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Literature / Different Seasons

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"It is the tale, not he who tells it."

Different Seasons is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. Published in 1982, it represented something of a departure for King at that point, as three of the novellas were straight dramatic stories (albeit with some horrific elements) that did not deal with the supernatural fiction that he was known for. Three of the four novellas were later adapted into feature films.

The four novellas in Different Seasons are, in order presented:

  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (or, Hope Springs Eternal) - Hope springs eternal, even in prison. Made into the 1994 film.
  • Apt Pupil (or, Summer of Corruption) - A teenage boy learns about the Holocaust right from the source. Made into a movie by Bryan Singer starring Sir Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro.
  • The Body (or, Fall from Innocence) - Four young friends trek into the woods to see another boy's corpse. Made into a movie under the title Stand by Me.
  • The Breathing Method (or, A Winter's Tale) - A single woman wants to carry her child to term, no matter what.

In addition to the novellas, the book contains an afterword by King in which he speaks about being typecast as a horror writer, and the plight of the unfortunate author who has written a story that is too short to be sold as a novel, and yet too long to comfortably be printed by short-fiction magazines and anthologies.

Contains examples of:

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    In general 
  • Either/Or Title: Each novella has a subtitle based on the season it's themed after.
  • Seasonal Baggage: Each of the four stories is based around a single season (though not necessarily in one year).

    Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption contains examples of: 

  • Animal Motifs: Red compares the sisters to jackals in that they tease their prey and hunt the most vulnerable.'
  • Approval of God: The scene in the film where Andy plays "Sull'aria" on the PA system is not in the short story. Stephen King is, however, on record saying he wishes it was.
  • Ass Shove: Andy smuggles five hundred dollars into the prison by this method. Red at the end smuggles out the pages on which he is writing the manuscript with the same trick. The novella is nearly one hundred pages long.
  • Bathroom Control: Prisoners have to ask permission to use the restroom. This carries over to their civilian lives after they've been institutionalized, often to the annoyance of their work-release employers.
  • Big Bad: Samuel Norton, the Warden of Shawshank Penitentiary who tries to cover up the fact that there is evidence of Andy Dufresne’s innocence and keep him locked up because he is aware of his money-laundering through his book-keeping job.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Andy is a "rockhound", an amateur geologist. This gives him an idea.
  • Desires Prison Life: Red is paroled after spending 38 years in prison. He has difficulty adjusting to the life outside, and considers committing some crime just that he could get back. Only thinking about Andy keeps him from doing it - he doesn't want to throw away the freedom Andy worked so hard to win back.
  • Divorce in Reno: Linda Dufresne was murdered right after she told Andy she wanted a Reno divorce.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Red narrates but the focus of the story is on Andy. Red says as much:
    "Anyway, it's not me I want to tell you about; I want to tell you about a guy named Andy Dufresne."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • For a little while, Andy had a cellmate. After the cellmate is moved out, he complains about how Andy's cell was unusually drafty.
    • Andy also talks about looking at the posters of pretty girls that he hangs in his cell and feeling like he could step through them.
  • Gambit Roulette: A large passage in the novella consists of Red enumerating all of the things that might have gone wrong with Andy's plan, but somehow did not.
  • Get into Jail Free:
    There had been several investigative reporters sniffing around, and one of them even did four months under an assumed name, for a crime made up out of whole cloth.
  • Great Escape: Andy tunnels through his wall, crawls through a sewer pipe, and escapes from prison.
