“He would see It naked, a thing of unshaped destroying light.”
Clowns are inherently scary for many people, and when Stephen King chose to make a clown the initial form of his monster in his epic novel It, he was both responding to and enhancing the public’s curious revulsion at popular painted jesters. What “it” truly is in the novel, though, is something intangible. It is the essence of fear projected and manifested.
When the adults confront It again, they recognize it as something more complicated than what they can comprehend.
“‘No,’ Bill thought coldly, ‘not a Spider either, not really, but this shape isn’t one It picks out our of our minds, it’s just the closes our minds can come to it. ”
“A nightmare Spider from beyond time and space, a Spider from beyond the funeral imaginings of whatever inmates may live int he deepest depths of hell.”
“Ben heard Its eager mewling, looked into It’s timeless, evil red eyes . . .and for an instant did see the shape behind the shape: saw lights, saw an endless crawling hairy thing which was mad of light and nothing else, orange light, dead light that marked life.”
The novel it doesn’t succinctly sum up it’s mystery, it lingers over each character’s psychological makeup and relishes in delicately carved memories of childhood trauma and bonding and the captivating language of fear. Whatever “It” is supposed to be, it is intricately linked to childhood development and what we lose when we grow up. “It” comes around every 28 years – long enough for the last batch who experienced “It’s” terror to lose touch with the childlike version of themselves.
The clown, The Deadlights, the smells, the sewers, the neglectful and abusive parents, and the spider manifestation of “It” are all sensory and tangible elements of the cruel horror of the world we named “evil.” In Stephen King’s sprawling book, however, this particular evil that infected an entire town, a particular place on Earth for centuries, came from some outside source.
The evil itself is not an alien entity, but the alien entity harnessed our evil and used it against us. The device that it was somehow in a physical form in Derry, Maine, made it possible for it to be “killed.” The entire story is a large metaphor for confronting what scarred you as a child, murdering it’s control over your present, adult life, and then gradually forgetting in order to move on. I’m not an expert in how to overcome trauma psychologically, forgetting without confronting it in some way, as the group did initially, means it is still affecting your life and decisions beneath the surface.
A new film adaptation of IT hits theaters on September 8, 2017 in the U.S.
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