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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Essay on Biography of Stephen King

            Stephen King is known for his works about psychological thrillers, paranormals, horrors and science fiction.  Born in 1947 in Portland, Maine, he was the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King.  He was raised solely by his mother after his father left the family one day.  Because his mother was left alone to provide for the needs of the family, she was always working day and night just to make ends meet.  He briefly stayed in Stratford Connecticut which is where his father’s family lived.  When he was eleven he returned to Durham, Maine together with his mother where he stayed most of his adulthood. 

            It is said that Stephen King’s fascination with horror stories started as a young child when he saw one of his mother’s books entitled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  Because of his interest he asked his mother to read the book to him.  He was immediately attracted to the story that he asked his mother to read the story to him several times.

            Stephen King studied at a grammar school in Durham and then transferred to Lisbon Falls High School.  In high school, he showed his writing skills when he wrote weekly for the school newspaper.  He became deeply involved in student politics oftentimes expressing his anti-war sentiment at school campus.  He graduated with a degree in B.A. English at the University of Maine in 1970.

            In 1967, Stephen King was able to sell his first short story to Startling Mystery Stories.  He used his earnings to support Tabitha Spruce whom he married in January of 1971.  He augmented his meager income from writing short stories by teaching high school English at Hampden Academy. 

            In total, Stephen King was able to publish more than one hundred short stories and eight novellas which are indications of his accomplishment.  He is now recognized as the highest earning author in the world after he has published more than thirty novels and sold more than 150 million copies. (“The Body: Teacher’s Notes” 1)  It is also reported that he earns $2 Million a month from the sales of his books and returns from films.  Stephen King’s story is indeed a success story.

II. Themes of Works of Stephen King
            One of the common themes in Stephen King’s books is fear and revenge.  This is emphasized in the novel Carrie.  The novel Carrie is a story about the 16-year old Carrietta or Carrie, the novel’s leading character.  She was a lonely young girl who was an outcast at home and at school.  She was hated not only by her classmates but even by her mother.  The novel begins with a scene in the shower where Carrie is shown to have her first menstrual period.  Her friends start to ridicule her because of the blood they saw.  Carrie was afraid because it was the first time that blood came out from her.  She did not know what to do as her mother did not explain her anything about menstruation.  She was terrified and was afraid of the changes that were happening to her.  Meanwhile, she discovers that she has telekinetic power.  She tries to control her powers so that she will not hurt or harm anybody.  However, she lost control during a school dance when her classmates threw a bucket of pig’s blood on her.   Because of shame she left the dance only to come back later on after she realized that she would use her powers to exact revenge against the people who tormented her.  She then used her powers to burn the school killing everyone inside. 

            Fear and the individual or the public’s reactions to fear are the themes in Salem’s Lot.  At the start of the novel, Stephen King made a clear description about the town.  It was a quiet little town that hides the deepest and darkest secrets of the townspeople.  It hides child abuse and neglect, infidelity and betrayal, rumor mongering, school bullies and physical abuse.  It was clear that the people within the town are described to be leading separate and independent lives from each other.  They are isolated from each other’s problems.  One day, however, some of the townspeople start to mysteriously disappear and die.  Fearing for their own lives and safety, the townspeople start to break down the barriers that keep them apart from each other so that they could fight a common enemy.  

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             Fear and the individual’s response to fear is also the central theme in the Shining.  The only difference is that the main character succumbed to his fear by becoming insane and turning against his own family.  In The Shining, the father Jack Torrance accepted work to oversee a mountain resort during the winter as it was close due to the snow.   He moves to the Overlook Hotel together with his family hoping that he could start a new life and begin writing his play.  However, the mysteries inside the house started to haunt him.  He became insane and attempted to kills his family.  Fortunately, his wife and child escaped from him. 

            One of the unique elements in Stephen King’s novels is that he tries to incorporate actual human experiences in his novels.  While he tackles with the paranormal experiences and the metaphysical in his novels, he never forgets to base his novel from real life experiences.  In his novels, Stephen King highlights that everybody needs to deal with different kinds of fear in his life. (George Beahm 74)  In fact, in one of Stephen King’s novels, he highlighted the top ten fears in his life.  Thus, it is not the presence or absence of fear that defines a person’s character but how he responds to these fears.  The defining moment in a person’s character is how he deals with his own issues.    

For instance, The Shining is the story about a man who was initially good and responsible.  He wanted to start a new life and focus on his writing which is one of the reasons why he accepted the job as a caretaker.  However, his losing battle with alcoholism was taking its toll on him that he could no longer resist alcohol.  When he gave in to alcohol he became insane.  It became apparent that at the time Stephen King was writing The Shining he too was having his own battles with alcohol.  It is one of the reasons why he did not appreciate the movie adaption of his novel since the director disregarded the issue of alcoholism which Stephen King wanted so dearly to be highlighted.  It was an issue that was very personal to Stephen King which he wanted to be emphasized. (“FAQ for The Shining 1)
            Fear is an element that contributes heavily to the theme.  Stephen King first highlights the paranormal and the metaphysical in his works as basis for fear. In Carrie, Stephen King considered that the transition to womanhood was the source of fear.  In The Shining, the hotel was the source of fear.  In Salem’s Lot, the sudden disappearance of the townspeople was the source of the fear. 

Eventually, he lets his characters determine their fate based on how they respond to their own fears.  In the novel Carrie, the main character may have become a better individual.  She may have used her powers for the benefit of humanity.  Yet, she allowed her fears to take over her whole personality.  She became evil when she allowed fear to take control.

            Everybody can learn from the themes discussed by Stephen King in his novels.  First, everybody has a fear of something.  It could be fear of a person, an object or an event.  While a person may hide his fears or run away from his fears for a while.  It will continue to haunt him and to follow him forever.  The only solution is to face these fears and deal with them so that one can start to lead a normal life.  Running away from fear is not the solution.  It is only by accepting these fears and embracing them that one can begin to live with these fears.  

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