  • Hate Sink: Warden Samuel Norton.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: The subtitle of the novella.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: Unfortunately for Andy he threw his gun in the river the day before the murders, so the cops can't check it against the bullets.
  • Insurance Fraud: This version of Red is a little more evil than the movie's (which never revealed his crime, though he described it as "terrible", probably to be sympathetic with audiences). He took out insurance on his wife and then cut the brakes to her car. She was killed in a crash with some neighbors she'd given a ride to, netting him life in prison.
  • No Kill like Overkill: The fact that Andy Dufresne's wife and lover were murdered in this way is what ultimately gets him such a hefty sentence, although the circumstances in themselves might have made him a Sympathetic Murderer in the eyes of the public:
    It was that last fact that militated more against Andy than any of the others. The DA with the political aspirations made a great deal of it in his opening statement and his closing summation. Andrew Dufresne, he said, was not a wronged husband seeking a hot-blooded revenge against his cheating wife; that, the DA said, could be understood, if not condoned. But this revenge had been of a much colder type. Consider! the DA thundered at the jury. Four and four! Not six shots, but eight! He had fired the gun empty . . . and then stopped to reload so he could shoot each of them again! FOUR FOR HIM AND FOUR FOR HER, the Portland Sun blared. The Boston Register dubbed him the "Even-Steven Killer."
  • The Old Con: Brooks, who spends nearly thirty years in prison and is crying when he has to leave. In prison, he was considered an educated man because he had a college degree (in animal husbandry) and was made prison librarian. Outside, he was a nobody. He dies in a home for indigent old folks after only being out a year, and Red is surprised he made it that long.
    As usual, the state in all its wisdom had let him go long after any chance he might have had to become a useful part of society was gone.
  • Prison Changes People: It's specifically pointed out that prison warps your personality over time. Indeed, one of the many things that annoys the warden is the way Andy is still acting like his old self despite years of confinement, and hasn't acquired the cautious, hunched look exhibited by many long-term cons.
  • Prison Rape: Happens to Andy at the hands of the "sisters", a rapist gang. Andy has Bogs the lead rapist beaten, and gets the others to leave him alone as payment for helping Hadley with an inheritance.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Red tells a story about a Shawshank prisoner who escaped by simply walking out the front door while the gate was open and the guards were changing shifts.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Red briefly mentions an inmate who paid him to smuggle the inmate's prized coin collection into Shawshank. Red agrees to, but warns him about bringing money into "a stone hotel full of thieves." The inmate grins and says he has the perfect place to hide the coins, and isn't kidding; years later he dies of a brain tumor but the coins are never found.
  • The Scrounger: Red's unofficial job in prison, as "the guy who can get it for you" at Shawshank.
  • Shout-Out: Rita Hayworth! Also, the prisoners watch The Lost Weekend.
  • Sitch Sexuality: Sometimes heterosexual prisoners in Shawshank come to "an arrangement" and become intimate.
  • Take a Third Option: Andy uses these exact words to describe the Black-and-Gray Morality of laundering the money that flows through the prison. He has no qualms about what he does for the warden, because it's not that different from what he was doing outside of prison. The novel then describes two extremes: the first is to be incorruptible and never get your hands dirty, and the other end of the spectrum is to wallow in filth and misery. Andy takes the third option by doing enough to get by without killing anyone.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: How Red killed his wife, by cutting the brakes in her car. Red didn't anticipate a neighbor lady and her little baby hitching a ride first.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Norton is borderline sadistic.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: "Five hundred yards... Just shy of a mile." That's like saying twenty minutes is just shy of an hour (there are 1,760 yards in a mile)note .

