The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

King is accomplished in the production of credible characters in familiar domestic and small-town settings. One of the hallmarks of his composition is his ability to draw readers into the normal routines and trials of middle American households. These familiar settings are essential backdrops against which the author then casts grotesque and fantastic events. As King’s protagonist, Thad Beaumont evokes sympathy from the outset. His struggle with writer’s block is almost a cliché. Readers wonder whether Beaumont has created and fallen victim to his literary alter ego, George Stark, a Frankenstein. Thad, though, is neither mad nor hallucinating. He is a good and decent man who unintentionally opens the door to evil, an evil that springs from his own creativity and actions, an evil that victimizes him, his family, and his acquaintances and that therefore must be fought.

Liz Beaumont, Thad’s wife, is a somewhat passive, two-dimensional loving soul. She is worried about her husband, but until the latter stages of the book, she is uncomprehending about Thad’s personal struggle with Stark. She manifests some resolve and initiative when Stark takes her and her twins hostage, but she functions chiefly as a gauge of the normal.

As Thad becomes ensnared in the irrationalities that surround Stark’s reality, Sheriff Alan Pangborn serves as the rational counterfoil to Thad’s suspicions about who and what Stark is. Pangborn is the reader’s...

(The entire section is 422 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Thad Beaumont

Thad Beaumont, a novelist and professor of creative writing at the University of Maine. At eleven years of age, Thad began to suffer blackouts, preceded by the sound of sparrows. When neurologist Hugh Pritchard operated, he removed the fetus of a twin that had been absorbed into Thad’s head while both were still embryos. As an adult, Beaumont has published novels that were praised by critics but not widely read. To cure a writing block, Thad writes, under the pseudonym George Stark, violent novels about Alexis Machine, a sadist who kills evildoers. These are so popular that Thad becomes independently wealthy. When a law student, Frederick Clawson, tries to extort money by threatening to expose Thad’s identity as Stark, Thad admits responsibility in an interview for People magazine and announces that he will write no more Stark books. Shortly after the article appears in People, Thad again has blackouts and hears sparrows. When a resident of Castle Rock, Maine, is brutally murdered and Thad’s fingerprints are found at the scene, the Castle Rock sheriff, Alan Pangborn, confronts Thad, but he becomes convinced that he is innocent. Soon, other people are murdered, including Clawson, the people associated with the People magazine story, and the agents and editors involved with the publication of the Stark novels. Thad tries to convince Pangborn that his pseudonym has come to life. Through the psychic bond that links them, Thad learns that his double is physically disintegrating. Thad intuits that, should he write another Machine novel, his pseudonym would become whole and he himself would deteriorate. Meanwhile, huge numbers of sparrows have gathered. Thad learns from a folklore professor that sparrows are “psychopomps” who conduct souls to the land of the dead. When Stark threatens Liz and the Beaumonts’ twins at the Beaumonts’ Castle Rock summer house, Thad comes to their rescue. There, he and...

(The entire section is 804 words.)