bites off Eddie's arm, and Eddie dies due to blood loss. It runs away to tend to its injuries, but Bill, Richie and Ben chase after it, and find that It has laid eggs. Ben stays behind to destroy the eggs, while Bill and Richie head toward their final confrontation with It. Bill fights his way inside It's body, locates It's heart, and destroys it. The group meet up to head out of It's lair, and although they try to bring Audra and Eddie's bodies with them, they are forced to leave Eddie behind. They make it to the surface and realize that the scars on their hands from when they were children have disappeared, indicating that their ordeal is finally over.
At the same time, the worst storm in Maine's history sweeps through Derry, and the downtown area collapses. Mike concludes that Derry is finally dying. The Losers return home and gradually begin to forget about It, Derry, and each other. Mike's memory of the events of that summer also begin to fade, as well as any of the records he had written down previously, much to his relief, and he considers starting a new life elsewhere. Ben and Beverly leave together and become a couple, and Richie returns to California. Bill is the last to leave Derry. Before he goes, he takes Audra, still catatonic, for a ride on Silver, which awakens her from her catatonia.
In 1978, King and his family lived in Boulder, Colorado. One evening, King ventured alone to pick up his car from the repair shop and came across an old wooden bridge, "humped and oddly quaint". Walking along the bridge caused King to recall the story of "Three Billy Goats Gruff", and the idea of transplanting the tale's scenario into a real-life context interested him. King was further inspired by a line by Marianne Moore concerning "real toads in imaginary gardens", which in his mind came out as "real trolls in imaginary gardens". King would return to the concept two years later and gradually accumulated ideas and thoughts, particularly the concept of weaving the narratives of children and the adults they become. King began writing It in 1981, and finished the book four years later. King found influence in the mythology and history surrounding the construction of the sewer system in Bangor, Maine.
It thematically focuses on the loss of childhood innocence and questioning the difference between necessity and free will. Grady Hendrix of Tor.com described the book as being "about the fact that some doors only open one way, and that while there’s an exit out of childhood named sex, there’s no door leading the other way that turns adults back into children." Christopher Lehman-Haupt of the New York Times noted that It "concerns the evil that has haunted America from time to time in the forms of crime, racial and religious bigotry, economic hardship, labor strife and industrial pollution", and that the novel's setting "is a museum filled with the popular culture of the 1950s: brand names, rock 'n' roll songs and stars, the jokes and routines of childhood in that era." James Smythe of The Guardian opined that "Pennywise isn't the novel's biggest terror. The most prominent notions of fear in the novel come from the Losers' Club themselves: their home lives, the things that have made them pariahs."
On December 13, 2011, Cemetery Dance published a special limited edition of It for the 25th anniversary of the novel (ISBN 978-1-58767-270-5) 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.
Reception and legacyEdit
It received a mixed critical consensus. Lehman-Haupt perceived a lack of justification in Stanley Uris's death and the reunion of the group.
Hendrix described the book as "by turns boring and shocking" and "one of King's most frustrating and perplexing books", and described the behavior of the child characters as idealized and unnatural.
The book's sexual content aroused controversy. Smythe considered the book's descriptions of childhood sexuality to be "questionable", and was particularly "shocked" by a scene of the Losers Club engaging in an orgy. However, Hendrix identified this moment as "in a sense, the heart of the book" and a thematic demonstration of the crossing from childhood to adulthood, and concluded that it is "a way for King to tell kids that sex, even unplanned sex, even sex that's kind of weird, even sex where a girl loses her virginity in the sewer, can be powerful and beautiful if the people having it truly respect and like each other."
The novel has been noted for its exceptional length. Smythe noted that "the book is essentially two novels", and at "fourteen hundred pages long in my printing (the only bigger novel I own is Infinite Jest), and famously weighing nigh-on four pounds, it's a challenge to hold, let alone read." Publishers Weekly expressed particular indignation: "Overpopulated and under-characterized, bloated by lazy thought-out philosophizing and theologizing there is simply too much of It."
In 1990, the novel was adapted into a television miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown/It, 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, and Michael Cole as Henry Bowers. The younger versions of the characters were played by Brandon Crane (Ben), Seth Green (Richie), Ben Heller (Stan), Marlon Taylor (Mike), Emily Perkins (Beverly), Jonathan Brandis (Bill), Adam Faraizl (Eddie), and Jarred Blancard (Henry). The miniseries was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and scripted by Wallace and Lawrence D. Cohen.
In 1998, the novel was adapted into a television series set in India, starring Lilliput as Pennywise the Clown/Vikram/Woh/It, and Ashutosh Gowarikar (Ashutosh), Mamik Singh (Rahul), Anupam Bhattacharya (Sanjeev), Shreyas Talpade (Young Ashutosh), Parzan Dastur (Young Siddhart), Manoj Joshi (Amit), and Daya Shankar Pandey (Chandu), the series' equivalant of the Losers' Club. The series was directed and written by Glen Baretto and Ankush Mohla.
The first of a two-part feature film adaptation, It, was released on September 8, 2017. It is directed by Andy Muschietti, with a screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. Instead of a dual narrative, the first film is solely an adaptation of the section that features the characters as children, though the setting has been updated to the late 1980s. It stars Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise and Jaeden Martell as Bill Denbrough. Supporting roles are played by Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier, Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris, Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, Owen Teague as Patrick Hockstetter, Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers, Logan Thompson as Vic Criss and Jake Sim as Belch Huggins.
The second film, It Chapter Two, adapted the "adult" section and updated the setting to the 2010s, specifically 2016. It starred James McAvoy (Bill), Bill Hader (Richie), Jessica Chastain (Beverly), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stan), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), and Jay Ryan (Ben). Skarsgård reprised the role of Pennywise and the younger actors returned as well. Filming for the film wrapped in 2018 and was released on September 6, 2019.
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