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Headscratchers: The Stand
  • Captain Trips is 99.4% communicable and 100% fatal. Those who contract the disease die, period. Those who are immune simply don't contract the disease, and no one knows why, as we're shown with the experiments done on Stu. Yet late in the story, we see Fran's child by Jess (who had died of the disease) fighting it off. It's explained as the baby inheriting half an immunity, and so while he's not completely immune, he's able to "shift" his antibodies to match the shifting antigen of the virus. Setting aside the fact that the human immune system does this normally, hereditary immunity does not work that way! You can't inherit "half" of an immunity. Either you're immune, or you're not. Furthermore, this baby is treated as completely unique, which means that there were, previously, no children with one immune parent and one vulnerable parent? Not even from before the disease hit?
    • The baby isn't so much treated as unique, more so the first one born (and then survive) in boulder. Other children may have been born, but its heavily implied that he still needed a hell of a lot of medical care to survive, and a lot of those born would probably been birthed by amateurs in small groups, which makes it unlikely that they would get the proper care needed. Also this is more WMG but I always took it that the survivors weren't immune as such, but more that their immune systems were especially strong or suited to fight that particular kind of disease, and this was passed, in part, to Peter (or Abagail depending on your choice). Anyway, WMG over!
    • The most likely answer, out-of-universe, is that King didn't really understand heredity or genetics, and since the book was written in the 1970s, the understanding of genetics was probably much less than it is now. In-universe, though, it always struck me that the immunity seemed to be somewhat magical in nature - the only distinguishing feature of the totally-immune is that they have intense dreams (convenient for the battle of Good vs Evil in the book).
    • In-universe, the baby would have received a protective supply of Fran's own antibodies through the placenta and her milk. This could have provided just enough time for its half-immune defenses to kick in, that plague victims didn't survive long enough to have happen. No such protection was available for half-immunes born before the plague, because their disease-immune mothers hadn't yet encountered the superflu and didn't (yet) have a supply of antibodies against it.
    • If immunity to Captain Trips is genetic in-universe, then why were there no cases of more than one person from the same family surviving the initial die-off? In fact, several of the immune people were shown to have at least one parent die of the superflu, showing they couldn't have inherited immunity from both parents.
      • The story doesn't give any great answers. My personal theory is that it's equal parts God did it and Lamark was right. Captain Trips is at least partially supernatural so the survivors were likely hand picked by God and Satan (or Randal Flagg) but once it was added by them or they acquired it they were able to pass it on. Chalk it up to the average person in 1970 knowing virtually nothing about DNA as is mentioned repeatedly here.
  • One thing that bugs me is how Captain Trips remains lethal for so long. The usual trend with viruses is that they tend to mutate towards longer-lasting but less lethal versions fairly rapidly, because that ensures that they hit more hosts. Captain Trips seemed to do some of that - it shifted from a "near-instant killer" to a longer-lasting form with incubation - but how come the lethality of it didn't change?
    • It's a rule, not a law? Alternatively, if that doesn't work for you, it ran through the available population of susceptible hosts to fast?
      • Plus, it's a manufactured virus...
      • Well no, that's not right. Yes, it was bred by scientists, it's essentially a hodgepodge between HIV and influenza, but that doesn't really change its properties in terms of mutation. This is something a lot of people don't understand about virus's, their one and only purpose is to reproduce and survive as a strain, not to kill. A deadly virus is not a successful virus as it KILLS its only mode of reproduction; man made or not a virus will mutate in order to survive, especially a virus capable of rapid and effective antigen shift (mutation) like HIV and Cap'n Trips and if survival means mutating to become far less deadly, then it WILL do that especially once hosts become scarce.
      • In that vein, how was CT an 'instant killer'? It's a virus, not botulism. If I recall correctly they said it killed them in 12 minutes or something in its original form. The fastest death for a viral infection was a little under 12 hours, and that's for very rare, very specific meningitis related encephalitis (swelling of the brain due to viral infection, so it's not even a direct killer). It is literally *physically impossible* for a respiratory virus to multiply fast enough to kill its host in less than a day let alone less than an hour.
      • "Near-instant", not "instant". "12 minutes for a kill" is extremely fast for any disease, never mind a virus.
      • 12 minute lethality is effectively instantaneous for anything besides suffocation, nerve gas, and trauma.
