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The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years — if it ever did end — began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.It
is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King
. The story is about seven children being terrorized by a malevolent monster — known only as It — that takes the form of their deepest fears but primarily appears in the form of a clown, calling itself "Pennywise the Dancing Clown"
. The novel features a nonlinear narrative which alternates between two different time periods (1958 and 1985) and shifts among the different perspectives and stories of its seven protagonists. It deals with themes which would eventually become King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and the ugliness lurking behind a small-town façade.
One of the most popular Stephen King novels and widely regarded as a horror classic, It
is also one of the darkest and most frightening, its subject matter being a child-killing supernatural monster with Adults Are Useless
in effect for at least half the story. And yet weirdly enough, there are some really uplifting moments. Along with The Stand
it is one of the stories that cemented King's reputation as the premier modern horror writer, and like The Stand
, it is one of the few examples of an epic horror novel
in literature at over a thousand pages.
In 1990, the novel was loosely adapted into a television movie featuring John Ritter as Ben Hanscom, Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier, Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon, Annette O'Toole as Beverly Marsh, Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak, Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough and Tim Curry
as Pennywise in a career-defining role.
On March 12th, 2009, Warner Bros. (who owned Lorimar
when the original TV adaption was made, but was folded into Warner Bros. TV in 1993) announced that the production of a remake of IT had started. Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Doug Davison are set to produce.
Not to be confused with the 1927 silent film of the same name, which introduced the phrase "It Girl" to the world, or 1958's It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Or the Big Bad
of A Wrinkle in Time
, or the Psammead of Five Children and It
. Or the guys down in the sub-basement who run the TV Tropes Server
. We hope. Or the pronoun.
It provides examples of the following tropes:
- Kick the Dog: A literal example; Henry poisons Mike's dog For the Evulz. Followed by a righteous The Dog Bites Back moment during the "apocalyptic rock fight." While chasing and taunting Mike, Henry reveals that he killed Mr. Chips. The Losers' Club, all seven, who've all had run-ins with Henry by that point, pelt Henry with rocks until he gives in. Henry stays out of the Barrens from that point forward.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The members of the Losers Club all suffer Derry-related amnesia after defeating IT in the 50's and leaving Derry. The exception is Mike, who stuck around town.
- Laugh Themselves Sick / Laughing Mad / Tension-Cutting Laughter : The Losers laugh a lot, because Richie is the Class Clown, but noted in the book as a response to terror.
- Let's Split Up, Gang: Subverted. When Bill and Richie are exploring the basement of the house on Neibolt Street, Bill starts to suggest this. Richie cuts him off with a resounding "Fuck that!"
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Cemetery Dance released one for the novel's 25th anniversary.
- Load-Bearing Boss: A flood destroys Derry not long after It's death. It's implied that It was allowing the town to exist in exchange for providing IT victims every 27 years.
- Lucky Seven: The last third of the text uses seven as a motif, in that for their particular "magic" to work, the Losers Club has to have all seven members present, or their bond isn't as strong. In the film version, they refer to themselves as "Lucky Seven."
- Mama Bear: Mrs. Kaspbrak, described in almost these exact words, when Eddie is in hospital after Henry breaks his arm.
- Man Child: Adrian Mellon is described as "rather childlike." Henry never really progressed past the twelve-year-old bully. And IT describes Ben, Bill and Richie as "boy-men" during their final confrontation.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Eddie averts this in The Movie.
- Mind Rape: Pennywise is very fond of messing with the Losers Club's heads.
- Misfortune Cookie: After the Losers have dinner at a Chinese restaurant, they get freaked out when the fortune cookies crack open to reveal all sorts of horrible things inside. (The Nostalgia Critic refers to them as "Marilyn Manson’s wind-up toys".)
- Monster Clown: Pennywise, a literal monster in the form of a clown.
- Morphic Resonance: Several of Its forms have orange pom-poms.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Bill Denbrough grows up to be a horror writer. Bev's friend Kay Mc Call is an author of feminist non-fiction.