    Apt Pupil contains examples of: 

  • The All-American Boy: Todd is introduced as one in the opening sentence: "He looked like the total all-American kid as he pedalled his twenty-six-inch Schwinn with the ape-hanger handlebars up the residential suburban street, and that's just what he was..." Of course, he ends up veering very far from this type, but preserves the outward image.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: After he breaks his back and gets paralyzed from the waist down, Morris Heisel tries to console himself by thinking about how many people have it worse than him - and how he himself used to have it worse, since he's a Holocaust survivor.
  • As You Know: For the reader's benefit, Rubber Ed gives a detailed explanation of what IOP cards are during his meeting with Dussander.
  • The Atoner: Very darkly subverted. At first, Dussander tries to avoid discussing his past with Todd and is reluctant to go into any detail about it, seemingly out of shame and remorse for the things he had done. The more information Todd coaxes out of him, however, the more Dussander begins recalling his past atrocities with fondness and admiration, and with that comes the desire to relive them. It quickly becomes clear that he had never repented of his evil, but merely suppressed it.
  • Ax-Crazy: In the book, Todd is seriously messed up and his fixation on the Holocaust doesn’t help matters much. It gets to the point where he pretends to snipe at drivers from the top of a highway For the Evulz before losing it completely and going on a killing spree.
  • Bathroom Search Excuse: Dussander sneaks into the medical supply room at a hospital, looking for pills to commit suicide with. He prepares to use this trope as an excuse, but no one notices him.
  • Brick Joke: "He doesn't look like Peter Wimsey at all."
  • Broken Ace: Todd Bowden is an A student who becomes morbidly fascinated with the Holocaust and blackmails Dussander into giving him more gruesome details. This eventually causes him (and Dussander) to snap.
  • The Cameo: Dussander made his money in America thanks to stock tips from Andy Dufresne, and is amused at his going to prison a year later.
  • Cool Old Guy: Subverted, in that the reason Todd thinks Dussander is "cool" is because he killed thousands of people and can dispense every grisly detail.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: It starts when Todd finds magazines about World War II in his friend's garage and becomes morbidly fascinated by the Holocaust. It continues when he decides to get firsthand "gooshy stuff" from Dussander instead of turning him in. It finally ends with Todd becoming a spree killer.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    The door began to close. He might have dropped it right there, Todd thought much later on one of the nights when sleep was hard to find... It could have ended in that moment, the tiny, unimportant snicking sound of the latch cutting off everything that happened later as neatly as a pair of shears.
  • Crisis of Faith: Morris Heisel survived the Holocaust, while his first wife and his two daughters perished. Decades later, after he falls from a ladder, breaks his spine and becomes crippled, he declares what he has long believed is true; there is no God. He regains his faith in God after he ends up in the same hospital room with Dussander, who was the commander of the camp he was imprisoned in, and manages to identify him, which leads to Dussander's capture.
  • Dead Man Switch: Todd, while blackmailing Dussander, claims he left a letter (exposing Dussander) with a friend, to be opened and read in the event of his own death. When Dussander turns the tables and blackmails Todd, he claims that he left a complete account of Todd's actions in a bank deposit box, to be opened and read on the event of Dussander's death. They're both bluffing.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Todd is implied to have latent attraction toward men, along with women.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Todd begins killing homeless "winos" as he grows older. Dussander also begins killing local homeless men, and doesn't reveal he knows what Todd has been up to until much later.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Invoked in-universe. Todd started to "groove" on the Holocaust by reading old war magazines which condemned the murders of six million Jews, right before printing ads which sold Nazi paraphernalia.
  • Downer Ending: Dussander might be finally paying for his crimes forever, but Todd's plan to massacre motorists with his father's gun goes ahead, and it's implied it was very successful.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: This is implied to happen to Dussander when he dies of a sleeping pill overdose.
  • Driven to Suicide: Dussander kills himself rather than be sent to Israel, convicted and hanged as Eichmann was, which he feared for years.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Pretty much the whole point of the novella. Todd, intrigued by the horrors of the Holocaust, inquires Dussander to learn more about it. However, the more they interact, the more the boy's sanity begins to wane, as he starts to suffer from horrific nightmares and eventually devolves into a psychotic killer.
