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Literature / Rage

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Rage is a novel written by Stephen King, and his first release under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.

A disturbed high schooler, after being expelled, shoots his teacher and takes the rest of his class hostage. A show-and-tell session with an unexpected flavor of The Breakfast Club ensues.

Stephen King requested the novel to be pulled out of circulation after its connection to several similar school shooting incidents possibly inspired by it.

The novel provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Charlie's father is a racist, homophobic misogynist and one of the main factors as to why Charlie is so unhinged.
    • Pig Pen's mother drowned a cat that her daughter gets and won't let her son have a car on the chance that he might get a girl pregnant. It also seems that she's to blame for his poor hygiene because of her bad spending habits.
  • The Alcoholic: Ted's mom is one, which is why he had to quit football to help out with his family while she was getting sober. It's clear he's still resentful to her for it.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Mentioned by Charlie. He thinks Ted's handsome face is the one Irma must call up at such times.
  • Adults Are Useless: The source of a lot of the drama. No one seems to know how to deal with Charlie's increasingly erratic behaviour, and they don't even expel him after he assaults a teacher.
    • Every adult in the story that Charlie deals with is either violent (Charlie's father, the chief of police who shoots an unarmed Charlie three times), easily angered (Mr. Denver), all talk (Mr. Grace, Charlie's dad's drinking buddies), or an enabler (Charlie's mother). And none of them know the right way to handle what Charlie's problem is.
  • Arc Words: "Getting it on." Also the original title of the book.
  • Axes at School: Even before he decides to shoot up the classroom, Charlie has been carrying a wrench in his back pocket. The gun he uses to kill the teachers was one he stole from his father and kept in his locker.
  • Big Man on Campus: Ted Jones, who thinks he can rally the class against Charlie and make himself out to be a hero but instead overestimates himself and pays the price for it.
  • Black Comedy: As terrifying as the hostage situation is, Charlie's negotiations with Mr. Grace dips into hilarious at points with such liners as "Ever get a revelation from your father?" and asking about his sex life in between his threats to shoot a hostage if he slips up and asks any question.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Charlie manages to do a real number on the pompous school counselor who tries to negotiate with him over the classroom intercom- he threatens to shoot a hostage if the man asks him any questions, finally gets him to slip up and fires a shot into the floor.
    • What the classmates do to Ted in the end.
  • Break Them by Talking: Charlie causes Mr. Denver, the principal with almost thirty years of "the kid game" under his belt, to be pushed over the edge where he almost attacks Charlie after expelling him with Charlie not doing more than just using crude language. He also does the same thing to Mr. Grace, the school counselor, who ends up sounding more like an upset child by the time Charlie finishes with him.
  • The Bully: Ted Jones. Early on, he's belittling and insulting his classmates even before they start sympathizing with Charlie since he expected them to be on his side instantly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the book Charlie places a padlock in his shirt pocket. It's what saves his life when he's shot by a SWAT team sniper.
  • Country Matters: The story of the Cherokee Nose Job.
  • Covert Pervert: According to Sylvia Raglan, school counselor Mr. Grace tried to look up her dress and ask about her sex life when she threw an inkwell at a teacher.
  • Darker and Edgier: Decades later, it's still one of King's bleakest works.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: For obvious reasons, Charlie and Sandra's relationship is left unresolved.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Sandra Cross is almost unnaturally calm through the entire event, even when Ted spits in her face after she pops off his shirt buttons and she crams a wad of paper in his mouth after he spits it out.
  • Double Entendre: After the class (sans Ted) has relaxed a bit more, Charlie playfully asks Sylvia Raglan if she wants to "pull his trigger" and she coyly asks if his safety is on.
  • Downer Ending: Poor Ted is sent to a hospital in a catatonic state after a disturbingly vicious assault by his classmates (which they get away with scot-free to boot!) and the doctor implies his situation may never improve. Also Charlie is sent to an asylum for murdering two people.
  • Evil Genius: Charlie. Despite his bouts of madness, he's cunning and shrewd when he's able to gather himself and is able to reduce the weak-willed principal and pompous guidance counselor to acting more like incompetent children by only his words.
  • Facial Horror:
    • The Cherokee Nose Job, as told by Charlie's dad; if a woman is unfaithful, then the response is to cut her nose in half (representing her "cunt") to let everyone know of her indiscretion.
    • Early in the book, Charlie looks in the mirror and sees a nightmare version of his face.
