Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A projected seven volumes, the Dark Tower series currently comprises The Gunslinger (1982, five short stories and a novel); The Drawing of the Three (1987, novel); The Wastelands (1991, novel); and Wizard and Glass (1997, novel). The series concerns a man's quest to find a mystical place known as the Dark Tower. These novels go beyond many quest novels in exploring the personality and conflicts of the quester — his motivations and the choices he is forced to make. These concerns inform the themes of The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three.

Roland's motivation hinges on his observation that the world has changed and "moved on." Civilization, as he knew it, has collapsed, and he seeks to discover the reasons. The Dark Tower is a nexus or center for all existence, time, and size, and Roland believes that he has to go there and perform an act of restoration or redemption. King develops the themes of change and entropy through the characters' lives and the environment. The sense of a paradoxical, tenuous existence is best symbolized by a minor character who builds playing-card towers in Drawing of the Three. The arbitrary collapses of these towers of cards illustrate the pain and unreasonableness of human life. Yet, to others who see the actual tower, its endurance is an overt denial of incoherence of existence.

Roland must choose between his perceived duty to finish his quest and his moral...

(The entire section is 424 words.)