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Literature: It
Want a balloon? They float. They ALL float...

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 fašade.

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, Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough and Tim Curry as Pennywise in a career-defining role.

On March 12th, 2009, Warner Bros. 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 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:

  • Abusive Parents: A short list: Beverly's father, Henry's father, Tom Rogan's mother, Eddie Corcoran's stepfather and Eddie Kaspbrak's mother (even if she didn't mean it that way).
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • In the novel, Henry's way of making Ben remember not to mess with him is to carve his name onto his stomach (he gets as a far as "H" before Ben kicks him and escapes). He does this in the miniseries as well except he never explicitly says that he's going to carve his name and it's not clear unless you've read the book that's what he intends to do.
    • It is never explained in the film why Pennywise appears as a dog to the security guard Koontz, and can be a bit jarring and without context. In the novel, it's explained that Doberman Pinschers are the only animals that he is afraid of.
  • Adults Are Useless / Invisible to Adults: Actually justified, as It has taken complete control over Derry, and that therefore the adults cannot see what is going on.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Patrick Hockstetter's death. He's a creepy sociopath that even Henry doesn't like, but his death is so over the top and horrible that it's clear we're not supposed to get any satisfaction out of it.
    • Both Victor and Belch suffer horrific fates at the hands of IT. The losers even express pity for them when seeing their corpses in 1985.
    • Henry also counts. By the end, he's been driven to insanity and so pathetic that it's not hard to pity him. Even Mike feels bad for him.
  • Asshole Victim: Patrick Hockstetter, Henry, and Tom Rogan.
  • Author Avatar: In this case, Bill (tall, redhead, stutter, horror writer) the author is not Stephen King but Peter Straub.
  • Axe Crazy: Claude Heroux.
  • Batman Gambit: It is vaguely implied that the so-called Other had a hand in bringing the Losers together and infusing them with the courage necessary to face the Spider.
  • Big Good: The Turtle. An even higher godlike entity is implied but never explored (except in The Dark Tower novels). That they forget about their friendship after finally killing it seems to ratify the Other used this bond to its breaking point without having them all go mad.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Many of IT's manifestations, including Mrs. Kersh and Pennywise himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: IT is finally defeated and vanquished, but two of the Losers' Club members are dead, most of their hometown is destroyed by a flood with IT's death and the surviving members' memories slowly fade away until they completely forget about each other, but somehow they know that they will be friends forever. King's later works state that as a city, Derry bounces back from the storm and flooding.
    • Later books heavily imply that IT survived, though 27 years later no sequel book occurred.
  • Bloodless Carnage mixed with Getting Crap Past the Radar: Since the movie version was made for television, most of the actual deaths weren't shown in very graphic detail. Most instances in which the filmmakers were allowed to include blood took place during It's illusions, in which it bursts from balloons, erupts from a sink, and spills from containers, but never leaves a human body or is referred to as such. The idea that it even is blood is up to audience assumption.
    • Just before the flashback of The Losers cleaning up Beverly's bathroom, she refers to it as blood.
  • Brick Joke: A rather ghastly one in the book. During one scene, the chief of police shows Mike Hanlon the "tramp chair," a torture device used to discourage transients from stopping in Derry. It falls through the ceiling and kills the police chief at the end of the book.
  • Brown Note: The "deadlights", IT's true form, can cause whoever sees them to go insane.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Invoked deliberately by IT.
  • Call to Adventure: One character literally calls up his friends and reminds them of their childhood promise to return to Derry and fight Pennywise.
  • The Cameo:
    • Christine shows up to give Henry Bowers a lift.
    • Dick Halloran of The Shining fame also shows up in Will Hanlon's story of how the future cook of the Overlook hotel saved him from the Black Spot fire.
    • The 1930s flashback includes an appearance by Walter Pickman, from the H.P. Lovecraft story Pickman's Model.
      • Lovecraft's character was Richard Upton Pickman, not Walter. Could be a relative, though.
      • Mr. Keene never says the name "Walter." He just says "Pickman, the guy who paints those funny pictures and spends all night drinking at Wally's Spa."
    • King injects himself into the 1905 flashback, describing a character with thick glasses and a gut named "Eddie King." (Steve's middle name is Edwin.)
    • Pennywise appears in other Stephen King novels featuring Derry, and is even mentioned in The Dark Tower saga.
    • Beverly and Richie as well as several other Derry residents make an appearance in 11/22/63.
  • Camp Gay: Adrian Mellon, IT's first victim in 1985, and his boyfriend, Don Hagarty.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Beep beep, Richie
    • I worry about you Bevvy, sometimes I worry a lot.
    • B-B-B-(*beet*)-Billy Boy.
    • I'll kill you all.
    • Dontcha wanna balloon?
    • We/they all float (down here).
      • When you're down here (with us/me), YOU'LL FLOAT TOO!
  • Child Eater: It. So very, very much.
  • Circle of Friendship: The main characters do this to help a hospitalized main character defend himself from a Brainwashed and Crazy nurse.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The Losers' use their childlike beliefs as weapons, making it so that IT can be damaged by things such as silver bullets or an aspirator. Also pretty brutally (if subtly) deconstructed: the ability of beliefs to change the real world works both ways. The kids can use belief to fight back against IT, but the things they believe about their day-to-day lives (which are not so pleasant) become more and more true as time goes on. It's most noticeable with Eddie, whose mother has convinced him he has asthma to the point where he carries a placebo inhaler, but it's also implied with Bill. His parents are deeply grieving for their murdered younger son, but the more Bill wants them to come around, the more he believes they've stopped loving him altogether, and the more distant his parents become. The returning of Ben's scar, too; it didn't come back until he remembered getting it.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The movie. It's pretty hard to stuff over a thousand pages of story into a movie. Most agree that Tim Curry was memorable as Pennywise, however.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?
