Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Insomnia

Go To
It's a long walk back to Eden, sweetheart, so don't sweat the small stuff.

Insomnia is a novel written by Stephen King.

Ralph Roberts, an elderly widower, is suffering from insomnia. Soon he begins to see things that are invisible to others—auras that represent people's life forces and little bald men who are present at the homes of the dying. Soon Ralph discovers that the fate of the universe is resting on his shoulders.

No relation to the film of the same name.

This story provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Human: The Little Bald Doctors.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Or level of the Tower for Ralph and Lois.
    Clotho: Remember that these things exist on a different level of reality from the one where you are now!
  • Ax-Crazy: Atropos and Ed Deepneau.
  • Balancing Death's Books: Thanks to Atropos, Natalie Deapneau is set to be killed by a car. Ralph bargains with Clotho and Lachesis to exchange his life for hers.
  • Advertisement:
  • Because Destiny Says So: Patrick Danville is destined to die saving two people, one of whom is very important.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: It's very easy to think of Atropos as a foul-mouthed, tantrummy brat. It's also fatal.
  • Big Bad: The Crimson King
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: Ralph thwarts the Crimson King's plans and later ends up sacrificing his life to save a little girl.
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: Insomnia allows Ralph to see the aura of people as well as higher powers that influence the world.
  • The Cameo: Mike Hanlon from IT has a small scene at the library. Ralph also drives by the giant statue of Paul Bunyan that came alive in IT.
    • Roland the Gunslinger appears for the space of one sentence, rolling over in his sleep as the events of this novel ripple through reality.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Hey hey, Susan Day! How many kids did you kill today?"
  • Canon Discontinuity: In the final Dark Tower novel, it's revealed that Insomnia is not meant to be taken at face value. For example, while Patrick Danville appears and plays an important role, he does not die saving two people—something that was foretold that he would do.
    • There is a monument in the park to the "Loser's Club" from IT which, by the canon in that novel, shouldn't exist, since it was emphasized the characters forgot their experiences once the monster was finally defeated.
  • Advertisement:
  • Canon Welding: Quite a bit. In addition to taking place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine and featuring assorted references to IT, the book also ties into The Dark Tower and introduces two major characters, the Crimson King and Patrick Danville. Ralph also makes a small appearance in Bag of Bones that takes place before his death. There's even a passing reference to Pet Sematary.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ralph.
  • Cosmic Horror Story
  • Creepy Souvenir: Atropos takes an item as a souvenir from the people he 'kills'.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Atropos throws screaming tantrums, throws out constant Cluster F Bombs and lives like a feral child. Then he has a moment of Tranquil Fury, the mask falls away, and you realize just how old, powerful, and evilly wise he really is. It's at that point we remember that he's effectively a rabid Grim Reaper.
  • Diving Save: The main character pulls the Heroic Sacrifice version at the climax, to save his friend's daughter from a speeding car.
  • Domestic Abuse: Ed Deapneau to his wife.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Clotho and Lachesis treat the dying with respect; Ralph becomes convinced that they're not evil after he sees them ending the life of one of his old friends. Atropos, on the other hand...
  • Door Stopper
  • The Dragon: Atropos
  • Ear Ache: Ralph cuts off one of Atropos' ears.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Crimson King.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Ed Deapneau still loves his family to the point when he plans to crash his plane into the civic center he has a photo of them on the cockpit so they can be the last thing that he sees before he dies.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: One of the Bald Men actually says that "Purpose" prefers to have people deal with the problems instead of taking care of them itself.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Little Bald Doctors.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: An interesting variation. Ralph and Lois both learn how they can weaponize their aura's against Atropos. To achieve this, Ralph makes a hand movement identical to a karate chop, while Lois makes a finger gun and pretends to shoot.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: A large chunk of the novel deals with Ralph dealing with his insomnia and serves as a rumination on age and death. The cosmic plot only picks up a couple of hundred pages into the book.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ralph makes a deal with Clotho and Lachesis to die in the place of Natalie Deapneau.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Helen Deapnau and Gretchen Tilbury. Gretchen is implied to be a lesbian and Helen comes out as one in the epilogue but by this time, Gretchen has been murdered. Several people imply that their relationship is more than friendship, but it's never made clear.
  • The Insomniac: Ralph, which allows him to see people's auras and supernatural entities. Lois is revealed to be one too.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Atropos repeatedly sings a skipping song, while skipping with a skipping rope that he stole:
    Three, six, nine
    The goose drank wine...
  • Mythology Gag: Several. Notably, Ralph finds a pair of shoes belonging to the little boy who died from Pet Sematary.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Lois always refers to her late husband, Paul Chasse as "Mr. Chasse", except when she finds out that Ralph plans to sacrifice himself to save Natalie. She then says: "I lost Paul, I can't lose you, too!"
  • Painting the Medium: Certain characters' telepathic thoughts fade out and back in, signifying that something is wrong with them. The text of their thoughts actually fades into illegibility, then becomes clear and readable again.
  • Rape and Switch: Hinted at with Helen Deepneau, although "abuse and switch" might be more accurate based on the evidence at hand; either way, she's openly if discreetly identifying as a lesbian by the end of the book, which the narrator puts down to her abusive marriage to Ed.
  • Save This Person, Save the World: The story culminates in the main characters racing against time to save the life of a young boy named Patrick... Whom they've never met, never actually meet during the course of the novel, and whose importance is never quite fully explained in the book either. All they know is that the fate of the universe depends on them saving this one boy. The boy later grows up and becomes a pivotal character in The Dark Tower.
  • Second Love: Ralph and Lois for each other; they were both Happily Married and widowed.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: The Little Bald Doctors' scissors. For Clotho and Lachesis, at least; Atropos uses a rusty scalpel.
  • Straight Gay: Ralph's friend, Bill McGovern. He's an old man with no active sex life and he doesn't have any stereotypically gay mannerisms, so when he offhandedly mentions it, it comes completely out of the blue for the reader.
  • Suicide Attack: Ed Deepneau tries to crash a plane into the Derry Civic Center to kill Patrick Danville.
  • Tragic Monster: Implied with Ed Deepneau.
  • Tranquil Fury: Atropos spends the entire novel swearing and throwing screaming tantrums. Then Ralph actually manages to land a few solid hits on him, and Atropos gets very calm. That's when Ralph realizes, a bit belatedly, that he should be very, very afraid.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Atropos throws a tantrum whenever his plans are thwarted.
  • Warm Milk Helps You Sleep: Drinking a glass of warm milk is one of the many solutions offered to Ralph by his friends and neighbors when he starts suffering from insomnia. Since his insomnia has a supernatural cause, it doesn't help at all.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: The Three Bald Doctors. Two of them, Clotho and Lachesis, were benevolent; the third, Atropos, was decidedly not.
  • Widow 'Cross the Way. Not a "girl next door" in the traditional sense, but hey, why not? Lois.


Example of: