Desperation Themes
by Stephen King

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Desperation Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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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...

(The entire section is 534 words.)