The Body (King novella)

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The Body
The Body 2009 Edition.JPG
2009 audiobook edition cover
AuthorStephen King
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Coming-of-age story
PublisherViking
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Publication date1982

The Body is a novella by American writer Stephen King, originally published in his 1982 collection Different Seasons and adapted into the 1986 film Stand by Me. Some changes were made to the plot of the film, including changing the setting year from 1960 to 1959 and the location of Castle Rock from Maine to Oregon.

The story takes place during the summer of 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. After a boy from Chamberlain, Maine, named Ray Brower disappears and is presumed dead, twelve-year-old[1] Gordie Lachance and his three friends, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio set out "on a quest"[1] to find his body along the railway tracks[1] after telling their parents they will be camping out because they consider it to be a "rite of passage."[2] "Because they are young, the idea of finding the body excites them, making this trip an adventure." [1] During the course of their journey, the boys, who all come from abusive or dysfunctional families, come to grips with death and the harsh truths of growing up in a small factory town that does not seem to offer them much in the way of a future.[1] "It is not until they actually see the boy's body that they finally confront the reality of death."[1]

"The kid was dead. The kid wasn't sick, the kid wasn't sleeping. The kid wasn't going to get up in the morning anymore ... or catch poison ivy or wear out the eraser on the end of his Ticonderoga No 2 during a hard math test. The kid was dead."[1]

In comparison to King's prior works, the narrative of The Body is complicated in that it is told in first-person point of view by the now adult Gordon Lachance. Most of the story is a straightforward retrospective of what happened, but comments, or entire chapters that relate to the present time, are interspersed throughout. Although he is only 12 at the time of the story, Gordie's favorite diversion is writing and storytelling. During the narrative, he tells stories to his friends, and two stories are presented in the text as short stories by Gordon Lachance, complete with attribution to the magazines in which they were published.

Plot[edit]

Gordon "Gordie" LaChance reminisces about his childhood in Castle Rock, Maine. At that time, Gordie's elder brother Dennis, whom his parents favored, had recently died, leaving Gordie's parents too depressed to pay much attention to him. In 1960, Gordie and his three friends − Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp and Vern Tessio − learn that a gang of hooligans led by John "Ace" Merrill have accidentally discovered the dead body of a missing boy named Ray Brower, who was hit by a train. Because the gang found the body while driving a stolen car, they elected not to report the body to the police. The boys get the idea to find the body "officially" so that they may become famous. In preparation for the expedition, Chris steals a gun from his father, and the boys camp out in a nearby field.

Over the course of the narrative, the adult Gordie recalls his first published story, Stud City, about the life of a simple man named Edward "Chico" May whose older brother also died. He has a girlfriend, Jane, who he does not have particularly strong feelings for. Chico knows that his stepmother Virginia slept with his brother before he died, but he hesitates to tell his father about it. One day, Chico has a fight with his father over Virginia and leaves the house.

Along the way, the boys trespass at the town dump and are chased by Chopper, the dump custodian Milo Pressman's dog. Teddy gets into a verbal skirmish with Milo when the latter insults Teddy's father. Gordie and Vern are nearly run over by a train while crossing a trestle. While at a resting point, Gordie tells his friends another story, "The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan", in which the titular Davie "Lard-Ass" Hogan exacts vengeance on the town locals for ridiculing his wide girth by downing a whole bottle of castor oil before engaging in the town's annual pie-eating contest and vomiting on the previous year's champion, which causes a chain reaction that nauseates the entire audience. The next morning, the boys stumble upon a small pond and partake in a swim, but jump out in horror when they find that the pond is teeming with leeches.

After a thunderstorm, the boys finally find the dead body, but Ace's gang arrives shortly after. During an argument, Chris pulls the gun on the gang and forces them to leave, but Ace promises reprisals. Tired, depressed and fearing retaliation, the boys decide there is nothing more to be done with the body and return home. Subsequently, one of the gang members reports the body as an anonymous tip, and the gang members severely beat all four boys. The four friends eventually drift apart, but Gordie and Chris remain close. Chris decides to prepare for higher education, and with Gordie's support, they both graduate from the University of Maine. In the present day, Gordie tells how he learned of Chris's death after he was fatally stabbed while trying to stop an argument in a restaurant, about the deaths of Vern and Teddy (in a house fire and car accident respectively), about his successful writing career, and about his recent visit to Castle Rock, where he found that Ace has become an alcoholic and ordinary worker.

Accusation of plagiarism[edit]

In Lisa Rogak's unauthorized biography Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King, a friend of King's, George McLeod, claimed that King had cribbed the idea for The Body from a short story McLeod had written, but these claims are disputed by King. McLeod requested a portion of the royalties from The Body and Stand by Me; King refused. McLeod sued, which ended their friendship. Since then, King has refused his fans' requests to read their manuscripts for advice; King has claimed that he is concerned that there may be further accusations of plagiarism.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Aaron Burch, a lecturer in English at the University of Michigan, wrote Stephen King's The Body: Bookmarked,[4] which analyzes the novella and describes how it influenced Burch's life, including inspiring him to become a writer.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g May, Charles E. & Magill, Frank N. (Eds). (2001). Critical Survey of Short Fiction. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press Inc.
  2. ^ May, Charles E. & Magill, Frank N. (Eds). (2001). Critical Survey of Short Fiction. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press Inc.
  3. ^ Rogak, Lisa (January 5, 2010). Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King (First ed.). St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-60350-9.
  4. ^ Burch, Aaron (15 July 2016). Stephen King's The Body: Bookmarked. Brooklyn, New York: Ig Publishing. ISBN 978-1632460301. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  5. ^ Rich, Jacob (7 September 2016). "Author Aaron Burch talks Stephen King's 'The Body' in his new book". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 1 May 2017.