Literature / Different Seasons
First edition cover.

"It is the tale, not he who tells it."

Different Seasons is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. Published in 1982, it represented something of a departure for King at that point, as three of the novellas were straight dramatic stories (albeit with some horrific elements) that did not deal with the supernatural fiction that he was known for.

The four novellas in Different Seasons are, in order presented:

  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (or, Hope Springs Eternal) - Hope springs eternal, even in prison. Made into the number one movie on IMDb's Top 250.
  • Apt Pupil (or, Summer of Corruption) - A teenage boy learns about the Holocaust right from the source. Made into a movie starring Sir Ian McKellen.
  • The Body (or, Fall from Innocence) - Four young friends trek into the woods to see another boy's corpse. Made into a movie under the title Stand by Me.
  • The Breathing Method (or, A Winter's Tale) - A single woman wants to carry her child to term, no matter what. Has never been made into a movie, and it would probably be really hard to do so.

In addition to the novellas, the book contains an afterword by King in which he speaks about being typecast as a horror writer, and the plight of the unfortunate author who has written a story that is too short to be sold as a novel, and yet too long to comfortably be printed by short-fiction magazines and anthologies.

The tropes present in Shawshank and Stand by Me can be found on their respective movies' pages.

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    Apt Pupil contains examples of: 

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original ending was pure Nightmare Fuel, with Todd murdering his guidance counsellor and going on a 5-hour shooting spree in a populated area before getting shot to death by the police. In the film he just blackmails the guy to keep the secret about Todd's connections to Kurt Dussander and goes off to college.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Although obsessed with Nazi crimes in both versions, Todd is a lot less nasty in the film version than he is in the novella. In the book he is a budding sociopath who fantasizes about raping a captive woman in a concentration camp and, together with Dussander, becomes a serial killer of hobos before he kills his guidance counsellor and finally goes on a killing spree that ends in his death. In the film Todd comes across as more disturbed and immature than unfeeling and homicidal, doesn't have anything as explicit as a rape fantasy during his dreams about the camps, he and Dussander only kill one homeless person who found out that Dussander was a former Nazi, and Todd simply blackmails his guidance counsellor and goes to college after Dussander dies.
  • The All-American Boy: Todd is introduced as one in the opening sentence: "He looked like the total all-American kid as he pedalled his twenty-six-inch Schwinn with the ape-hanger handlebars up the residential suburban street, and that's just what he was..." Of course, he ends up veering very far from this type, but preserves the outward image.
  • Ax-Crazy: Todd is seriously messed up thanks to his fixation on the Holocaust.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: After he breaks his back and gets paralyzed for the waist down, Morris Heisel tries to console himself by thinking about how many people have it worse than him - and how he himself used to have it worse, since he's a Holocaust survivor.
  • The Atoner: Very darkly subverted. At first, Dussander tries to avoid discussing his past with Todd and is reluctant to go into any detail about it, seemingly out of shame and remorse for the things he had done. The more information Todd coaxes out of him, however, the more Dussander begins recalling his past atrocities with fondness and admiration, and with that comes the desire to relive them. It quickly becomes clear that he had never repented of his evil, but merely suppressed it.
  • Bad Dreams: Kurt Dussander, who used to be a commander of a Nazi concentration camp, frequently has nightmares about it. He eventually commits suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, and he ends up dreaming those dreams — forever.
    • Todd's first wet dream is of Dussander directing him to rape a Jewish prisoner as part of an "experiment."
  • Brick Joke: "He doesn't look like Peter Wimsey at all."
  • Broken Ace: Todd Bowden is an A student who becomes morbidly fascinated with the Holocaust and blackmails Dussander into giving him more gruesome details. This eventually causes him (and Dussander) to snap.
  • Cool Old Guy: Subverted, in that the reason Todd thinks Dussander is "cool" is because he killed thousands of people and can dispense every grisly detail.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Starts when Todd finds magazines about World War II in his friend's garage and becomes morbidly fascinated by the Holocaust. Continues when he decides to get firsthand "gooshy stuff" from Dussander instead of turning him in. Finally ends with Todd becoming a multiple murderer.
  • Crisis of Faith: Morris Heisel survived the Holocaust, while his first wife and his two daughters perished. Decades later, after he falls from a ladder, breaks his spine and becomes crippled, he declares what he has long believed is true; there is no God. He regains his faith in God after he ends up in the same hospital room with Dussander, who was the commander of the camp he was imprisoned in, and manages to identify him, which leads to Dussander's capture.
  • Dead Man Switch: Todd, while blackmailing Dussander, claims he left a letter (exposing Dussander) with a friend, to be opened and read in the event of his own death. When Dussander turns the tables and blackmails Todd, he claims that he left a complete account of Todd's actions in a bank deposit box, to be opened and read on the event of Dussander's death. They're both bluffing.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Todd is implied to have latent homosexual feelings.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Todd begins killing homeless "winos" as he grows older. Dussander also begins killing local homeless, and doesn't reveal he knows what Todd has been up to until much later.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Invoked in-universe. Todd started to "groove" on the Holocaust by reading old war magazines which condemned the murders of six million Jews, right before printing ads which sold Nazi paraphernalia.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: This is implied to happen to Dussander when he dies of a sleeping pill overdose.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Pretty much the whole point of the novella.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dussander comes off as unfailingly polite and courteous in proper company, such as when he warmly chats with a young nurse about her engagement and says to tell him everything, and omit nothing. His fellow convalescent recognizes to his horror that the words and tone Dussander uses are the exact same as those of the concentration camp commander who interrogated him long ago.