    Dussander: Boy, be careful. You play with fire.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dussander comes off as unfailingly polite and courteous in proper company, such as when he warmly chats with a young nurse about her engagement and says to tell him everything, and omit nothing. His fellow convalescent recognizes to his horror that the words and tone Dussander uses are the exact same as those of the concentration camp commander who interrogated him long ago. One of the nurses is devastated when he kills himself (she's a Catholic, and believes he's damned his soul), not realizing what a monster he really was (it's in fact implied he is damned, though not for suicide but all those past murders).
  • From Bad to Worse: The last thirty pages detail the systematic unraveling of both Todd's web of lies and his sanity. First, Rubber Ed finds out about Todd's doctored report cards and how he made Dussander pose as his grandfather. Then, Dussander gets identified and reported by one of his former victims, leading to him committing suicide, which wears on Todd's nerves even more with the fear of their connection being revealed. After the police find the remains of Dussander's murders, they start to suspect Todd of associating with Dussander, while the Israeli agent suspects him of the bum murders. This culminates with Rubber Ed seeing that the man who posed as Todd's grandfather was a Nazi war criminal, and a bum fingering Todd on his murders after witnessing him walk off with a victim and later seeing his picture in the paper. Todd is confronted by Rubber Ed and ends up murdering him, then loses whatever was left of his sanity and goes on a killing spree, during which he is finally shot dead by the police.
  • Genocide Survivor: Morris Heisel survived the Holocaust, spending time in the concentration camp Dussander commanded.
  • Hey, You!: Dussander never addresses Todd by name; instead, he always calls him "boy." Even when he impersonates Todd's grandfather (which is noticed by Rubber Ed, the guidance counselor). Todd is annoyed by this:
    Dussander had always called him 'boy'. Only that. Contemptuous. Anonymous. Yes, that was it, anonymous. As anonymous as a concentration camp serial number.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Todd blows it when he reveals to the detective investigating Dussander's case that only the letter was stolen from Dussander's house and nothing else. The detective quickly realizes the only way Todd would know that is if he had taken the letter himself.
  • Kick the Dog: Todd squashes an injured blue jay with his bike tire and proceeds to go back and forth over its corpse for no reason whatsoever.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Dussander commits suicide, but only too late realizes that he's condemned himself to an eternity of torment at the hands of his victims.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Todd has a girlfriend because he wants to look normal. However, by this time, he is a misogynistic, hateful monster, and he's only able to perform when he's thinking of rape and abuse; eventually, not even then.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: The title character is a teen boy who makes friends with his elderly neighbor. The man, a German national, turns out to have been a Nazi officer. They bond over torture methods.
  • Meaningful Name: At one point Todd muses on the fact that Dussander never calls him by his name. According to Stephen King, this is because "tod" is German for death.
  • Mythology Gag: Dussander tells Todd that he now lives on stock dividends—stocks that were picked out for him by a banker in Maine who went to prison for murdering his wife....
    Dussander: "Dufresne, his name was—I remember, because it sounds a little like mine. It seems he was not so smart at wife-killing as he was at picking growth stocks."
    • "Denker" is the name of the sadistic teacher in Jack Torrance's play, The Little School. Ed French's motel room is also Room 217.
  • Nazi Grandpa: Arthur Denker — real name Kurt Dussander. He pretends to be a German emigrant who fought in the German Army during the war; he was actually the commander of a minor concentration camp.
  • Nazi Protagonist: The two main characters are an ex-Nazi (Dussander) and a young boy (Todd) who wants to learn everything about Dussander's time in Germany, and eventually becomes a murderous Neo-Nazi himself.
  • Nervous Tics: Discussed. Dussander recalls that the stress of waiting for the Allies to march on the concentration camp he commanded caused a strange outburst of nervous tics in his soldiers, including teeth clicking and a man who would drum intricate patterns on his legs with his fingers. Dussander tends to talk to himself when stressed, a habit he unknowingly shares with Todd Bowden.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ed French confronting Todd about pretending Dussander was his grandfather both gets him killed and prompts Todd to launch his massacre just as the police finally have the proof they need to arrest him.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Only one sentence is used to describe Todd's shooting spree at the end of the story.
    • Dussander roasts a live cat in his oven to stave off his nightmares. That act is described in detail. Later, he goes to an animal shelter and acquires a German Shepherd puppy. God knows what he did to it, because it never turns up again.