- Mythology Gag: When Richard Macklin is convicted for the murder of his stepson Dorsey, he is sent to Shawshank State Prison.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: The cops interrogating the young men that assaulted Adrian Mellon, a gay man, throwing him off a bridge and into the Derry canal to his death (at the hands of Pennywise), would love nothing more than to see the local gay bar close its doors for good. However, they react with anger and disgust at the brutal way in which Mellon was beaten and they look forward to throwing the book at the three punks who did it.
- N-Word Privileges: A variant on this in that the Loser's Club all have "N-word privileges" with respect to each other. Thus, it's okay for a member of the club to make fun of Stan for being Jewish or Ben for being fat or Bill for his stutter, but God help any outsider who does the same thing.
- Averted in the literal sense, which Richie does add a rather inappropriate (by today's standard, if not that of 1958) southern black caricature voice to his repertoire after Mike's arrival, he does it good-naturedly, not out of maliciousness, and none of the Losers even use the actual N-Word directed at Mike.
- Non-Indicative Title: An odd example. "It" is actually female (and pregnant).
- Officer O'Hara: Mr. Nell, who provides the basis for Richie's "Irish Cop" Voice.
- Offing the Mouth: Richie Tozier is a largely involuntary Deadpan Snarker who must mock others whenever he notices something he can mock people for, and this is the reason Henry Bowers is out to get him, and along with the others of the Losers, out to kill him.
- Offstage Villainy: Pennywise in the miniseries for obvious reasons.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Eddie Corcoran and Eddie Kaspbrak. Bill also (presumably) shares the name "William" with Michael Hanlon's father, though he goes by "Will."
- Parental Incest: Implied that this is what Beverly's father wanted to do to her (especially during the scene in which Mrs Kersh turns into a witch and then into her father (provided that IT was not just messing with her and was channeling the truth). Earlier on, Beverly's mother asks her if her father ever touched her (which Beverly doesn't understand).
- Parental Obliviousness
- Placebo Effect: Eddie's asthma is revealed to be psychosomatic, and his medication is a placebo.
- Police Are Useless: The Losers don't even bother to go to the cops because they are Genre Savvy enough to know they won't be any help. Also invoked by Mike's father after Henry attacks him and drenches him head to toe in mud; Mike's mother demands he call the cops, but dear ol' Dad doesn't do so because he doesn't care for the police chief Borton and views him as a spineless jellyfish who won't side with him.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Pennywise himself, along with Henry and Butch Bowers.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: For obvious reasons, (in that they are all around eleven years old), the scene where the six male members of the Loser's Club have sex with Beverly in succession (It Makes Sense in Context) is omitted from the visual adaptations of the book.
- The Power of Friendship: One of the major themes in the book is of childhood friends who have long since gone their separate ways but must now come together to defeat the Big Bad.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Spider and the Turtle. One actively hunts down and eats human children while the other just sits on the edge of forever, seeing it all happen and "helping" the Losers during their first confrontation with It. The Spider berates it for just sitting there, offering seemingly useless advice. That the Spider's eyes are described as ruby-red while the Turtle's shell is some blueish-greenish color also reinforces the trope. Arguably, the brash and heroic Bill, Beverly, and Richie, against the more reserved Mike, Eddie, and Stan. Ben fits somewhere in the middle.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Henry Bowers wears a pink motorcycle jacket in the book. A fourth grader who is foolish enough to laugh at it loses three of his front teeth.
- The Reveal: The revelation, in the book's later chapters, that IT is actually female. Not only that, but she just so happens to have laid a shitload of eggs...
- Ripped from the Headlines: Adrian Mellon's murder was modelled after the murder of Charlie Howard, another Camp Gay man who was thrown off a bridge in Maine; they even landed in the same river. Howard simply drowned, though; there was no demonic clown involved. Probably. Also The Brady Gang (changed to Bradley in the text), gunned down by FBI agents in Bangor in 1937.
- Sacrificial Lamb: George Denbrough and Adrian Mellon.
- Say My Name: "BEEEEEEEEEEV!"
