First edition cover
|Cover artist||Bob Giusti (illustration)|
Amy Hill (lettering)
|September 15, 1986|
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 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.
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, the malevolence lurking beneath the idyllic façade of the American small town, 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 Hindi 1998 television series directed by Glen Baretto & Ankush Mohla, and into a film duology directed by Andy Muschietti; It was released in September 2017 and It Chapter Two was released in September 2019.
During a rainstorm in Derry, Maine, a six-year-old boy named Georgie Denbrough sails a paper boat along the rainy streets before it washes down into a storm drain. Looking in the drain, Georgie encounters a clown who introduces himself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Georgie is enticed by Pennywise to reach into the drain and retrieve his boat, where the clown rips his arm off, leaving him to die.
The following June, an overweight eleven-year-old boy named Ben Hanscom is harassed by a bully named Henry Bowers and his gang on the last day of school, escaping into the marshy wasteland known as the Barrens. There, Ben befriends an asthmatic hypochondriac named Eddie Kaspbrak and "Stuttering Bill" Denbrough, Georgie's elder brother. The three boys later befriend fellow misfits Richie Tozier, Stanley "Stan" Uris, and Beverly Marsh, and refer to themselves as "The Losers Club". As the summer draws on, the Losers each encounter Pennywise in terrifying manifestations: a mummy on a frozen canal to Ben, a fountain of blood (that only children can see) from Beverly's sink, a rotting leper to Eddie, drowned corpses to Stan, and a frightening phantom of Georgie to Bill. Meanwhile, an increasingly unhinged and sadistic Bowers begins focusing his attention on his African-American neighbor Mike Hanlon and his father. Bowers kills Mike's dog and chases the terrified boy into the Barrens, where he joins the Losers in driving Bowers' gang off in a rock fight, a humiliated Bowers vowing revenge. Mike becomes a member of the Losers Club after revealing his own encounter with Pennywise in the form of a flesh-eating bird. From Mike's historical scrapbook, the Losers realize that "It" is an ancient monster with a hold on the town. Following further encounters, the Losers construct a makeshift smoke hole that Richie and Mike use to hallucinate It's origins as an ancient alien entity that came to Earth, beginning a cycle of feeding on children for a year followed by a 27-year-long hibernation.
Soon, Eddie is hospitalized by Bowers and several of his friends, and Beverly witnesses one of the bullies, Patrick Hocksetter, killed by It in the form of a mass of leeches. The Losers discover a message from It in Patrick's blood, warning them that It will kill them if they interfere. In hopes that silver can wound It, Ben makes two silver slugs out of a silver dollar, and the Losers enter an abandoned house where Eddie, Bill, and Richie had previously encountered It to attempt to kill It. They manage to wound It with the silver while It is in the form of a werewolf. Deeming the Losers a threat, It manipulates Bowers into murdering his abusive father and chasing the Losers into the sewers to kill them, where his fellow bullies are both killed by It, and Bowers becomes lost in the sewers, traumatized.
In the sewers, Bill performs the "Ritual of Chüd" in an attempt to face It in the Macroverse, the alternate universe where It is from, where he meets the monster's antithesis Maturin, an ancient turtle that created the universe. Bill learns that It can only be defeated during a battle of wills, and sees It's true form, the "Deadlights", before Bill defeats the monster with Maturin's help. After the battle, not knowing if they killed It or not, the Losers get lost in the sewers until they take part in an orgy to bring unity back to the group. The Losers then swear a blood oath to return to Derry should It resurface. Bowers, having lost his sanity by the time he washed out of the sewers into a nearby river, is institutionalized after being blamed for the town's child murders.
In July 1984, three youths brutally attack a young gay man named Adrian Mellon and throw him off a bridge, where both a bully and Adrian's boyfriend see a clown then appear. Adrian is found mutilated, and the teenagers are arrested and charged with his murder.
When a string of violent child killings begins in Derry again, an adult Mike Hanlon, now the town's librarian, 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 is now a successful horror writer living with his actress wife, Audra; Beverly is a fashion designer, married to an abusive man named Tom Rogan; Eddie runs a limousine rental company and has married a hysterical codependent woman similar to his hypochondriac mother; Richie Tozier is a disc jockey; Ben Hanscom is now thin and a successful but lonely architect; and Stan Uris is a wealthy accountant. 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. All of the Losers agree to return to Derry, except for Stan, who kills himself in terror of facing It again.
The Losers meet for lunch, 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 and childhood friends in leper and zombified forms, Richie as a Paul Bunyan statue, Beverly as the witch from Hansel & Gretel in her childhood home, and Ben as Dracula in the Derry Library). Bill finds his childhood bicycle, "Silver," and brings it to Mike's. In the meantime, Audra, who is worried about Bill, travels to Derry; Tom arrives as well, intending to kill Beverly; and Henry Bowers escapes from the mental asylum with help from It.
Henry confronts Mike at the library, but Mike escapes alive. It instructs Henry to kill the rest of the Losers, but Henry is killed when attacking Eddie. It then appears to Tom and orders him to capture Audra, bringing Audra to It's lair, where 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 that 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. Eddie injures It by spraying his asthma medication down It's throat, but It bites off Eddie's arm, killing him. It runs away to tend to its injuries, but Bill, Richie, and Ben chase after 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 meets 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 realize that the scars on their hands from their blood pact 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 begins 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, and they share a kiss.
