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Graffiti written on the front of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta in red spray paint: "Dear Jesus. I will see you soon. Your friend, America. PS. I hope you will still have some vacancies by the end of the week."
One of Stephen King's best-regarded (and thickest) novels, The Stand is a classic work of modern apocalyptic fiction. It is the book which introduces (and primarily describes, on Earth at least) King's most famous villain and "antichrist" figure, Randall Flagg.King set out to write "An American Lord of the Rings", although he later demurred as to whether he was successful. Still, it is often rated his most popular book, and, along with IT, one of the most important works of King's early period.The story concerns the travels and travails of well over a dozen characters following intersecting story arcs across the United States during and after an apocalyptic Super-Flu (nicknamed Captain Trips) kills 99.4 percent of humanity. The survivors are left to cope with their loss and stay alive, until everyone starts having dreams that signal the arrival of an even darker menace...First published in 1978, the novel was reissued in 1990 in a "complete and uncut edition" containing about 400 additional pages of material from King's original manuscript.A eight hour made-for-tv Mini Series based on the novel aired for four nights on ABC in 1994. As of late 2014, a theatrical adaptation is being attempted for the second time — the first attempt was made during the 1980s and failed because of the difficulty adapting such a long novel for a big screen release, and the novel's dependence on narration to tell the story. Ben Affleck was originally attached as director and screenwriter for the new attempt, but he handed over the reins of the project when he decided to play Batman. New director Josh Boone currently plans to split the big-screen adaptation into four installments.Should not be confused with the songs "Stand" by Jewel and "Stand" by REM, or with the Revolution episode "The Stand".
The novel contains examples of:
Abusive Parents: A few examples are seen here and there, two of the most obvious being Frannie's mother (who has an entire chapter devoted to showing how selfish and unreasonable she was with Frannie over the years) and Trashcan Man's biological father (who got drunk one night and shot the whole family, save for the five-year-old Trashy and his mother). In a sadly ironic but perhaps understandable twist, Trashy identifies with his father and hates his stepfather, "the father-killing sheriff," who shot his father in the line of duty and later married his mother. From what the reader can tell, the sheriff was a pretty stand-up guy who did his best by Trash, but eventually could no longer cover for the kid's unstable behavior and habit of arson and has to have him committed.
Adaptation Distillation: The Marvel Comics adaptation. Helps that it features a lot of the darker stuff that was cut from the network TV mini-series adaptation due to content issues, as well as exploring the psyches of several characters like Harold Lauder, who were given short shrift in the TV mini-series.
After the End: The world of The Stand goes through an apocalypse and then focuses on the struggles of the survivors.
Harold Lauder realizes that his own fall was not the fault of Stu or anyone else but entirely his own fault. At worst, he was manipulated. If he had just gotten over his petty grudge, he would have become a valued part of the community. It merely saddens him to realize this as he lays dying.
Trashcan Man is a true pyromaniac, and while he loves setting fires, he feels horribly guilty for the consequences of them. He can't control his own behavior, and actively hallucinates persecutors to voice his guilt when everyone dies out. He loves Flagg solely due to Flagg's manipulation of him, but can't even hold to that. Trash is ultimately just a very sick and dangerous man.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: Harold Lauder loves chocolate Payday bars. The chocolate Payday bars did exist at various times, but more often than not aren't available, leading some readers to wonder just what King is talking about.
Artistic License Ė Biology: During a short section from Kojak's point of view, it's said that all animals have some telepathy with others of the same kind. It's also said that Kojak would go on to live for 16 more years, although in real life anything longer than 16 years would be an exceptionally long lifespan for a dog.
Babies Ever After: Played with. The first baby to be born after the plague is only partially immune, due to having only one immune parent, and quickly dies. The first main character's baby is likewise partially immune, but survives.
One random scene in the first part of the novel, when society is collapsing as the superflu runs wild, described the panicked flight of the citizens of Boulder, Colorado. The people of Boulder left the town en masse after a false rumor that the plague started at the Boulder Air Test Center. Much later, when survivors begin concentrating in Boulder, they find the town largely free of corpses.
Since they are trying to rebuild society from scratch, there is a lot of this going on.
Stu Redman is forced to perform an appendectomy, though the guy dies as he's doing it. Later on, the Free Zone is forced to rely on a veterinarian until a doctor arrives, and even then the doctor tells the vet that he needs to train him to be better able to take care of humans, especially as the doctor is rather old.