  • Doorstopper: The book reportedly killed a chihuahua. By falling on it.
  • The Dreaded: The Losers become this to It.
  • Dream Sequence
  • Eldritch Abomination: Makes Cthulhu look like a puppy the way King describes IT's true form. Not to mention all the shape shifting.
  • The End... Or Is It?: From the first line, it's uncertain as to whether "the terror" ever really did end. In the final chapters, the possibility is noted that Ben may have missed one of IT's eggs when he was executing her offspring.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Henry Bowers's gang, despite being brutal bullies themselves, are actually appalled by some of the things Henry does to the Losers, such as trying to carve his name into Ben Hanscom's belly or trying to blow up Mike Hanlon with cherry bombs and M-80s. In comparison, this could only apply to Victor. Henry's a terrifying man, and Patrick is really moreso creepy than offensive. It's highly implied in the film that they follow Henry around out of fear than respect or even friendship. Better to side with the psycho than it is to be against him.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: After defeating IT for the first time, all the seven members of the Loser's Club never meet again. Eventually, they all go in their separate ways, and completely forget about each other (except for Mike but he implies that even with desperate efforts to remember, he will forget why he's even carrying out the measures. Specifically he brings up the example that he will write his friends down but the ink itself may fade, and even if he can keeps renewing the ink, he may forget why he's doing it and why these names are even relevant).
  • Foreshadowing: IT scares Beverly in the bathroom and her dad rushes in, demanding what all the screaming was about. Beverly lies and says that she just saw a spider in the drain. Which is IT's true physical manifestation. They even fight it in the sewer.
  • Fighting a Shadow: Some of King's later works imply that IT is Not Quite Dead after all. IT can never truly be destroyed because IT is an extradimensional entity like the Turtle. All they did was kill its physical form. Logic suggests that, having experienced death, It grew fearful (or at least cautious) of the Losers and only projected Itself into their world again once they were gone, their bond finally used up and forgotten forever. Even if It IS somehow truly gone, there's the implication that some of the eggs It laid were left intact, so glimpses in later works may be It's children...Really, it's only a sweet ending for the Losers' Club. Sure, It won't go after THEM anymore but it's far from dead and gone.
  • Final Battle: Foreshadowed right from the first page.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Its favourite form is Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
  • Gilligan Cut: Richie jokes about the futility of fighting IT by sarcastically suggesting bringing a slingshot and sneezing powder. Later in the novel he actually does it. And it works.
    • Also used frequently to jump between the adult and child sections of the novel.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: A common reaction upon seeing It's true form.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the movie when IT returns and the now adult Mike calls the rest of his lucky 7 The Losers Club.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Childhood power is strongly rooted in how temporary it is, and no matter how well one might hold onto it, childlike wonder is doomed to fade in the end. Ultimately symbolized in the book by the explosion of the hallway that connects the children's library to the adults' library, never to be rebuilt, and eventually the people of Derry forget that the two buildings were ever connected.
  • Group Hug : In both the book and the movie. The group draws strength from it.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Of a sort. Mike is only stopped from killing Henry because he realizes that if he does so, he would be a pawn of It just like Henry.
  • I'm Not Afraid Of You: How the Losers manage to defeat It once and for all.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: A surprisingly rare example for a Stephen King adaptation, probably because the title on its own is extremely generic.
  • Informed Judaism: An early chapter describes the home where Stan Uris lived as an adult. There is a key-board that was given to the family as a present "2 Christmases ago". Granted, it might have been a generic 'holiday' gift from a Christian friend, but it's really old that Stan's wife would describe it that way, instead of saying that it was given to them around Hanukkah. His wife Patricia also tries to assure Stan that he is not a "klutz" (meaning he's not stupid instead of not clumsy) when the actual Yiddish word for a fool is "yutz" and a Jewish person is unlikely to confuse the terms. Many of Stanley's other behaviors (he admits that his family sometimes eats ham, and when he was about 12 years old he still didn't know what 'kosher' meant) seem at odds with a Jewish upbringing. His pals at the Loser's Club sometimes even forget that Stan is a Jew. When a friend suggests using a crucifix to warn off a supernatural creature Stan gets mad and says it won't work for him, but never considers that a symbol of the Jewish faith (such as a Star of David) might grant him protection.
  • Kick the Dog: A literal example; Henry poisons Mike's dog For the Evulz.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Monster Clown: Pennywise, a literal monster in the form of a clown.
  • Morphic Resonance: Several of Its forms have orange pom-poms.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and Beverly against the more reserved Mike and Stan. The others in the Losers' Club fit 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.
  • 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

"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."
PerfumeWorld Fantasy AwardSoldier of the Mist
ItShort TitlesITV
Knight Life SeriesLiterature of the 1980sThe Land of Laughs
The IntrudersHorror LiteratureThe Italian
InsomniaWorks By Stephen KingJoyland

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