William 'Big Bill' Denbrough - The leader of the Losers Club, Bill is bullied at school due to his fashion sense and his stutter, a condition which worsens severely after his younger brother George Denbrough is murdered. Bill is a keen writer and grows up to become the author of pulpy horror novels. As a child Bill rides a bicycle that he nicknamed Silver, after the Lone Ranger's horse. As an adult, Bill lives in southern England with his wife, Audra, an actress who Bill met on the set of one of his book adaptations.
Beverly Marsh - The sole female member of the Losers Club, Beverly is the stubborn and determined daughter of Alvin and Elfrida Marsh, a couple who live in one of Derry's poorest neighborhoods. Beverly is frequently abused by her father, something her mother turns a blind eye to, and is also an object of sexual interest to him. Beverly develops a childhood crush on Bill, unaware that fellow Losers Club member Ben Hanscom has his own strong feelings for her. As a grownup, Beverly moves to Chicago and marries a man as abusive as her father, and the two become the head of a rich fashion business.
Richard 'Richie' Tozier - With large buck teeth and thick glasses, Richie is often the victim of bullies at school, something he only worsens with his rude and untrainable mouth. Richie enjoys putting on 'Voices', which are stereotypical caricatures of other people and cultures which his friends all describe as sounding the same. Due to his love for rock and roll music, Richie grows up to become a DJ known for his Voices.
Edward 'Eddie' Kaspbrak - A nervous hypochondriac overprotected by his abusive mother, Eddie is a small, weak, and effeminate boy. Instilled with a keen sense of exploration and direction, Eddie acts as the group's compass, something which aids him later in life to become a limousine driver for celebrities in New York. He marries a woman as overprotective and abusive as his own mother.
Benjamin 'Ben' 'Haystack' Hanscom - Extremely overweight, Ben Hanscom is book smart and good with his hands. A frequent target for Henry Bowers' gang of bullies, Ben joins the Losers Club after running into Bill and Eddie down in the Barrens, and soon develops a passionate crush on Beverly Marsh. Ben's knowledge of craftsmanship and architecture becomes useful to both the group in their fight against It as well as his career, as Ben grows up to become one of America's best architects. Despite his wealth and fame, Ben grows up incredibly lonely.
Michael 'Mike' Hanlon - The only African-American member of the Losers Club, Mike is perhaps Henry Bowers' biggest target, not only for his race but because their parents' farms are keen rivals to one another. As a child, Mike is curious and explorative and is fascinated with Derry's dark history, something he shows the Losers with help from his father's photo album. Mike is the sole member of the Losers not to leave Derry in his teenage years and instead becomes the town librarian. Mike spends his time in the library writing a book on the history of Derry.
Stanley 'Stan the Man' Uris - Stan is the member of the Losers Club with the weakest will and works almost entirely scientifically, finding it difficult to accept It's existence and becoming severely traumatizing after meeting It for the first time. Stan is a Jew and is in the grade below the other Losers due to being ill frequently as a child. He enjoys birdwatching. Somewhat stereotypically for his religion, Stan is good with money, and after several successive good decisions, Stan and his wife are able to make incredible wealth, living in Atlanta where Stan works as an accountant. Stan is the only member of the Losers Club who does not return to Derry in 1985.
Henry Bowers - A sadistic bully gang leader, Henry is held back into the other Losers' grade due to poor grades and bad behavior. As the summer draws on Henry becomes more and more unhinged as he pursues the Losers, hoping to punish them for evading him time after time. After his friends are all killed, Henry admits to all of the child murders carried out by It and is sentenced to Juniper Hills Asylum.
It - The titular antagonist, the entity known as It is a shapeshifting, interdimensional cosmic being from outside our own universe who crash-landed in Derry millions of years ago. Becoming part of the town itself, It sleeps for twenty-seven years before awaking to engage in a year-long cycle of feasting on the town's children, which it entices in the form of a clown it has named Pennywise before killing them in the form of their worst fears, which range from movie monsters to imitations of people to deadly animals. Each year of feeding is bookmarked by a massive tragedy which the residents of Derry soon forget and ignore. Believing itself to be undefeatable, It's will is weakened after its first encounter with the Losers in 1958, when it realizes they may be able to defeat it. In 1985 it attempts to drive them out of town, understanding what fear is for the first time.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2019)
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—“imaginary gardens with real toads in them"—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 1980, and finished the book five 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 questions 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 legacy
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2019)
It received a mixed critical reaction. Lehman-Haupt perceived a lack of justification in Stanley Uris' 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' equivalent 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. Principal photography wrapped in 2018, and it was released on September 6, 2019.
- Christopher Lehman-Haupt (August 21, 1986). "Books of the Times: It". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
- King, Stephen, 1947- (1986). It. New York, NY: Viking. p. 1153. ISBN 0670813028. OCLC 13497048.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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- "IT: Chapter Two Young Losers' Club Cast Has Wrapped Filming". ScreenRant. November 1, 2018. Retrieved February 18, 2019.