Code Emergency: "Tell him 'Rome Falls'." It meant everything was screwed and it was time to put the plan to infect the rest of the world in motion.
The Italian title of the book is "L'Ombra dello Scorpione" ("The Shadow of the Scorpion"). There is a line about Randall Flagg being "the shadow of the owl at midnight and the scorpion at high noon," but since the symbol is never repeated or expanded, it's a somewhat odd choice for the title.
On the other hand, the Swedish title, "Pestens Tid" ("The Age of Pestilence"), arguably works better than the original.
The action ranges across the country, quite a lot of it takes place in Maine (which is a frequent King locale) and Boulder (where he was living at the time of writing, and of which he is apparently quite fond).
King has said he regretted not mentioning what happens to the rest of the world... beyond speculation that there may be rival Flaggs popping up all over the globe in an apparent violation of the villain playbook. The book does make clear that the people running Project Blue deliberately spread it around the world once it's clear that there's no hope of saving America from annihilation.
A Date with Rosie Palms: Stu seems to imply he does it (at least before pairing up with Frannie), telling Harold early on that there's no need for rape when a man is good with his hands.
Referenced a few times with Harold. He's said to "smell like a shootoff in a haymow." He fantasizes about being King Harold while the girls from his high school service him, and Frannie notes that Harold has an X-rated film playing in his head at all times.
Deadly Game: The incident with black soldiers in a game show studio.
Death by Irony: Harold spends at least two chapters writing and recording a Take That speech to be played by his bomb before it explodes. Nick, the only deaf character, is the only person in the house when it detonates.
Many editions, especially foreign language ones, go so far as to split it up into multiple books (incidentally, this actually becomes a plot point in 20th Century Boys, which is the Japanese version of The Stand).
Evil Will Fail: Randall Flagg's half of civilization begins to deteriorate when the presence of so many volatile personalities mix in one society, fear stops being as effective for control, and every minor failure makes the Big Bad himself go into fits of rage and lose his focus, causing errors in judgement.
Foreshadowing: All over the place; some examples more subtle than others. A very subtle example when Glen Bateman and Stu Redman have this exchange shortly after meeting:
Stu: I like to listen.
Glen: Then you are one of God's chosen.
Freudian Excuse: Trashcan Man did not have a happy childhood, which prompted him to light fires as a sort of coping mechanism. This only gave his bullies more excuses to hurl taunts and insults at him, which only gave him more reason to light fires...and it went downhill from there.
Played straight. If a character coughs or sneezes, chances are they're a goner. Justified in that The Plague is an "on steroids" version of the flu, for which coughing is a typical symptom.
So straight that when Stu fakes a coughing fit to spite his caregiver-captors in Stovington, it sends them into a complete panic until he reveals the joke. And then subverted when he contracts but survives the actual flu.
Infant Immortality: Averted, since the flu doesn't spare the children. Even worse in the expanded edition, where a 10-year-old girl who survives the plague ends up dying anyway when she falls down a well, breaks her leg, and starves to death.
The Infiltration: The Boulder leadership sends Judge Farris, Dayna Jurgens and Tom Cullen to Las Vegas to join (and spy on) Flagg's operation.
I Resemble That Remark: When Stu tells the doctor to take Geraldo, the guinea pig who's been breathing his air, he says, "Don't forget your guinea pig." He really means the other guinea pig.
Just Before the End: The story opens just a few minutes after the plague is released and begins infecting people.
Look Behind You: Stu Redman tells the "doctor" who's been sent to terminate him at the Stovington hospital that there's a huge rat behind him, then hits him over the head with a chair. Lampshaded when Stu is so surprised it works as well as it does that he almost fails to follow up on his own distraction.
Lovecraft Country: uncharacteristically averted. New England ends up being the Arcadia that the two surviving heroes return to. Just avoid the hospitals in New England, as always.
Mission from God: Mother Abigail tells Stu, Larry, Glen and Ralph that God wants them to go west and make a stand before Flagg.
Mother Abigail: I donít know if itís Godís will for you to ever see Boulder again. Those things are not for me to see. But he is in Las Vegas, and you must go there, and it is there that you will make your stand. You will go, and you will not falter, because you will have the Everlasting Arm of the Lord God of Hosts to lean on. Yes. With Godís help you will stand.
Monochrome Casting: In both the book and the mini series, the only non-Caucasian characters in the good camp are Abigail, Leo and the Judge. Other than that, every single character stated to be black (book version) is either dead or joined up with Flagg. In many cases in the novel, the character's race is not mentioned.