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Once Pennywise assumes the shape of its victim's greatest fear, it has to follow all the "rules" of that shape, whether it wants to or not. And it cannot change form to something else once everyone who sees it has "agreed" on what it is. For example, when Pennywise confronts the kids in the house on Neibolt Street, Richie Tozier screams out that its "THE TEENAGE WEREWOLF!", a movie-monster that he is terrified of. The other kids, who had been seeing Pennywise as various other monsters, immediately saw it as a werewolf as well. And once it was a werewolf, it became vulnerable to the silver slugs Bev was shooting at it with the slingshot.
- Notably averted with Patrick Hotstetter. When IT appears, because the character has been described as a sociopath bordering on true psychopathy, his emotional responses are muddy at best. Because there's nothing that really scares this character, IT appears with a face like running wax and a rotting, burbly voice. This is somehow scarier.
- Shout-Out: Bowers and Huggins and Criss (oh my).
- The Smurfette Principle: Beverly is the only girl in the Losers Club.
- Spanner in the Works: Pennywise's own impatience serves as this for him. In addition, he further hampers himself by breaking down and terrifying his prey, ensuring they won't go anywhere near the sewers. For example, he almost gets Bill into the sewer treatment plant by impersonating his father, but when Bill hesitates, he turns into a rotting corpse and grimly remarks on how they're all floating down here; Bill promptly freaks out and runs away. This is because meat flavoured with fear tastes better.
- Spooky Photographs: That start moving and threatening you. And they bleed.
- Spooky Silent Library: At least when Mike's working there after hours.
- Stephen King Drinking Game: Probably the highest scoring of any of King's work.
- Survival Mantra: "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts," Bill's anti-stuttering and anti-It phrase.
- Sympathy for the Devil: One of the reasons why Mike can't quite bring himself to kill Henry Bowers in self-defense. Mike pities him for having grown up under someone like Butch Bowers, who naturally heavily influenced Henry's way of thinking and was partially responsible for his son's racism and jerkassery. And that Mike would be doing Its work.
- Take That:
- In the book, the adult Richie's reason for agreeing to fight IT? "It can't be any worse than interviewing Ozzy Osborne."
- In the novel, when Bill (who, as an adult becomes a very successful horror writer) recalls his college years, and how he crashed heads with his writing teacher, who believed that a good work of fiction also had to make a political statement, and Bill's statement that one should write good stories that entertain, since "politics change over time but stories remain."
- There Are No Therapists.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The execution of the Bradley gang.
- Town with a Dark Secret: More like a dark secret shaped like a town.
- True Companions: The Loser's Club.
- Turtle Power: Hinted at throughout the book. A cosmic force, opposed to It in at least some way, is called the Turtle. It subtly guides the protagonists and, according to It, created the universe when it got sick and threw up.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: IT usually takes the form of Pennywise the Clown, but often assumes the shape of whatever the victim is most afraid of. Pennywise is something of a neutral form for either dealing with multiple victims or the same victim twice, or just getting around.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the book, Eddie Kaspbrak was married to a woman named Myra. She is never told what happened in Derry, not even the death of her husband is revealed.
- Wham Line : "IT was not male. IT was female. And IT was pregnant"
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Parodied - it takes the guy running The Falcon years to realize that his place has become the town's gay bar, but everyone else is convinced there must be orgies going on nightly.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: Mike discovers that despite the children's killings and incidents in which many people die, those news are rarely spoken outside the town of Derry; it's like something doesn't want those to be known outside.
- Would Hurt a Child: It won't just hurt kids, but psychologically torment and eat them too. In fact, Its introduction scene, where It lures little George Denbrough to a sewer grate and rips the poor kid's arm off at the shoulder pretty much says everything we need to know about just what kind of a monster It truly is.
- You Can't Fight Fate: It's heavily implied that everything that happens during the Losers' battles with It, or at least a significant portion of events, are predestined.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Which It learns can be a two-edged sword: "This is battery acid, you slime!" Doesn't work nearly as well for Eddie in 1985, as IT quickly kills him when he sprays his aspirator.
"You don't have to look back to see those children; part of your mind will see them forever, live with them forever, love with them forever. They are not necessarily the best part of you, but they were once the repository of all you could become."