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Literature: The Gunslinger

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

The Gunslinger is the first book in The Dark Tower series. The story opens with The Gunslinger Roland Deschain trekking across a desert that appears to be in the Old West but may actually be our own world in the distant future. Flashbacks tell a High Fantasy tale of Roland's childhood.

Followed by The Drawing of the Three.

The Gunslinger provides examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: "The World has moved on." (Also the Arc Words)
  • Badass: Roland
  • Badass and Child Duo: Roland and Jake.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Sylvia Pittston is described in this manner, with big dark eyes, "creamy, unmarked, lovely" skin, massive white thighs and "breasts like earthworks". Even Roland finds himself getting turned on when he sees her preaching and has to look away.
  • Black Cloak: The man in black, obviously.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The ancient jawbone.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Roland's weapon of choice in his gunslinger trial is David, his trained hawk. He's also mastered the art of fighting dirty, which makes Cort proud.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Allie. While watching the Man in Black revive Nort, Allie, who is fascinated with the idea of what lies beyond death, apparently becomes aroused and takes care of things right there at the bar while Walter does his thing. This is communicated to us with a single line: "Under the bar, her hands worked faster."
  • Die Laughing: Walter's skeleton appears this way.
  • The Dog Shot First: Allie is held as a shield and hostage by Sheb as the residents of Tull attack Roland. Originally, Roland kills her out of pure instinct; his trained hands react quicker than his mind. She screams at him not to shoot, but it's too late, and the guilt of her death sits on Roland throughout the rest of the story. In the revised edition, there is a convoluted subplot in which after Walter resurrects Nort, he tells Allie that if she says "nineteen" to Nort, he will tell her what he saw on the other side. Knowing will drive her crazy, but so will not knowing. Later, during the shootout, she begs Roland to kill her because she has spoken nineteen to Sheb and can't bear the horrors that he whispered back to her. As she dies King says that "the last expression on her face might have been gratitude."
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Not only is this book much shorter than the others in the series; it has a much more disjointed, poetic style. The narrative flow is much more linear in later books, which justify the different style by emphasizing that Roland went a little bit nuts during his long solo journey. We also have Marten Broadcloak, Walter O'Dim and John Farson the Good Man presented as three separate characters, when they're later presented as various guises of Flagg.
  • The End of the Beginning: The man in black tells Roland this.
  • Evil Chancellor: Marten
  • Evil Laugh: The man in black
  • Friend or Idol Decision: The Boy or the Tower? The Tower.
  • Friend to All Children: Hax the cook. Subverted when he turns out to be a traitor.
  • The Gunslinger: Not the trope namer, but it could have been. Certainly a Trope Codifier.
  • Guns Akimbo: Afterward, Roland loses two fingers and can't properly take the position again.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Roland and Cuthbert, while they were kids at least.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Slow Mutants.
  • Immune to Bullets: Walter. Despite his Improbable Aiming Skills, when Roland fires at him, he misses him with all twelve shots.
  • Jerkass: Cort. Though Cort is eventually shown to be an effective teacher who is genuinely concerned with training his pupils and earns untold respect from Roland and his first Ka-Tet.
  • Mood Dissonance: Walter o' Dim includes a little smiley face ☺ in his letter to Alice telling her the incomprehensible, indescribable Psychological Horror that would happen to her if she told Nort his Trigger Phrase.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The final test to become a gunslinger is a public fight between the candidate and his teacher, wherein they both pull out all the stops. Roland beats the everliving shit out of Cort before the latter yields, and afterwards he falls into a coma.
  • Oedipus Complex: Lampshaded.
  • Patchwork Story: The book was originally published as a series of short stories and novellas, hence its somewhat episodic nature.
  • Precision F-Strike: In contrast to the Cluster F-Bomb of the other books.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cuthbert is the red to Alain's blue.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Sheb uses Roland's lover, Allie as a Human Shield and hostage. Roland kills her out of pure instinct; his trained hands react quicker than his mind. Changed in the revised edition.
  • Time Skip: Happened during the story. At the very end, Roland wakes up after ten years to find Walter o' Dim dead as a skeleton.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Averted. During the showdown in Tull, a small knife is thrown at Roland, which strikes him in the head. Though the aim is dead on, it hits him by the hilt, bloodying him but causing no serious damage.
  • Training from Hell: How Cort trains the young gunslingers for their test.
  • Trigger Phrase: Nineteen (in the revised edition).
  • Villain Has a Point: John Farson, the "Good Man", is a cruel, power-hungry despot, or so we're told. However, he's right that the Affiliation is ruled by a cabal of thugs with vague aristocratic pretensions who maintain power largely by having the best guns.
  • Would Hit a Girl/ Would Hurt a Child: Roland kills every inhabitant of Tull, men, women and children. To be fair, they were all trying to kill him.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: When the two finally meet, Walter, the man in black, congratulates Roland on letting Jake fall to his death in order to reach his goal. Roland's responds by attempting once again to shoot Walter.

The Dark TowerWestern LiteratureThe Drawing of the Three
    Franchise/The Dark TowerThe Drawing of the Three
The Dark TowerWorks By Stephen KingThe Drawing of the Three
The Dark TowerFantasy LiteratureThe Drawing of the Three
The Dark TowerHorror LiteratureThe Drawing of the Three
Guards! Guards!Literature of the 1980sHalfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left

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