English 10 Honors
Stand Together, Stand Strong
People behave strangely when more than ninety-nine percent of the population is dead. They behave even more strangely when they’re the prize of a cosmic struggle. In Stephen King’s fantasy/horror, The Stand, a plague created by the military decimates the modern world. The humans that survived the plague are now the commodity of the personifications of good and evil, the troops in an epically proportioned conflict.
The book begins with the spread and origin of the plague and the toll it takes on civilization and the population. Its spread through the nation, and then throughout the world, brings chaos in martial law, with horrible atrocities being committed by many of those still alive and in power. Military brutality is rampant, and all human rights are being ignored or even deliberately violated; civilization and society are disintegrating in the face of mass death. Meanwhile, the survivors are struggling to endure the psychological burden of being alone and tending to the dead and dying. They begin to find each other, but are plagued by horrible nightmares, the embodiment of their worst fears come to haunt them in their dreamland. These begin to be counterbalanced by dreams of a benevolent old woman, and all of the living and still-functioning coalesce around these two figures. A society forms around each: one of death, in Las Vegas around Flagg, and one of life, in Boulder, Colorado, around Mother Abagail. As powers converge and events unfold, the future fate of humanity is decided.
The Walkin’ Dude; the dark man; the man with no face; him; Randall Flagg. The purest embodiment of evil, not only is he privy to an occasional demonic countenance, he is even sometimes allegorically referenced to the Devil. He is depicted as sowing death and discord with his very presence, showing them to be integral parts of his nature: “when he grins, birds fall dead off telephone lines. The grass yellows up and dies where he spits. [. . .]. His name is Legion. [. . .]. He can call the wolves and live in the crows. He’s the king of nowhere” (939). The dark man is terror personified, and even those that are loyal to him feel a primeval fear and animal loathing of him. However, evil is a relative thing, and can only be named as such if there is a foil to it. In this case, it is Mother Abagail. She is the safety and comfort of a mother’s arms, the warmth and love of a good home: she is human in a way Flagg is not and therefore subject to the weakness of humanity. Wise and kind though she may be, she is understandably bitter about her fate to “go away with strangers from all the things you love best and die in a strange land with the work not yet finished” (607). Eventually, she offends God with the sin of Pride, and must go on a pilgrimage out into the desert (a very appropriate biblical parallel) to “get right with God” (940), a pursuit which, in the end, results in her demise. However, the divine wisdom she gained on this pilgrimage, she put to use in her ordering of the journey of the four to the West, resulting in the end of Flagg’s reign and freedom for the people of the aptly-named Free Zone. One-hundred-and-eight years old, Mother Abagail is both an icon of vitality and frailty: she represents the dual, paradoxical, and precarious nature of good present in both people and civilization as a whole.
Mother Abagail’s final action was to send a quest: she began the group of people at her deathbed – namely Stu Redman, Glen Bateman, Ralph Brentner, and Larry Underwood – on a perilous journey West, to destroy Flagg. Of these four characters (though they are obviously the primary focus of the end part of the novel) Ralph is probably the least important, him and Glen being fairly minor characters that rarely if ever are given voice by King. Stu, however, is the leader of both this group and the entire Free Zone, and also the first major character we are...
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