    • Don't forget that the virus is essentially just God's tool for bringing about the Rapture. Maybe it has such an insane kill rate because God wants it that way; Captain Trips is just supernatural enough to convince the faithful, but not so out there that it completely reveals His existence, which would defeat the whole "faith without proof" thing that He puts such stock in.
  • Oh boy, where to start... How did Charlie Campion contract CT? He was a gate guard, he sat around in a separate kiosk outside and 150 meters above the actual lab! Was the virus so contagious that it ghosted through hundreds of meters of dirt and concrete to dust some hick patrolling the gate? In the same vein, how did it even get to the whole facility? Bio-weapon labs are independent of the building for this very reason. (.2.) Shifting antigen virus's cannot become airborne, the protein shell necessary to survive being outside a host body for more than a few minutes by its very nature excludes the possibility of a virus being of the shifting antigen variety; a bulky protein shell is basically a 'grab me' sign for T-Cells. (.3.) How is Captain Trips still around to infect shut-in survivors and newborn babies? Is it just floating around in the air? It killed all its possible hosts well into 99.4%, how is it still around? Viral residue? After a month? Has no one gotten around to giving the *maternity ward* a once over with Lysol? 4.) Who would side with Randall Flagg other than those who were strong-armed into it? 'Oh yeah, he's great! A good leader, very charismatic. A slight hiccup though, he may be SATAN!' People are wetting themselves whenever he smiles and the grass dies wherever he walks! Um... Red Flagg?
    • 1.) Any kind of breach could have a security guard end up with the virus. Either the containment facilities started leaking, or maybe a patient escaped and infected a ton of people, not just guards, and Campion was the only one to actually escape. With point 3, it can be assumed that the survivors become carriers of Captain Trips. And for 4, look at the type of people in Las Vegas during Flagg's chapters: you have outcasts, outlaws, and a lot of maladjusted people, to say nothing of the ones who aren't religious and don't see the supernatural element (or explain it away). Finally, you have a ton of people who get the Nevada dreams and just want the security of civilization.
2.) Going back to point 3 above, those immune to captain trips were not carriers. In the complete uncut edition of The Stand, on page 166 it is specifically stated that Stu Redman's immune system KILLED the virus when he was injected with it. If a subject kills a given virus, then by definition it is not a host since they cannot infect anyone else.
  • Thank you! The fact that the guard somehow got sick bugged the hell out of me.
  • Possible answers to four: The two people we see him actively recruit - Lloyd and Trash - he treats with more kindness and respect than anyone has treated them in their whole lives. It's only later that the abuse begins. As for the rest, they're a bunch of scared, lonely, traumatized people in a post-apocalyptic world. He gives them direction and leads them to a place where they have fellowship (on the surface, at least) and all the things they've come to depend on for survival as residents of 20th-century America. If nothing else, they think he's going to win.
    • Plus, Flagg's society is built on people being active and working together. He makes a bunch of scared, confused people do things to keep them busy, while maintaining a (relatively) logical 'be the best that you can be' philosophy, as is evident when he crucifies a man who takes drugs since he can't function while on them.
    • Is this really that hard to believe? People have been following evil, horrible leaders for time out of mind. Lots of people don't care whether someone nice is in charge as long as they believe he's a) powerful and b) on their side.
  • Campion was stationed in a tower on the complex grounds; not the main gate. Hermetically sealing off an underground base is a damn good way to asphyxiate anyone that might have to work inside of it. Not to mention that CT seems to make its way through the CDC's filtration suits in fairly short order.
  • Campion is only a gate guard in the series. In the book, he is assigned to a tower which is part of the main building.
  • In the miniseries at least, there are slow, lingering shots of the vents and pipes presumably releasing air from below before the release. Presumably CT was sent up through there as well as part of the containment breach.
  • The nuclear bomb. One, nukes do not emit sufficient radiation when standing idle to actually be a threat to those around them. Two, a nuclear weapon will end up inert(due to lack of external cooling systems which prevent heat from breaking down the core) if separated from the maintenance infrastructure for more than a day or so. Three, it takes a whole hell of a lot to set off a 70's era nuke, due to them being manufactured with countless safety devices which prevent accidental triggering.
    • Answer to three: blatant and shameless Deus Ex Machina Nukina.
      • Exactly - while not "from a machine", it basically is God in action.
    • The bomb is set off by the Hand of God. In the story, a hand-shaped fiery supernatural force literally appears and reaches for the bomb. I'm sure you're correct about all of these technicalities, but according to the story god literally made it go kaboom because he wanted to.
      • Not quite. The energy was already there, emitted by Flagg to kill the protester from the audience. It just is turned into a hand shape (or what looked vaguely like a hand to one character for an instant before he died, perhaps moved by the power of suggestion and by the fact that it all happened so fast) and directed into the bomb by something else, presumed to be God, perhaps the will of the Beam or the Tower (Gan, also speculated by some to be the same as God). But yes, that's what set off the bomb.
    • I've only seen the movie, but weren't those solar burns? From riding across the desert for at least nearly two days with no sunblock, hat, or roof? The fact that there was pale skin under the goggles was kind of a hint towards that.
      • They might have been sun burns in the mini-series, but the way the book describes them, Trash is obviously supposed to be suffering from radiation poisoning.
    • He might have received the near-fatal radiation dose in the base itself somehow, one can't tell what the dying soldiers did there.
    • For that matter, how the hell did his ATV hold enough gas to drive such a great distance across the desert?
  • Glen mentions that all the weapons of the old world are just laying around, waiting for someone to pick them up and use them. We're given examples of fighter jets and nuclear missiles. How is it that, in a world so depopulated that Boulder's chief medical agent is a veterinarian, Flagg's group can find enough people so highly specialized that they can service military jets? The nuclear weapons issue is even more ridiculous because even if you were so lucky as to find a survivor who knew anything more than that nuclear weapons make big booms when detonated, they would also have to know how to circumvent the complex security systems installed on them which are designed specifically to prevent any but a very select few to ever have the capability of arming them. It would seem to me that a world in which 0.6% of humanity survives, the only weaponry laying around which could be of any practical use to anyone would be small arms and simpler heavy weapons.
    • The nuclear weapon is found by Trashcan Man, who has a God or Satan-given ability to find and use things like that. As far as the security protocols and accelerometers go, bear in mind that in the end a nuclear bomb is just a bunch of explosive lenses around a plutonium shell, if the thing can go boom without damaging the lenses, the shell will implode and fission will result. It may not be the optimal yield, but it's probably enough. As far as the jets, the current US Air Force has 300,000 active duty personnel (most of whom are enlisted technicians of some sort or another) and there's probably several million retired or separated, along with the aviation branches of the other services, commercial aviation mechanics, and "other". So there's probably several hundred to several thousand people out there with functional knowledge of aircraft systems. Glen mentions early on that Flagg is going to get most of the technicians, simply because they're going to go where they're wanted most.
    • Also recall that Flagg has tasked the tiny number of pilots he has with training new pilots, and Trashcan Man kills them all for making fun of him. So it clearly was an almost extinct knowledge base.
  • I never got what Glen meant when he called Flagg "the last magician of rational thought." Flagg and rational don't belong in the same sentence together. The guy causes pain and destruction based almost entirely on whim, starts using mystical powers without being much interested in where they came from, and every interaction he has with another person revolves around the inexplicable terror or magnetism his appearance inspires in them. If anything, Flagg's the champion of irrational thought.
    • Presumably Flagg's interest in using technology (including the sort that engineered the plague, presumably) to dominate and control society. To paraphrase Evil from Time Bandits, forget about committees, flowers and platypuses! Flagg would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, day one!
    • Been a while but I think he probably meant the last true wizard in the age of rational thought.
      • Indeed. Flagg is going to use the tools of the modern world to wipe out Boulder. That's why he was working on getting jets ready to fly, gathering weapons, and planning to cross the Rockies in spring and wipe everyone out. He's going for a secular solution, despite being a supernatural being. And when you consider Boulder's ultimate response(send out four men armed only with belief), the contrast becomes even clearer: the four men are opting for a supernatural solution.
  • Do Fran and Stu really think that moving from Boulder back to Ogunquit is going to be a good idea in the long run? They're going to be a tiny, isolated group. Nobody is keeping up the roads, dams, or ditches, so they're going to be a tiny, permanently isolated group. Eventually the machinery around them is going to run out of fuel and spare parts, so they'll be a tiny, permanently isolated group doing manual labor all day long. There aren't enough of them to allow for anybody to specialize in anything (such as medicine or making new tools)—even if they could find the books and equipment, there simply won't be any time to spare from day-to-day survival. And who are their kids going to marry?