  • Plagued by Nightmares: Kurt Dussander, who used to be the commander of a Nazi concentration camp, frequently has nightmares about it. He eventually commits suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, and he ends up dreaming those dreams — forever.
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    • Dussander claims to be one at first: "The problem was not of my making, nor was the solution. I was given orders and directives, which I followed." However, as we found out later, he's actually a sadistic monster.
    • Weiskopf, the Israeli agent sent to America after Dussander's secret is exposed says this about the architects of a possible new Holocaust: "I think most of them would look like ordinary accountants. Little mind-men with graphs and flow-charts and electronic calculators, all ready to start maximizing the kill ratios so that next time we could perhaps kill twenty or thirty millions instead of only seven or eight or twelve."
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Morris Heisel is a Holocaust survivor whose first wife, Ruth, died in a concentration camp. He imagines what he would say, if God appeared to him like he did to Job and said "Where were you when I made the world?"
    Where were You when my Ruth was dying, You potzer, You? Watching the Yankees and the Senators? If You can't pay attention to Your business better than this, get out of my face.
  • Really Gets Around: Todd's girlfriend, Betty Trask. According to Todd, she "was the kind of girl who fucked on the first date. On every date. And in between dates."
  • Retired Monster: Todd is fascinated by his old neighbour, Kurt Dussander, who took part in Nazi atrocities. His increasing fascination with the old man slowly brings back the monster in him, and awakens it in Todd.
  • Serial Killer: Both Dussander and Todd become serial killers of homeless alcoholics.
  • Soap Punishment: When Todd says "suck my cock" to Dussander, he replies that if he said something like that as a boy, he would've had his mouth washed out with lye soap.
  • The Sociopath: Todd in the book. Extremely Ax-Crazy, no empathy whatsoever, has a history of murdering animals for kicks, and is very manipulative, coaxing Kurt into telling him Holocaust stories for his own amusement.
  • Spree Killer: Todd Bowden, a seemingly ordinary boy who is secretly a budding psychopath with an obsession with Nazi war crimes fantasies about going on a killing spree, regularly thinking about murdering his loving parents and girlfriend, and at one point pretends to snipe drivers from a top the highway. He only holds off for fear of the reprisal that would occur. At the climax realising it will all come out about his involvement with Kurt Dussander, a former Nazi commander in hiding, and all the homeless people he murdered, he decides to embrace it. Taking his .22 rifle he first murders his guidance counsellor Rubber Ed, then heading to a highly-populated location opens fire on random citizens for five hours straight before being killed by the police.
  • Stand-In Parents: Dussander attends a parent/teacher conference at Todd's school, impersonating his grandfather so that they can manage to keep Todd's parents from finding out that his grades are in free fall.
  • Stepford Smiler: Todd maintains the image of a cheery all-American golden boy even while he's blackmailing the neighbourhood Nazi-in-hiding into telling gruesome concentration camp stories. It's all downhill from there.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Todd. He learns that his elderly next-door neighbor is a Nazi fugitive, but doesn't turn him in because he wants to learn the "gooshy stuff" about the Holocaust. As his Odd Friendship with the Nazi continues, Todd graduates from dreaming about raping concentration camp inmates to becoming a hobo-mauling serial killer. Finally, Todd kills his guidance counselor and snipes motorists on an expressway.
  • That Poor Cat: Used repeatedly when Dussander is trying to force the cat into the oven. It manages to get away in the film version, but isn't so lucky in the novella.
  • There Is a God!: Played With. After a Trauma Conga Line of a life that includes being a Holocaust survivor and losing his first wife to the camps, Morris Heisel abandons his faith when he falls off a ladder and breaks his back, leaving him paralyzed. However, he regains it after a) it starts to look like his paralysis will be temporary and b) he realizes that his hospital roommate is the commandant of the concentration camp he was imprisoned in, and he now has a chance to bring the man to justice.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: One of the first things we learn about 13-year-old Todd Bowden is that his thought process and manner of speech are both incredibly mature for a kid his age. The next thing we learn is that he has a very disturbing fascination with the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and is very eager to hear all the "gooshy" details from a firsthand source. Things get a lot worse from there.
  • Villain Protagonist: Todd and Dussander share the most screentime, and they're both thoroughly reprehensible.
  • You Are What You Hate:
    • Todd is repulsed by one of his girlfriends, thinking that she is Jewish (due to the influence Dussander has had on him). He himself is 1/8 Jewish.
    • Dussander himself claims he and Todd have something in common, in that Dussander's mother was a Jew — it is unclear whether he was serious or joking.

     The Body contains examples of: 

  • Abusive Parents: Teddy's ears are disfigured due to his father's pressing them down on a hot stove in a drunken rage. Chris's father is also violently abusive, and Gordie's is emotionally abusive, clearly favoring Gordie's older brother over him, despite the fact that said brother is dead.
  • Artistic License – History: In-Universe, Gordie mentions writing a series of stories as a boy involving Americans retaking a French town from the Nazis, and setting it in 1942, only finding out later that the U.S. Army didn't land in France until 1944.
  • Author Stand-In: Gordon Lachance, the sensitive and imaginative boy Stephen King used to be.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final confrontation between the four friends and the older boys at the site of the corpse takes place during a rainstorm, and in the middle of hailstorms Chris tells Gordie to "stay with me."
  • Berserk Button: Teddy's a little unstable. Don't tell him that his father is a loon, and don't tell him that he can't do something he wants to do.
  • Big Bad: John “Ace” Merrill, The Bully to Gordie and his friends who tries to stop them from reaching the body as he wants to find it himself and take all the credit for finding it.
  • Boring Return Journey: Barely a chapter of the narrative is devoted to the uneventful return home.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: "A thin stream of urine ran listlessly down the inside of one thigh" when Gordie reached down to the railroad track and felt it vibrating with the approach of a train. Also, Vern suddenly feels the need to relieve himself immediately after.
  • Call-Forward: It's mentioned that Chopper was the most feared dog in the county until Cujo went rabid 20 years later.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the boys makes an offhand reference to Shawshank Prison, the subject of another story in this collection.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The subtitle, Fall from Innocence, refers to "fall" as in a huge decline, but also as in the season, autumn.
  • The Dreaded: Chopper, the dog that guards the junkyard, is built up to be the second coming of Cujo. In reality, not so much.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Mostly two days over Labor Day weekend.
  • Groin Attack: Part of the beatdown Ace administers to Gordie near the end of the story.
    • Also part of the folklore surrounding Chopper, Milo's dog:
    It was rumored that Chopper could take an ear, an eye, a foot, or a leg…and that a second offender who was surprised by Milo and the ever-loyal Chopper would hear the dread cry: “Chopper! Sic! Balls!” And that kid would be a soprano for the rest of his life.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: A teenaged non-alcoholic version. But after Gordie and Vern barely escape death from an oncoming train, a jittery Chris suggests they all drink the Cokes they got at the grocery.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The weird screams the kids hear while camping at night in the woods are rationalized by Chris as a wildcat looking for a mate, but later that night a half asleep Gordie sees a white silhouette that he describes as a "grotesquely ambulatory bedsheet" among the trees that may be either a dream or Ray Browers's actual ghost.
  • Mythology Gag: Gordie notes that Chopper's legend as the scariest dog in Castle Rock has since been supplanted by Cujo.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Gordie dreams that Vern and Teddy drag Chris into water and drown him.
  • Parental Favoritism: Gordie's parents visibly favored Denny over Gordie, to the point of barely acknowledging Gordie's existence at all.
  • Parental Neglect: The novella makes it clear that this is not something that started after Denny's death - Gordie once swore at the dinner table just to see what would happen ("Please pass those goddamn spuds."), and the only response was his mother telling Denny that his aunt asked how he was doing.
    • It's a literal case with the Chambers family. Chris' oldest brother Frank is in jail. His dad, during the Labour Day weekend when the events of the story occurred, is on a bender, sending his mother to visit her sister out of town. She, in turn leaves the youngest three (ages 9, 5, and 2) in the care of Eyeball, who runs off with Ace, in turn, leaving the little ones alone.
  • Racing the Train: The boys race a train on foot, not because they want to, but because they're stuck on a railroad bridge.
  • Railroad to Horizon: Gordie remembers this as part of what "summer" means to him.
  • Sadist Teacher: One teacher was rumored to have struck a child blind.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Teddy's father didn't quite entirely come back from WWII. After burning his son's ears he was sent to a VA insane asylum.
  • Slumber Party Ploy: The boys claim they're camping in the field behind Vern's house but they're actually going into the woods to look at the body of a missing kid.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Don't go looking for dead bodies or you will acquire a death curse.
  • Story Within a Story: "The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan" as well as a story Gordie wrote early in his writing career called "Stud City."
  • The Storyteller: Gordie, who is a young and imaginative writer.
  • The Teetotaler: Chris refuses to drink, because he's afraid that he would become an alcoholic like his father and his older brothers. Gordie notes that one might find this funny because Chris is only twelve, but he was completely serious about it.
  • Third-Party Peacekeeper: Chris Chambers leads the gang because he's the best at making peace when the others fight, and it shows when he calms down an altercation between Gordie and Teddy on the railroad tracks. It comes back to bite him as an adult, when he tries to stop two men fighting in a restaurant; one guy pulls a knife and stabs Chris in the throat, killing him almost instantly.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Teddy is almost the personification of this trope. His truck-dodging, "that time in the tree," etc. Vern isn't any smarter (maybe even less so), but he's considerably more risk-averse than Teddy, so doesn't count. They both end up dying young, Vern in a house fire, Teddy in a drunk driving accident.
  • Treehouse of Fun: The boys hang out in one of these at the beginning.
  • The Unfavorite: Gordie's parents never show much affection to him, preferring Gordie's older brother. In flashbacks, it shows they didn't pay much attention to him even before the older boy's death.
  • We Will Meet Again: Ace says this after Gordie pulls the gun on him. Sure enough, Ace and his gang give each of the boys a Curb-Stomp Battle after they return to town.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Actually the second-to-last chapter, describing the fate of Gordie's three companions. He is the only one still alive.
  • World's Smallest Violin: Gordie uses this to poke fun at Chris.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: How old was Ace in 1960? He was one of the "big kids", but was later described as a "thirty-two-year-old man" driving "a ’77 Ford station wagon" with a faded "Reagan/Bush 1980" bumper-sticker.
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: "'How do you know when a Frenchman's been in your back yard? Well, your garbage cans are empty and your dog is pregnant.' Teddy would try to look offended, but he was the first one to bring in a joke as soon as he heard it, only switching Frenchman to Polack."