  • From Bad to Worse: The whole last thirty pages or so is the systematic unraveling of both Todd's web of lies and his sanity. First, Rubber Ed finds out about Todd's earlier deception where Dussander posed as his grandfather. Then, he finds out about the doctored report cards. Then, Dussander gets identified and reported by one of his former victims. Then, Dussander commits suicide, wearing on Todd's nerves even more with the fear of his non-existent document. Then, the police find the remains of Dussander's murders. Then, they start to suspect Todd of associating with Dussander, while the Israeli agent suspects him of the bum murders. Then, Rubber Ed sees that the man who posed as Todd's grandfather was a Nazi war criminal. Then, a bum fingers Todd on his murders, having seen him walk off with a victim and then seen his picture in the paper. Then, Rubber Ed confronts Todd and is killed for his troubles. And THEN, Todd goes completely insane and dies committing a massacre.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: The circumstances leading Morris Heisel to identify Dussander restores his faith in God.
  • Hey, You!: Dussander never uses Todd's name; instead, he always calls him "boy". Even when he impersonates Todd's grandfather (which is noticed by Rubber Ed, the guidance counsellor). Todd is annoyed by this:
    Dussander had always called him 'boy'. Only that. Contemptuous. Anonymous. Yes, that was it, anonymous. As anonymous as a concentration camp serial number.
    • Dussander does use Todd's name a few times over the course of the story, just not in the context of addressing Todd personally.
      • The reason he doesn't do so may have something to do with the fact that 'Tod' is the German word for 'death'.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: One of the most twisted imaginable.
  • Karma Houdini: Todd in the film version, which removes his final massacre. It's left ambiguous whether he does manage to beat the rap for his involvement with Dussander, with the film ending after he states his intention to blackmail Ed into keeping quiet, by claiming he's made inappropriate gestures towards him in exchange for good grades.
  • Kick the Dog: Todd squashes an injured blue jay with his bike tire and proceeds to go back and forth over its corpse for no reason whatsoever.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Todd has a girlfriend because he wants to look normal. However, by this time, he is a misogynistic, hateful monster, and he's only able to perform when he's thinking of rape and abuse; eventually, not even then.
  • Meaningful Name / Bilingual Bonus: At one point Todd muses on the fact that Dussander never calls him by his name. It's not stated outright in the text, but it may be because "tod" is German for death.
  • Mythology Gag: Dussander tells Todd that he now lives on stock dividends—stocks that were picked out for him by a banker in Maine who went to prison for murdering his wife....
    Dussander: "Dufresne, his name was—I remember, because it sounds a little like mine. It seems he was not so smart at wife-killing as he was at picking growth stocks."
    • "Denker" is the name of the sadistic teacher in Jack Torrance's play, The Little School.
  • Nazi Grandpa: Arthur Denker — real name Kurt Dussander. He pretends to be a German emigrant who fought in the army during the war; he was actually the commander of a minor concentration camp.
  • Nazi Protagonist: The two main characters are an ex-Nazi (Dussander) and a young boy (Todd) who wants to learn everything about Dussander's time in Germany.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Only one sentence is used to describe Todd's shooting spree at the end of the story.
  • Punch Clock Villain:
    • Dussander claims to be one at first: "The problem was not of my making, nor was the solution. I was given orders and directives, which I followed." However, as we found out later, he's actually a sadistic monster.
    • Weiskopf, the Israeli agent sent to America after Dussander's secret is exposed says this about the architects of a possible new Holocaust: "I think most of them would look like ordinary accountants. Little mind-men with graphs and flow-charts and electronic calculators, all ready to start maximizing the kill ratios so that next time we could perhaps kill twenty or thirty millions instead of only seven or eight or twelve."
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Morris Heisel is a Holocaust survivor whose first wife, Ruth, died in a concentration camp. He imagines what he would say, if God appeared to him like he did to Job and said "Where were you when I made the world?"
    Where were You when my Ruth was dying, You potzer, You? Watching the Yankees and the Senators? If You can't pay attention to Your business better than this, get out of my face.
  • Really Gets Around: Todd's girlfriend, Betty Trask. According to Todd, she "was the kind of girl who fucked on the first date. On every date. And in between dates."
  • Retired Monster: Todd is fascinated by his old neighbour, Kurt Dussander, who took part in Nazi atrocities. His increasing fascination with the old man slowly brings back the monster in him, and awakens it in Todd.
  • Retired Badass: Dussander, a Nazi general that's killed thousands of people and who escaped to America and lives a quiet life in a small town.
  • Serial Killer: Both Dussander and Todd become serial killers of homeless alcoholics.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The film adaptation spares the lives of both Todd himself and his guidance counsellor. In the novella, Todd kills him before going on a shooting spree that ultimately ends with Todd being taken down by the police.
  • Stand-In Parents: Dussander attends a parent/teacher conference at Todd's school, impersonating his grandfather so that they can manage to keep Todd's parents from finding out that his grades are in free fall.
  • Stepford Smiler: Todd maintains the image of a cheery all-American golden boy even while he's blackmailing the neighbourhood Nazi-in-hiding into telling gruesome concentration camp stories. It's all downhill from there.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Todd. He learns that his elderly next-door neighbour is a Nazi fugitive, but doesn't turn him in because he wants to learn the "gooshy stuff" about the Holocaust. As his Odd Friendship with the Nazi continues, Todd graduates from dreaming about raping concentration camp inmates to becoming a hobo-mauling serial killer. Finally, Todd kills his guidance counsellor and snipes motorists on an expressway.
  • That Poor Cat: Used repeatedly when Dussander is trying to force the cat into the oven. It manages to get away in the film version, but isn't so lucky in the novella.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: One of the first things we learn about 13-year-old Todd Bowden is that his thought process and manner of speech are both incredibly mature for a kid his age. The next thing we learn is that he has a very disturbing fascination with the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and is very eager to hear all the "gooshy" details from a firsthand source. Things get a lot worse from there.
  • You Are What You Hate: Todd is repulsed by one of his girlfriends, thinking that she is Jewish (due to the influence Dussander has had on him). He himself is 1/8 Jewish.
    • Dussander himself claims he and Todd have something in common; in that Dussander's mother was a Jew — it is unclear whether he was serious or joking.

