What does Ray Brower and his dead body symbolize in the novel "The Body" by Stephen King?include some quotes if you can.?

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agrinwald eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Stephen King's novella "The Body" (which was fantastically adapted for the 1986 film Stand By Me), a group of young boys sets out on a quest to find the corpse of a missing young boy named Ray Brower. Intrigued by the gruesome nature of the body, and dedicated to making their trip a memorable adventure, the boys consider the journey to be a rite of passage into adulthood.

When the boys find the body, however, what they initially thought would be a carefree opportunity to prove their manliness becomes a disturbing reality. The novella reads:

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 get the runs from eating one too many apples 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; stone dead

The body serves as a turning point for the boys; the reality of death and the reality of the world's cruelties suddenly seem very real to them. Shortly after the body is discovered, the gang of teenage bullies appears and threatens the young boys. Chris, surprisingly, pulls out a gun that he had taken from his abusive father, and the bullies flee in fear. Their innocence is lost, as is their childhood. They will never again be carefree, and they will never again be in the ignorant bliss that childhood allows.

As the novella finishes, the narrator depressingly explains that each of the boys, apart from himself, had met a brutal and fatal fate many years after the events of the novella are over. Finding the body, in a way, was their own doom. They could never again exist blissfully and enjoy one another's company for what it was. It scarred them and, ultimately, forced them into the real, cruel, ultimately merciless world of adults.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the boys find the body of Ray Brower, it marks the end of innocence.  The boys undertook this journey to find the body out of innocence- a pure and joyful expression of their state of being.  They enjoy themselves and each other's company, tell stories, and revel in being kids.  When they see the body, all of this is cast in a different light.  For quotes, pay attention to how King describes the description of the body in terms of the actual description of the body and the boys' reaction to it.  Gone is the moment of Davey Hogan stories.  Those days are not going to return, and in its place is awareness of the frailty of life and the fact that life is going to end.  Gordie sees in the body his own experiences with the death of his brother and the death of the emotional connection to his parents.  The other boys see someone their own age, like themselves.  Another symbolic meaning of the body is that it represents a "death" of their previous conceptions of friendship.  From the moment they find the body, their attitudes change, their perceptions change as maturation begins to take hold and the loss of childhood innocence is a casualty.