  • Foil: Charles "Charlie" Decker and Theodore "Ted" Jones. Both of them are quite intelligent (they were the only ones who passed Mrs. Underwood's last test) but mentally unstable Charlie is able to get to the same level as his classmates and sympathize with them while Big Man on Campus Ted clearly thinks he's better than everyone else and is rude and unsympathetic to his classmates to the point of being a bully.
  • Force Feeding: Nancy Caskin shoves paper down Ted's throat during the mobbing, Ted tries to spit it out, but Sandra Cross forces it back in. Thankfully, Charlie removes it later.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first chapter, Charlie has a vision of his teacher telling him he belongs in a mental hospital. By the end of the book, he is.
  • Grew a Spine: Irma, who goes from whining and crying about being a hostage to punching a girl after Slut-Shaming her and her mother.
  • Hero Antagonist: Ted, despite being a jerkass, is trying to rally the class against someone who just killed two innocent people and is effectively holding them hostage. It fails because of how he clearly looks down on his classmates and acts like he's better than them compared to Charlie who gets to their level.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Charlie is forced to go on one with his father and some of his friends. There he learns about the Cherokee Nose Job.
  • Jerkass: Ted, who starts off as a smug (former) Jerk Jock but gets steadily broken down.
  • Karma Houdini: Presumably, the rest of the class who went along with Charlie and ultimately drove Ted insane (he dies in the original manuscript to make matters worse), although see below under Noodle Incident.
    • In a way, Charlie's father also evades punishment for the way he treated Charlie save for the embarrassment of people knowing just who his son is.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Don Grace, the school counselor, acts like he knows all the answers but it's clear that Charlie's behavior is over his head and that he's a "creepster" according to a female classmate.
  • Little Miss Badass: Grace is cute and petite but has one hell of a Megaton Punch and is elated about the chaos that Charlie has caused.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Charlie does this at one point to reassure his quasi-hostages while toying with the authorities over the intercom.
  • My Beloved Smother: Pig Pen's mother constantly undermines his attempts at living an even halfway normal life, including preventing him from having a car because he might use it to have sex with a girl.
  • Noodle Incident: A few things happen to some of the class in the epilogue, but these events are censored in the letter to Charlie.
  • Oedipus Complex: Charlie has a dream about his father killing his mother after giving her a Cherokee Nose Job and wakes up with an erection.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: John Dano is only ever referred to as "Pig Pen." While he's not happy about the nickname, he wears it in stride.
    • Ted's full name, Theodore, is only mentioned in a single sentence near the end.
  • Only Sane Man: Ted towards the end. His status doesn't last. It really doesn't. Especially in the original manuscript, because instead of being sent to receive therapy, he dies.
  • Panty Shot: Once, Charlie took Sandra Cross to a dance and she lost the top button on her Wranglers, exposing the "flat white V" of her panties.
  • Pet the Dog: Ted is a douche most of the book, but he does have one nice moment right before he tries to leave where he says he didn't mean what he said about his mother, referring to calling her a "drunk bitch".
  • The Pig-Pen: Pig Pen, as you might guess, is a grubby mess yet not by any fault of his own.
  • Pocket Protector: Charlie's padlock.
  • The Quiet One: Susan Brooks, who manages to successfully guess that a good deal of Charlie's problems had to do with his parents, is described as someone who doesn't speak up unless called on and asked to speak up.
  • Shout-Out: "Hot Stuff" by The Rolling Stones, from Black and Blue is playing at a party.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Ted tries to do this to Charlie to get the rest of the class on his side. It doesn't work.
  • Slut-Shaming: Discussed. "You're either all brain or all cunt." "My mother's a slut, and I love her."
    • Irma does this to Grace and her mother with Ted doing the same thing to Sandra after she explains what happened during their first time.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Many of the students find themselves sympathizing with and expressing approval towards Charlie.
  • Stunned Silence: All the students sit and stare after Charlie shoots his math teacher.
  • Suicide by Cop: Charlie tries this at the end, grabbing for a nonexistent gun. He gets shot multiple times, but survives.
  • Their First Time: Charlie and the class find out about Ted and Sandra's first time together which she considered merely "nice."
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Joe McKennedy's letter to Charlie. According to the letter, the once mousy and shy Irma ends up hooking up with a protestor/hippie type where they caused quite a ruckus at a political rally, Grace gets married, something happened involving Pig Pen and Dick Keene that the letter censors, and Sandra is still holding out hope for Charlie despite going out on a date with Joe.
  • Villain Protagonist: Charlie. He's the POV narrator who remorselessly murders two people and holds his entire class hostage. And yet his unstable mental condition as well as being able to relate to his classmates makes him much more sympathetic than his foil and Hero Antagonist Ted.


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