Gerald’s Game

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Stephen King has proven himself to be the preeminent horror writer in contemporary America. In GERALD’S GAME, he has created one of his most powerful and uncomfortable novels to date. Jessie and her husband Gerald have gotten away to their summer house in Maine to relax and engage in “Gerald’s game,” which involves Jessie being handcuffed to their bed before they make love. On this particular occasion, Jessie becomes irritated at Gerald’s unwillingness to listen to her needs and gives him a couple of swift kicks out of anger and frustration. Unfortunately, Gerald has a heart condition and the kicks cause him to have a massive, fatal coronary. Jessie, therefore, finds herself handcuffed to the bed with a dead husband unable to release her. For the next twenty-eight hours, she must painfully struggle to free herself. King describes the ordeal in brutal detail.

A hungry dog wanders into the house and makes a meal of Gerald’s body. Voices within Jessie’s head vie for control of her every thought and move. What is real and what is not become very blurred. Jessie relives a terrible moment of her childhood. When she was a young girl, her father sexually molested her. King paints a very dark picture of how men treat women. Jessie is also convinced that during her confinement a male monster appears in the bedroom and threatens her life. Through great effort and an excruciatingly painful process, Jessie finally extricates herself from the handcuffs. She is eventually found and given the proper medical care for a complete physical recovery. Her psychological recovery seemingly will take a great deal longer, but King makes it clear that Jessie is finally on the road to becoming her own person.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

This novel is excruciatingly tight in its focused claustrophobic effects. The narrative focuses on the predicament of a single individual,...

(The entire section is 283 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

King confessed that his characterization of women in his novels has been less than three-dimensional. However, Gerald's Game initiates...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Stephen King's novels have often been dismissed as mere works of fantasy. Only his Bachman novels have been perceived as socially relevant...

(The entire section is 283 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Explicit antecedents of King's story of captivity, love, and madness are Edgar Allan Poe's short stories and poems. Jessie remembers the...

(The entire section is 309 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Of all of King's novels, this one is the most raw and experimental. It has been accused of being a weak novel, like Cujo, in that...

(The entire section is 449 words.)