The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Long Walk has become a favorite sporting spectacle in the United States at an undefined future time. Military extremists have taken over the country, and the Long Walk is their version of a heroic exercise. The Long Walk is a contest involving one hundred young men, chosen by lottery from the thousands who apply to participate. They assemble in Maine on May 1 and begin walking south from Maine into New Hampshire, then, if luck and strength hold out, into Massachusetts. The winner of the Long Walk has his every wish granted. Walkers must maintain a speed of four miles per hour. As they falter and drop below the requisite speed, they are given three warnings; upon the fourth violation, they are shot.

Ray Garraty shows up to participate, not completely sure why he is there. His friends had applied for the lottery, and he had joined them, certain that he would not be selected. Others in the contest have high hopes for themselves, but the soldiers accompanying the walkers soon begin to decimate their ranks. During the five-day period of the event, during which the walkers are not allowed to stop or rest for any purpose, Garraty makes friends with many of the walkers and makes enemies of some. He yearns for his girlfriend, Jan, and at times walks only with the stated purpose of seeing her. As the walk proceeds, Jan fades in his mind, as do his mother and all other aspects of his previous reality. Staying alive becomes his only concern.

The true...

(The entire section is 559 words.)


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

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