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
, "Stand" by REM
or "The Stand" by The Alarm; or with the Revolution
episode "The Stand
The novel contains examples of:
- 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.
- From Bad to Worse
- Ghibli Hills: America after the plague.
- Gone Horribly Right: The superflu that the U.S. military cooked up. 99.4% effective...
- Gone Horribly Wrong: ...and loose on American soil. And, thanks to a mean-spirited effort by the military, loose in other countries as well.
- Good Hurts Evil: Characters drawn to Flagg are afraid of Mother Abagail in her dreams.
- Government Conspiracy: The creation of the virus, and the attempt to suppress news of its outbreak, culminating in Stu's abandonment and near-death, is dwelt on. Various military misadventures occur offscreen; see Paranoia Fuel.
- Green Aesop: The condition of the natural environment visibly improves in the months after the plague.
- Hidden Elf Village: The Boulder Free Zone. Has nothing to do with falling rocks.
- High Fantasy
- Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: "...this thirtieth day of September, the year nineteen hundred and ninety, now known as The Year One, year of the plague."
- Humanoid Abomination: Randall Flagg
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Several times, most notably Bobby Terry.
- I Want Them Alive: "Flagg wants them taken alive."
- Ill Guy: ...everyone, really; but especially Fran's dad in the miniseries.
- Incurable Cough of Death:
- 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.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: A truly epic one; "You might say he never flagged in his devotion."
- 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.
- Kick the Dog: Flagg runs into an innocent fawn. "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub!"
- Kill 'em All: 99.4% pure example of this trope. Even among the main characters, the death rate is pretty high.
- Kirk Summation: Whitney Horgan's speech is cut short.
- The Last DJ: Ray Flowers. Literally.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The 1100 page "complete and uncut" edition
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Ten or twenty main characters following separate arcs in disparate locales. See here.
- 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.
- Magical Negro: Mother Abigail, with her spiritual powers.
- Magical Realism: It's a story about the conflict between humanity and itself. And Old Scratch.
- Magpies as Portents: Uh oh. There's a corvid perched on a fencepost portending ill omens!
- Mauve Shirt: Many characters.
- May-December Romance: Larry and Rita.
- 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.
- Mordor: Las Vegas.
- Mundanger: While Flagg is aware of Harold before sending Nadine to him, everything Harold does before then is his own choice, without Flagg's influence.
- New Eden: Discussed by Glen Bateman, who suggests Ludd Was Right.
- Next Sunday A.D.:
- 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.)
- The Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition (book) was updated with references to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (comic only.)
- 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.
- The Dark Tower books explained this by saying the plague happened in different times in alternate realities; we just live in one where it hasn't hit yet.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Barry Dorgan insults Trash at the airfield, causing him to revert to his old ways.
- No Bikes In The Apocalypse: Averted.
- No One Gets Left Behind: see Passing The Torch.
- Non-Indicative Name: Captain Trips.
- Not Too Dead to Save the Day: The spirit of Nick Andros leads Tom Cullen to save Stu's life.
- Oh, and X Dies: Sort of:
- 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.
- Passing the Torch: to Larry.
- A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: The Rat-Man
- The Plague: Captain Trips, in its early stages, is indistinguishable from a common cold or a flu except by a doctor who knows what to look for.
- Poke in the Third Eye: Flagg to Abigail, Tom to Flagg.
- Psychic Dreams for Everyone
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Barry Dorgan's men.
- 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.
- Refusal of the Call: Several characters refuse to acknowledge the dreams.
- Road Trip Plot: Several road trips, as the various characters converge on either Boulder or Las Vegas.
- Scenery Gorn
- Send in the Search Team: Ignoring the dreams, Harold insists that help will be found at the Stovington Hospital where Stu was imprisoned and left to die.
- 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".
- Soft Glass: Averted, Dayna Jurgens breaks a decorative panel into sharp pieces and uses one to commit suicide before she gives up Tom Cullen's name as the third scout.
- Squick: In-universe: The dead body Larry finds in the lavatory◊ with a swollen neck the size of a tire. Larry says it had this effect on him despite everything else he'd seen.
- 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.
- Talking in Your Dreams
- Take That: Several towards Ronald Reagan (in the 1990 edition). For instance:
Larry: He [The Judge] is only seventy, for the record. Ronald Reagan was serving as President at an older age than that.Ē
Fran: That's not what Iíd call a very strong recommendation.
- Taking You with Me: Once America's leadership realizes they're doomed, they deliberately infect the rest of the world with Captain Trips.
- Technology Is Evil:
- 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.
- Title Drop: Abagail, during her Final Speech.
"And with God's help, you will stand..."
- Too Dumb to Live: A whole chapter is devoted to incidents around the world.
- Totally Radical: Teenage characters unironically calling cops 'pigs', which even in 1980 was a rather dated insult and had become all the more so when the setting had been updated to 1990.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Harold and his chocolate Paydays.
- 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.
- True Companions: Stu, Larry, Glen and Ralph. There's also:
- Stu, Frannie, Harold, and Glen.
- Larry, Nadine, Joe, and Lucy, along with Rita.
- Nick, Tom, Ralph, and Mother Abagail.
- Typhoid Mary: Campion; the second he and his family made it off the base and encountered other people, it was already entirely too late to contain Trips.
- The Un Favourite: Frannie to her mother, and Harold to everyone.
- 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.
- Walk into Mordor: The third act of the book centers on one.
- We Are Not Going Through That Again: Stu and Fran's reason for leaving Boulder.
- Wham Line: "After all, why else could he suddenly do magic?"
- What a Senseless Waste of Human Life
- 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.
- Widow Woman: Rita Blakemoor.
- Wild Child: Joe/Leo.
- Xenofiction: Parts of the book are told from the perspective of Kojak, the dog.
- Yank the Dog's Chain
- You Have Failed Me: "There were worse things than crucifixion. There were teeth."
We need help, the poet reckoned.