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Plot Summary and Structure of Stephen King's Pet Sematary

Summary:

Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed, who moves with his family to a rural town. They discover a local pet cemetery with a dark secret: it can resurrect the dead. After tragedy strikes, Louis faces moral dilemmas and dire consequences as he attempts to use the cemetery's powers. The novel's structure interweaves suspense and horror, building tension through foreshadowing and a steadily escalating plot.

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What is the plot summary of Stephen King's Pet Sematary?

Pet Sematary is a 1983 supernatural horror novel written by famed American writer Stephen King. Set in the small town of Ludlow, Maine, it depicts the life of a man named Louis Creed (the protagonist), a doctor from Chicago, and his family, which consists of his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Ellie and Gage, who discover that they have a pet cemetery on their newly acquired property. Thus, their tragic and unfortunate fate begins to unfold.

The book received generally positive reviews and great commercial success, mainly because of King’s dark, thrilling, and suspenseful narrative, and it had various adaptations for film, TV, and radio. Pet Sematary covers King’s usual themes of death, humanity, fear, trauma, reality, loss, grief, honesty, denial, and resurrection. It is considered one of King’s most popular and influential novels and, according to the author himself, the scariest book he has ever written.

The story is separated into three parts: “Part 1: The Pet Sematary,” “Part 2: The MicMac Burying Ground,” and “Part 3: Oz the Gweat and Tewwible.” It is mainly told from Louis’s point of view, except in part 2, in which we see the perspectives of Rachel and the Creeds’ new, kind, and wise elderly neighbor, Judson Crandall.

It all begins when the Creeds move in to their new home in Ludlow. Louis has been recently given the opportunity to work as the head doctor and administrator at the University of Maine student medical center. Soon, they meet their neighbor Judson Grandall, to whom Louis quickly grows very close and who kindly shows them around town. Jud warns the children to be careful when they cross the road, as truck drivers are always driving fast. He also tells the family that there is a road on their property which leads to a pet cemetery where all of the dead pets are buried. Ellie begins to worry about her cat, Winston Churchill (a.k.a. Church) dying, and her parents argue whether or not it’s too early to explain to her the concept of death.

On his way to work, Louis witnesses the death of a student named Victor Pascow, who gets hit by a car. That night he has a dream in which Victor tells him not to go beyond the pet cemetery. The next day Ellie’s cat gets run over by a truck, and Louis doesn’t have the heart to tell her the tragic news; fortunately, he doesn’t have to, as his family is out of town visiting Rachel’s parents, with whom Louis doesn’t really get along. He realizes, however, that he will have to tell Ellie that her cat has died eventually, and Jud tells him that whatever and whoever was buried in the pet cemetery will come back to life, as the land is actually an old, mystical Indian burial ground. Louis and Jud bury the cat, and as expected, Church returns the next day. However, he seems rather different; he smells bad, he is aggressive, and he acts really weird, but no one notices.

Sometime later, the family goes on a picnic, and Gage is run over by a truck. Louis and his family are devastated, and he decides to bury his son in the pet cemetery so that Gage can come back. Jud warns him not to, as there was once a father who buried his son there, and the son came back an evil person. The father was forced to kill him and then killed himself. Louis promises Jud that he won’t do it, but he does it anyway.

Ellie and Rachel go to visit the grandparents again, and Ellie dreams of Victor Pascow, who warns her that they should go back to Ludlow to stop their father from doing a horrible deed. She tells Rachel of her dream, and they rush back; however, they arrive too late, as Gage has already been resurrected and killed Jud. When Rachel goes to Jud’s house, Gage stabs her to death before Louis can stop him. Naturally, Louis veers toward a mental breakdown, but he manages to calm himself and uses morphine to put down both his son and the cat, hoping to end all of the chaos and madness.

As everything slowly comes to an end, Louis cannot help himself and buries Rachel’s body in the Indian burial ground. He goes back home and waits for his dead wife to return.

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Can you explain the plot structure of Pet Sematary?

In the exposition of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, we are introduced to the setting and characters of the story. The novel is set in Ludlow, Maine, and revolves around the Creed family. Louis and Rachel Creed move from Chicago to Maine with their daughter and son, Ellie and Gage.

The rising action of the novel includes the major events that lead up to the climax. Some of the most notable events that occur during the rising action of the plot are Pascow’s death, Louis’s dream, Church’s death (and subsequent resurrection), and Gage’s death and burials.

The climax of the novel occurs when Gage returns from the dead as a sinister version of his previous self (as foreshadowed by Church’s dark revival) and kills his mother and Jud. Louis is forced to destroy the monsters he has created, and he kills Gage and Church by injecting them both with lethal doses of morphine.

During the falling action of the novel, Louis sets fire to Jud’s house and leaves with his wife’s body. Louis believes Gage returned dark because he was not buried immediately after his death. He hopes to avoid repeating his past mistakes by quickly burying his wife at the burial ground beyond Pet Sematary.

Typically, the resolution of a story ties up all the loose ends and resolves the conflicts. However, this is not always the case. King leaves us with an ambiguous conclusion. The novel ends with Rachel, back from the dead, placing her hand on her husband’s shoulder as he plays solitaire. She calls him "Darling" in a voice not entirely her own, and we are left to decide for ourselves whether she came back as her former self or as a sinister version of who she once was.

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