Throughout "The Body," Stephen King uses the dead body of Ray Brower as an extended metaphor for the boys attempting to end their childhoods, as all boys do at some point in their adolescence. In this quest to see a literal dead body, the boys experience much of the pain that accompanies growing up.
In fact, this story really ties into Thomas Foster's explanation that a quest is really a journey of self-discovery. Foster breaks up a quest into five parts: a quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go there, challenges and trials en route, and a real reason to go there. Here is how this looks for "The Body:"
- The quester: Gordie
- Place to go: The body in the woods
- Stated reason to go: Become heroes by discovering a dead body
- Challenges: The older boys, including Ace's gang
- Real Reason: Become men
King alternatively titles this story from Different Seasons as "Fall From Innocence." This reveals his intention for Brower's body to represent the end of childhood. King contrasts the beginning of the story in which the boys are secretly smoking cigarettes, looking at "girly books," and gambling in their clubhouse to the end when Gordie details how each member of the group, besides he and Chris, drifted apart soon after discovering the body. This ending also highlights how the innocent characteristics seen throughout the quest eventually lead to the deaths of Chris, Vern, and Teddy.
To Gordie, the story's narrator and protagonist, this quest is a seminal moment in his life, as he explains in both the first and last chapters. While this event might not have been as important to the others, to Gordie, this event still gives him nightmares and headaches in his adulthood.