The Dead Zone Critical Essays

Stephen King


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

By the mid-1990’s, King had published twenty-one gothic or horror novels and become one of America’s all-time best-selling writers. A number of King’s works have been translated into highly successful films, among them Carrie (1974), The Shining (1977), and Pet Sematary (1983). Readers and critics alike generally acknowledge King to be the master of modern gothic and horror fiction.

Paranormal, parapsychic, and telekinetic phenomena that furnish the plot for The Dead Zone have always interested King and figured in Carrie, The Shining, and other King novels. These phenomena, however, are only devices that King employs to explore aspects of the subject that suffuses nearly all of his writing: the omnipresence of evil, evil to which most people would rather turn a blind eye. The evil that Johnny Smith pursues is embodied first in the respected police officer, a man Sheriff Bannerman likes so much that he is reluctant to acknowledge the weight of Smith’s evidence. Similarly, the evil embodied in Greg Stillson marked every step of his life: kicking a defenseless dog to death while selling Bibles, menacing and humiliating a youth who wore a T-shirt with an obscene logo, terrifying the town banker into bankrolling his political campaign, importing thugs to act as his guards in Castle Rock, and, finally, his mad political tactics. Exposure of these evils, as King implicitly emphasizes throughout the...

(The entire section is 458 words.)