Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 534
In two of the three books King published in 1996, a new, and angry, concern emerges: God's indifference to His creation. Both Paul Edgecombe and David Carver, protagonists of The Green Mile (1996; see separate entry) and Desperation, respectively, reproach God for allowing good people to suffer. In Desperation's companion, The Regulators, these questions are not posed. God is the concern only of the Hobarts, savagely caricatured zealots, who pass out tracts on hell to their neighbors, but abuse children and steal.
It requires a careful reading of Desperation to realize how pervasively biblical, and pseudo-biblical, its language is. All the characters, including the demon Tak, find biblical parallels in events and speak in biblical cadences. To name two of many examples, Bill Harris, Marinville's literary agent, gives Steve Ames "Five Commandments": "All these commandments are thou shalt nots . . . . First, thou shalt not drink with him . . . ." Desperation Mining Corporation receptionist, Brad Josephson, has a sign on his desk: "LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION, FOR I SHALL FIND IT MYSELF."
It is not surprising that David Carver, who actually receives responses from God when he prays, should speak in biblical terms. It may be less obvious, because of their mocking tone, that Tak and Johnny Marinville habitually quote— or make up their own—scripture. After running down "Big-Balls Billy Rancourt" in his police cruiser, Estragian makes the pseudo-biblical pronouncement: "I have taught thee in the way of wisdom . . . I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. That's from the Book of Adverbs, John. But I think old Billy stumbled."
Despite the fact that a Methodist minister, Reverend Martin, provided David with religious instruction, the world of Desperation is not really Christian. King explicitly evokes the Gnostics, who believed that humans are strangers in an absurd universe. Tak (as Estragian) uses Gnostic terminology in his savage assessment of Johnny's writing: '"You have never written a truly spiritual novel,' the cop told him . . . 'You have no interest in your spiritual nature. You mock the God who created you, and by doing so you mortify your own pneuma [spirit] and glorify the mud which is your sarx [flesh].'" Central to Gnosticism is the belief that spirit is trapped in a corrupt body. Johnny, addicted to alcohol and other pleasures of the flesh, has lost his spiritual way.
Readers wishing an introduction to Gnosticism might consult Elaine Pagels' readable, scholarly book, The Gnostic Gospels (1979). Briefly summarized, the Gnostics, who flourished in the second century AD, believed that the world was created not by God but by an inferior deity, a demiurge. Worshipers seeking revelation (Gnosis) come in contact with competing spiritual forces.
Accordingly, during prayer, spiritually gifted David receives communications, not only from God, but from Tak and the Devil. "If you want to pray, pray to me," the Devil tells David. "Why would you pray to a God who kills baby sisters?. . . . Come on, Davey, get a life." It is one of the ironies of Desperation that, in contrast to the garrulousness of Tak and Satan, God speaks in the most unadorned possible way: "You're praying already" "The soap;" "Get moving."
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