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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 suspected 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mossad: When Dussander is discovered, Dick Bowden is worried about the police and the Israeli agent speaking to Todd as he thinks that the Israeli agent is part of the Mossad and he has heard they are "a little too professional" in their dealings. The Israeli agent isn't Mossad, however.
- 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....
, 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."
- 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.
- 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 "gooey 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.
- 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:
- Eldritch Location: The club itself is implied to be one.
- 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.
- 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 do all these things coming 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.