    • To answer your question about them lacking specialization: they don't need specialization. There're three of them, and they have a ton of free stuff lying around. They can clothe themselves, shelter themselves and have all the tools and furniture they could ever want with minimal effort. Their only immediate concerns are food and water, and even that will remain plentiful for a few years until everything expires. Also, Fran says something about Boulder not really being "needed" anymore, and tons of people moving out of town, so it's not like they're the only ones. I agree, it's a dumbass decision if she's pregnant again (I can't remember if she was or not), but barring that immediate medical emergency she should be alright.
    • I always thought that it's ridicolously irresponsible. Stu brings up that they could get sick, and Fran says that there are "books and good drugs, we can learn to use them". Um... no, you can't. You can't learn medicine just from books. And this is a woman who have seen a man die from appendicitis, because there was no doctor around!
      • can learn first aid and some stuff, but not nearly enough to make it totally on your own, given they're without anyone else in the area...if it were really that easy, doctors wouldn't need years of medical school. It's true that our ancestors made it in the new world, but even they had communities to help, and most of us know from history class how high the death rate was during the Pilgrim days.
      • Add to that the fact that drugs only last a year or so tops, and then they lose their effectiveness. And it's not like they can make more.
      • Finally, Frannie's pregnant again. A vaginal birth after Caesarian is possible, but needs a doctor's supervision because there are still chances of problems.
      • The one theory I was able to come up with is that perhaps people would spread out fairly fast and more would come east, but even then, they're not guaranteed to meet up with anyone.
    • The other thing I thought of with Stu and Frannie is that not everyone in the country is in the Free Zone and not every single bad person in the country died in Vegas...they'd end up in trouble if they met a hostile group on their way East.
    • We're talking about a guy who was personally saved by God. He's maybe a little overconfident based upon that.

  • If one of the major themes of the book is that the works of human hands inevitably turn evil, why are the dogs all heroes and the wolves villains? I would expect to find junkyard dogs following Randall Flagg and wolves staying the hell away from him.
  • Why does the disease have the nickname 'Captain Trips'? I'm British so this may be an American cultural reference I'm not familiar with. Can someone explain it to me?
    • We're just as lost as you, my friend from across the pond. Another name for it in the story is "Tube Neck", which seems like it would fit better considering the symptoms. The closest I can come to an explanation is that the term "Captain Trips" originally came from a short story King had previously written about a disease with the same name which had affected the entire West coast of the United States save for a few teenagers in California(I think).
    • "Captain Trips" is/was Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead's nickname. Stephen King, we can only imagine, liked the band and decided it sounded cool as a disease.
    • From my searching (I'm an Aussie, so I'd never heard the phrase either), it appears that "Captain Trips" is a drug hangover (or something), ie. the bad morning you have after a night on what illicit substances ails you. That's mainly urban dictionary though, so no idea how reliable that is.
    • Nicknames for things don't always make sense. Someone at some point probably had a reason for calling it Captain Tripps, and the name caught on 'cause people have gotta call it something.
  • Why can't Flagg remember who he is when he wakes up on a island at the end of the book?
    • He was just hit by a nuclear warhead. I think it's fair he was a bit disoriented.
    • Keep in mind, he shows constant forgetting of who he is, as well as multiple names and 'selves', throughout the entire book; the nuke was enough to cause him to go to another persona with the RF initials.
  • Why is Mother Abigail's age changed from 108 to 106 in the miniseries? Seems kind of arbitrary.
    • I always thought it was a Throw It In—maybe the actress flubbed the line (or it was a typo in the script) but no one cared enough to fix it.
  • Why does Flagg have an alias with the surname "Freemantle" and no one notes that?
    • Most of the characters in the book only seem to know him as Randall Flagg or RF (or The Dark Man or the Walkin' Dude), not by any of his other aliases. Perhaps the Freemantle alias (he joins up with a Black militia-type group during his "back story," as well, although no one notices he's not Black) is meant to show him as a sort of dark side of Mother Abagail.
  • Stu dooms America to destruction when he shuts off Hap's pumps!
    • Of course, Campion had already made it across a huge swath of America by then. Arguably, he'd already infected enough people to doom the world.
      • Exactly; when the EMTs load him into the ambulance at Hap's Texaco he says that his wife and daughter had woken up sick two days earlier in Salt Lake City. I somehow doubt that Campion and his family did not encounter a single person between the base in the middle of the California desert and Arnette, Texas, especially with a stop over in Salt Lake City.
    • This is noted in the miniseries when one of the characters says he doomed them when he sat down for his first fast-food burger. Also, the expanded version of the novel has a chapter devoted to characters interacting with other characters and spreading it en masse (the sheriff from Arnette pulls over an insurance salesman who stops at a diner and infects the woman at the next table and so on).
  • I realize it's sort of silly to ask about the thought process of the Satan analogue who's slowly losing his mind, especially when the question is essentially, "Why was he such a dick," but...why did Flagg kill Harold? Lauder's a smart guy, very clever, and would undoubtedly prove useful in Vegas. Nadine made clear from the beginning of her tryst with Harold that Flagg was her ultimate goal, and Harold was OK with it. And by the time Harold and Nadine leave Boulder the former isn't really that fond of the latter. So it seems odd to worry about any jealous fits from Harold, especially considering that Flagg could snuff one out real quick. Killing Harold just seems like needless betrayal for the sake of needless betrayal.
    • Flagg himself stated that the reason he killed Harold was because Harold was "too full of thoughts". You said it yourself: Harold Lauder was a smart guy, and very clever. A smart and clever enough guy, who wasn't anything close to pure evil (more angry and sad) and in the end revealed that he was genuinely sorry for all that he had done wrong, would probably figure out what Flagg was and what he was doing rather quickly, and would probably do his damnedest to try and stop him. He was also, much like The Kid, unstable. Combined with his intellect and that bit of goodness in him, that made him hard to predict. In short, Flagg killed Harold because Harold was a dangerous and intelligent Wild Card that he probably couldn't maintain control of for very long, and thus needed to be dealt with before he could do any damage to Flagg's empire.
  • Why exactly is the US government being so obstructive in the face of Armageddon during the plague? If a virus breaks out, manmade or not, you don't conceal it and hide the very existence of it. You warn everybody and quarantine the world. You don't shoot up anybody who has the plague. Is this only because Stephen King wanted the US government and the rest of the world out of the way as quickly as possible to tell his story about the survivors?
    • It's demonstrating how a cover-your-ass mentality, combined with an unthinking, unblinking devotion to following orders, plays out in the deadliest possible circumstances. You create a biological weapon, never thinking it'll get into circulation, and you create a couple of reasonable-sounding precautionary measures to deflect international opprobrium should something happen. But once something happens, no one involved really thinks through the ramifications of following through on those precautions in reality, and they just swing into gear, no matter how stupid or brutal the actions are.
  • About one and a half million people live on Manhattan island. If 96.4 percent of them died from the flu, there should have been about 9000 immune survivors on the island. Most of them would probably have been converging on the very limited number of ways to get off the island during a limited window of time, so there should have been dozens — maybe hundreds — of people going through the tunnel with the two characters we were following.
    • You're making a lot of assumptions there, not all of which are warranted. Just because 9000 Manhattanites would have survived Capt. Trips doesn't mean they A) would have survived all the other fiascoes, like the Government shooting civilians, looters, opportunistic secondary diseases, their own other pre-existing conditions, etc. or B) that they all would have waited as Larry did until after the majority of the death had occurred before trying to GTFO of dodge or C) that they would have shown themselves to Larry even if they were there.
      • And in the book, Larry and Rita do encounter one fellow survivor who is just lying on top of a car, soaking up some sunshine, during their trek to the Lincoln Tunnel. Presumably the other survivors are all scattered around Manhattan and are all trying to get out of the island by their own means.
    • Remember the "second deaths" in the extended edition.
  • I just finished reading the book a couple of days ago, and just now (upon reading the TV Tropes article) found that the virus was supposed to wipe out 99.4% of humanity. Where are people getting that number from? It isn't mentioned anywhere in the book that I saw. Is that Word of God? Am I missing something?
    • It is mentioned in the book, though it might only be in the extended edition. As I recall, it was in a memo from the lab that created it. The official designation for the disease is "Constantly Shifting A-Prime Flu". It isn't that the disease is supposed to wipe out 99.4% of humanity; that's just what the lab tests say is the communicability rate.
      • OP here. I did read the extended version, and I must have missed that mention of the communicability. That said 99.4% communicable and 99.4% of humanity dead are not really the same thing, are they? I guess it's close enough, since the book never dwells on the figure at any point past it's initial mention.
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