Originally set in 1980, updated to 1990 in the expanded version. The inspiration for Flagg was Donald DeFreeze, the Patty Hearst kidnapper. (Another inspiration was then-current cult leader Jim Jones.)
In the original edition, Bobby Terry is reading a Howard the Duck comic shortly before the Judge comes driving by. The "remix" changes this to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, King presumably worrying that his 90s readers wouldn't be so familiar with Howard.
When Dayna leaves Boulder, the narration states: "no one in the Zone ever saw Dayna Jurgens again". Indeed, she dies in Las Vegas.
When Larry, Glen and Ralph have to leave Stu behind, it's similarly stated that "they never saw Stu Redman again." However, Stu survives; it's the other three who don't.
Our Nudity Is Different: Abagail remembers appearing on a talent show back in 1902. Before her, a woman performed a "racy French dance", showing her ankles.
Paranoia Fuel: In-universe, and extensively talked about by the characters themselves. One of the original "Evil US Government quarantines innocent civilians at gunpoint and leaves them to die" plots, it seemed uncharacteristically cynical (even for King) until, say 2005 (as if!) Capt. Trips itself.
Reality Subtext: The scene early in the novel when a group of students riots and is shot by the military is based, according to King, on the real life massacre at Kent State.
Recruited From The Gutter: Lloyd Henried is in prison when the super-flu hits. He winds up the only survivor in this prison. He would have starved to death in his cell if the Anti Christ Randall Flagg hadn't rescued him. Because of this, he remains Flagg's most loyal follower.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: In-universe. A chapter is devoted to vignettes of plague survivors who succumbed to gruesome accidents because they were reckless and/or lacked the interpersonal support they could have expected from normal pre-plague society. One plague survivor is literally Stuffed into the Fridge and dies of suffocation.
Shout-Out: "Captain Trips" was originally a nickname of Jerry Garcia. King had first used it much earlier, for another Superflu, in his Night Shift story "Night Surf".
Stu Redman name-checks Watership Down when describing how terrified he felt in the hospital: it made him go tharn.
Allusion to an AC/DC song (which had appeared in King's Maximum Overdrive movie) in the 1990 revised and expanded edition of the novel, where a survivor of the flu pandemic changes the lyrics to "Flu made who."
The Stinger: Added to the Uncut edition, to strengthen the tie with The Dark Tower: Randall Flagg wakes up after the nuclear blast in another universe, and begins to take over a society once again. Ka is referenced.
Played straight. This book was written in the '70s and "back to the land" themes are prominent.
Captain Trips is a scientifically engineered Holocaust.
Flagg is described as "the last magician of rational thought." Glen speculates that Flagg is drawing all the "rationalist, engineer types" who want to quickly get the old society back up and running, military and all, while Mother Abagail attracts those seeking a Hidden Elf Village or Utopia and struggles to turn on the lights. It's not suggested that Straw Atheists are attracted to Flagg, however; merely people looking for quick solutions.
Interestingly, the book inverts the typical "Magic Versus Science" trope: supernatural forces merely take advantage of the sudden, artificially engineered holocaust to initiate the Apocalypse more or less.
Throw-Away Country: A divine wind ensures that Los Angeles gets the short end of a nuclear fallout incident entirely offscreen, thereby sparing the good guys. Don't even ask what happened to other countries.
Trains Run On Time: Las Vegas gets the utilities running in their city much more quickly than Boulder, and discipline is harshly enforced, with crucifixion being a common punishment for crimes as petty as recreational drug use.
Updated Re-release: Two updates of the novel were done. The mid-1980s one just tweaked a few cultural references. The Complete Uncut restored much of what King was forced to cut, either because it made the book too long or because it would have offended too many back in the 70s.
Who Watches the Watchmen?: The escape of Campion, the security guard at the research facility who spreads Captain Trips beyond hope of containment, is explained thusly:
"He drove through the main gate just four minutes before the sirens started going off and we sealed off the whole base. And no one started looking for him until nearly an hour later because there are no monitors in the security posts—somewhere along the line you have to stop guarding the guardians or everyone in the world would be a goddamn turnkey...."
What Happened to the Mouse?: Major Len Creighton has a fairly substantial role in the first section of the book as General Starkey's second in command in Project Blue and after Starkey's suicide becomes the head of the military coverup. He's last 'seen' onpage talking over the radio to one of his officers in LA during the last days of the plague. It is very possible he died of the superflu but notably he gives no indications of being sick even at this very late stage, leaving his fate a mystery.