    The Breathing Method contains examples of: 

  • Determinator: Sandra. After being decapitated in a car accident, she refuses to die until she gives birth.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sandra tells Dr. McCarron the story of how her boss fired her when her pregnancy began to show, in the process treating her very shabbily. It made Sandra so angry that to avoid blowing up and trashing the office, she controlled herself using the Breathing Method.
  • Eldritch Location: The club itself is implied to be one. Adley reads several novels and poetry collections there that have no evidence of existing anywhere outside the clubhouse, and near the end of the story he takes notice of a corridor leading out of the main chamber that he doesn't recall ever being there before.
  • Losing Your Head: Sandra Stansfield, who's about to give birth is decapitated in a car accident in front of the hospital. She remains alive and conscious for several minutes from sheer willpower until she gives birth to her son.
  • Meaningful Name: Stevens, the Club's butler.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Dr. McCarron specifically cautions Sandra against this, relating to her an anecdote of a woman who used a girdle to hide her condition, possibly causing the birth defects her child ended up with.
  • Orphaned Punchline: A horror variant: readers will eternally wonder how a man could drown in a telephone booth, or why "His head is still speaking in the earth!"
  • Riddle for the Ages: There's something strange about the club. It has books that cannot be found anywhere else, published by companies nobody has ever heard of. The narrator once tries to ask Stevens, the butler about where all these things come from. But all he manages to ask is: "Are there many more rooms upstairs?"
    Stevens: Oh, yes, sir. A great many. A man could become lost. In fact, men have become lost. Sometimes it seems to me that they go on for miles. Rooms and corridors.
  • Screaming Birth: Averted. Sandra practices the titular breathing method, which is designed to let the woman "use her breath for something more useful than screaming". Unfortunately, this is a contributing factor in her death; the taxi driver taking her to hospital is creeped out when she's breathing heavily but not screaming, turns to check if she's okay, skids on a patch of ice, and crashes the cab, killing her, though she doesn't let a little thing like decapitation interfere with the delivery of her child. The narrator, Dr McCarron, mentions that this was very common in the '30s, since women heard from everywhere that giving birth is very painful -- so it turned out to be painful.
  • Sequel Hook: "Yes, always more tales. And perhaps, one day, I'll tell you another." (In fact, there is a sequel-of-sorts about the Club at 249B: "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands" from Skeleton Crew.)
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The narrator attends a gentlemen's club which features storytelling as well as the usual socialising, brandy-drinking and the like. There's something eerie about the club, but we never find out exactly what it is.
  • Year X: In the framing story, David Adley first starts attending The Club in 196-, and Emlyn McCarron tells the Breathing Method story in 197-. Throughout the entire novella, no last numbers are given for any dates.

Alternative Title(s): Apt Pupil