    The Breathing Method contains examples of: 

  • Chekhov's Skill: Sandra tells Dr. McCarron the story of how her boss fired her when her pregnancy began to show, in the process treating her very shabbily. It made Sandra so angry that to avoid blowing up and trashing the office, she controlled herself using the Breathing Method.
  • Determinator: Sandra. After being decapitated in a car accident, she refuses to die until she gives birth.
  • Eldritch Location: The club itself is implied to be one. Adley reads several novels and poetry collections there that have no evidence of existing anywhere outside the clubhouse, and near the end of the story he takes notice of a corridor leading out of the main chamber that he doesn't recall ever being there before.
  • Losing Your Head: Sandra Stansfield, who's about to give birth, is decapitated in a car accident in front of the hospital. She remains alive and conscious for several minutes from sheer willpower until she gives birth to her son.
  • Meaningful Name: Stevens, the Club's butler.
  • Mr. Smith: Sandra gives the name "Jane Smith" when she first visits Dr. McCarron. He finds it somehow admirable that she's not even trying to come up with a believable fake name.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Dr. McCarron specifically cautions Sandra against this, relating to her an anecdote of a woman who used a girdle to hide her condition, possibly causing the birth defects her child ended up with.
  • No Antagonist: There is no villain or physical threat in the frame tale or the main story as it is about the relationship between a doctor and a young pregnant woman.
  • Orphaned Punchline: A horror variant: readers will eternally wonder how a man could drown in a telephone booth, or why "His head is still speaking in the earth!"
  • Riddle for the Ages: There's something strange about the club. It has books that cannot be found anywhere else, published by companies nobody has ever heard of. The narrator once tries to ask Stevens the butler about where all these things come from. But all he manages to ask is: "Are there many more rooms upstairs?"
    Stevens: Oh, yes, sir. A great many. A man could become lost. In fact, men have become lost. Sometimes it seems to me that they go on for miles. Rooms and corridors.
  • Screaming Birth: Averted. Sandra practices the titular breathing method, which is designed to let the woman "use her breath for something more useful than screaming." Unfortunately, this is a contributing factor in her death; the taxi driver taking her to hospital is creeped out when she's breathing heavily but not screaming, turns to check if she's okay, skids on a patch of ice, and crashes the cab. It kills her, though she doesn't let a little thing like decapitation interfere with the delivery of her child. The narrator, Dr McCarron, mentions that this was very common in the '30s, since women heard from everywhere that giving birth is very painful -- so it turned out to be painful.
  • Sequel Hook: "Yes, always more tales. And perhaps, one day, I'll tell you another." (In fact, there is a sequel-of-sorts about the Club at 249B: "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands" from Skeleton Crew.)
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The narrator attends a gentlemen's club which features storytelling as well as the usual socialising, brandy-drinking and the like. There's something eerie about the club, but we never find out exactly what it is.
  • Year X: In the framing story, David Adley first starts attending The Club in 196-, and Emlyn McCarron tells the Breathing Method story in 197-.

It is the tale, not he who tells it.

Alternative Title(s): The Body, Apt Pupil, The Breathing Method, Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption