IT Character

Bill Denbrough
Ben Hanscom
Richie Tozier
Beverly Marsh
Mike Hanlon
Eddie Kaspbrack
Stan Uris

[move along home]

Stan Uris

Okay. Stan is the one who kills himself at the beginning of the book. He's also the Jewish one, the neat one, the one who seemed 'like the world's smallest adult' in 1958. Let's take all this and run.

His obsessive cleanliness is the major factor here. His Jewishness, while not simply incidental, is secondary to his overwhelming neatness. Bill tells everyone after they learn about Stan's suicide that "He said he could stand being scared, but he couldn't stand being dirty." This is Stan's entire basis for character. Consider:

He's the one who suggests they clean Bev's bathroom after the blood gouting. A minor point, but no one else mentions it until he does. He tells Bev, Eddie, and Ben his story in the laundromat. And the story itself, the one about him seeing the dead boys, really gives us insight into Stan's character. He's scared by the dead boys, but more *offended* by them. That's why they appeared in the first place (in that manifestation of It). Not the fact that the dead coming back are scary, but that they are *wrong*. They offend everything Stan believes in.

That stronger belief in the pragmatic is what dooms him. His bird book and his calling of the birds is the only magic he really allows himself to believe in. In a clean, rational world, It does not -- cannot -- exist. Even when they face the bird in the tunnels in 1958 and Stan defeats it, he tells the others, "A bird like that never existed, that's all." In that instance, his firm belief in reality saves them. That wouldn't always be so. Maybe it's that reality that allows him to glimpse at what It really is. All of the others see a spider, and later Bill and Richie see the lights, but Stan saw the deadlights, what lies behind ALL of It's masks. His mind is constructed to see the real, which is why It's glamours worked less on him. They were fake.

He goes into accounting. Numbers are real, rational things that don't change. But still, he vaguely remembers It, more than any of the others that have left Derry. His wife remembers he actually said "The Turtle couldn't help us." And he buys Bill Denbrough's books and reads them, remembering his friend, if only a little. Bev says in her first big scene that one of Bill's books "laid around here for weeks and I didn't make the connection."

Stan still remembers a bit, because the magic of forgetting works less on him. Because he believed in it less.

During the "Love and Desire" sequence with Bev, Stan isn't able to (oh, how do I put this tactfully) finish the job. He's the only one of the six boys who is unable to do it, maybe unable to "dirty" himself in that way. This is another foreshadowed doom chip.

And the final, clean, nail in the coffin. He kills himself in the bathtub, the final act of trying to wash the memory and dirtiness of It off.

As with all the Losers, Stan's adulthood reflects decisions he made as a child. To accept only the sane and rational (with breif forays into belief in magic) sets up a series of dominoes which will eventually lead to his suicide.

And it's sad. We come to really like Stan, and see his point of view. And we sympathize with him. All the others don't question their beliefs in the supernatural (Richie uses the Bible to justify his beliefs; Stan is Jewish, and thus doesn't know the Bible). Stan, being too adult in a time of children, couldn't do it. Perhaps he knew that he wouldn't be able to become a kid again, because he never was one fully in the first place.

Bill Denbrough

Bill is the most rounded out character in the book, quite possibly because he seems to be the most autobigraphical of King's Losers. King didn't have a younger brother, but he was one, and you can sense in It (as well as the wonderful story "The End of the Whole Mess" King's feelings for his brother and for the concept of brotherhood.

Bill losing his brother makes the battle against It a more personal crusade for him than any of the others. It is also what binds him to the group (you'll notice none of the others have siblings) and perhaps transforms him into Big Bill, the leader. With his parents ignoring him and each other, he feels a growing sense of responsibility 1) To avenge his brother's death and 2) To win back his parents' love.

His is forced into partial adulthood at an early age -- he recognises this as do the other Losers. Bev sees it as AUTHORITY -- Bill's "good" adultness to balance her father's "bad". Bill, once recognising and beginning to understand his role in the Loser's Club thinks: "If this is what grownups have to think about, I don't want to grow up."

He does, though, and while he experienced growing up too early (I don't think his first book eing published at an early age was just meant to coincide with King's publishing of Carrie), he is the most prepared to grow young again (anyone catch the Bruce reference?). While the others (with the exception, maybe, of Richie) have gone into mostly "adult" jobs, Bill has made his living doing what kids do -- making things up. As he was always good at thinking up games when they were kids, he's become good at making up tales as an adult.

But, underneath all his horror stories lies the hidden memory of Georgie, and it is with this relationship that the entire novel hinges. Bill blames himself for the loss of Georgie, less so after his talk with Richie, but still doing it. But he recognises he cannot bring Georgie back. Audra, his wife, is also taken by It, but she is something he thinks he can save. And by relying on that wonderous creature from 1958, Silver, he is able to harness the magic left in the town and do right in 1985 what he couldn't do in 1958: save someone he loves.

The novel ends with this scene, a fabulously written and beautifully imagined sequence. It ends with Bill, using the last of his childhood to save his adulthood. And with his almost remembering the childhood friends he loved so much.

Mike Hanlon

Mike Hanlon is the black Loser. He appeared in a Stephen King book when many people were bashing King for either (1) being a racist or (2) not giving credible roles to his black characters. It is true that King had previously given some sterotypical roles to blacks: Mother Abagail was the embodiment of a modern-day Moses and Dick Halloran was also in the "savior" role. But while his white characters were getting trapped in cars by big dogs and losing their cats to big Orinco trucks or falling in love with their cars (in general, leaving ordinary lives eclipsed by the extraordinary), his black people were either being gods or devils. Witness Killian in The Running Man, the embodiment of all evil in the future. Or Abraham in The Long Walk -- not a god or devil but very much a stereotypical jive-talkin' black dude.

Mike Hanlon changed all that. Sure, he was a "Loser," but he was in the company of six other white kids who were also "Losers." Mike was a regular, ordinary guy whose blackness didn't much interfere with that fact. It was the reason for his status in the Losers club, but the fact of his being black is not the end-all, be-all of his existance.

Like Ben, who is a Loser because of his weight, but whose defining trait is his love of architecture, or Bill, ewho stutters but is mainly a writer, Mike is governed by a love of history. We learn, after the initial chapters, that Mike is the historian of Derry (albeit, the underground historian -- pun definately intended). He relays the incidents of Derry's past in the "interlude" segments -- The fire at the Black Spot, the Bradley Gang shoot-out, and the mass-murder at the Silver Dollar. During the Losers' reunion, he fills them in on the past cycles, relaying information about the Kitchner Ironworks and even telling (at some point) about the original Derry settlers' disappearance.

Like Ben (again) building the dam in the Barrens and the clubhouse, it is only appropriate that Mike (along with Richie) sees the vision of It coming. It is Ago, it is the defining moment of Derry's history. Mike, for the first time, is witnessing the history that he's so much fascinated with.

And Mike, unlike the other Losers, learned his lot in life from his father. The others, to one degree or another, have failed or failing parents. Mike's relationship with his folks is the only really healthy child-parent relationship in the book, and Mike's dad passed on his love of Derry history ("I think," Mike says, "It's because he wasn't born here.") to his son. Mike is the one who brought the scrapbook into the Barrens, giving them all a breif history of Derry, and, in turn, of It.

Then, is is only right that Mike be the one to remain in Derry. Not because King is racist and wants his black Loser to keep losing, but because of his history there. In order to continue examining Derry's history (and, in turn, being a part of it), Mike had to stay behind. The others looked forward to creating the future (Ben built, Bev designed, Bill wrote, Richie created on-air personalities, Stan helped others make money, and Eddie moved people from place to place); Mike was only interested in the Ago. This is perhaps the reason why he's still in Derry in Insomnia -- the other Losers looked to the future, Mike looked to the past. Derry is his home, and, like it or not, they are a part of each other.

Also, something interesting: Mike's first vision of It is different from the others in one way: it also has a history. Ostensibly, Mike was freaked out by Rodan on tv, and that was why he saw It as a giant bird. But, we learn, that Mike's Dad saw the bird at the Black Spot, and Mike himself was terrorized by a bird as a baby. The others saw their versions of It because of recent events (such as movies), but, as always, Mike's perceptions were shaped by history.

As to why King felt it necessary to put Mike in the hospital for the final confrontation, here's some speculation. Because Mike did stay in Derry, maybe he was too much a part of It himself to help his friends (he says once at the reunion that he loves this town.) Or maybe, following the lines of the past, that Henry Bowers hated Mike more than any of the other Losers, and it was "just" for Henry to get Mike years after missing him to the Apocalyptic Rockfight. Or, as King states, five is a more magical number than six. Any one of these makes some sense, but, personally, I was always a little irked by that. Like the ending of Rose Madder: I understand it, but that don't mean I like it.

Eddie Kaspbrack

Next to Bev, Eddie is the character most in danger of becoming a stereotype. He is the epitome of the hypochondriac, overly exaggerated by the immense amount of stuff in his medicine cabinet. Like Bev, he married a mirror of his parent, a woman who would take care of him and worry about him because, psychologically, he needs to be taken care of.

Even in his idolization of Bill Denbrough, he fits this role. When the kids are going down to face Henry and his gang, Bill says, "You walk with me, Eddie. I'll keep an eye on you." (Stuttering excluded.)

But with Bill and his other friends, it's different. He depends on them, but they also depend on him. Unlike his relationship with his Ma (and later, Myra), there's a mutual reciprocation. And in this, Eddie finds he can be strong.

Eddie wants to run and play sports. This is evidenced most apparently when the spot he chooses to return to in 1985 is the Tracker Brothers baseball diamond. But his mother insists that he not play roughly or climb trees, for fear that he might be hurt.

It's ironic, then, that, although Henry tried to get all of the Losers at one point or another, Eddie is the one to be hurt most seriously. It's ironic, but it also fits. He finds he can live inside the pain. The pain doesn't kill him. Perhaps, if his mother hadn't made him change his mind, he would've handled this realization and continued to build on it, eventually being able to live without being sick like Ben was able to live without being fat. But the episode in the hospital changed that.

Eddie had made up his mind to believe Mr. Keene, that asthma medicine was really mind-medicine. His Ma doesn't want him to believe it, because then she will loose (in her mind), the protective shroud she has over him. If Eddie becomes less dependeant on her, then he won't need her anymore. Then, she makes the mistake of sending the Losers away from the hospital. Eddie becomes strong at this point. He needs his friends and they need him. So he makes a deal with his mom: he'll go on believing he's sick if she doesn't interfere with his friendship. She finds she must relent.

The decision to live with his mother's sickness dooms him. His asthma medicine can be magic when he's a child, because, in essance, that's what it does. As he grows older, he still believes in it, but it isn't magic anymore, it's science. He is unable to become a child, in at least that sense. And It kills him, taking the twice-broken arm as It had taken George's arm 27 years before.

Eddie sacrifices himself as he would have done as a child. We are continually reminded that Eddie would give his life for Bill Denbrough, if asked. Eventually, he did. All Eddie's decisions in childhood (like all the Losers) come back in 1985 to haunt him. So it is that the first time his asthma medicine doesn't work for him will also be the last.

Eddie Kaspbrack is a tragic figure, a sickly boy and man who only feels truly well when he's with his friends. The death of Eddie is probably the saddest of all deaths in King's body of work (maybe that of Nick Andros is the only equal), but we know it is necessary. In the end, he gives himself so that others may live, one final act of healing.

Richie Tozier

I'll make no bones about it. Richie is the hardest one for me to analyze. On the surface, he seems superficial, easy to categorize. But a few key factors show a depth and complexity to Richie that I'm not sure I understand fully. Here's a shot:

Like Bev, Bill, Stan, and maybe Ben, Richie has a double-Loser quality. Bev is poor, but her "Loser" status is determined by her being abused. Bill stutters, but he has also lost a brother and is treated almost dead himself by his parents. Stan is Jewish, but he's a neat-freak. Ben is fat, but he is also crushingly lonely without realizing it.

Richie is known throughout the book as Trashmouth Tozier. At first glance, this could be construed as to what makes him a Loser. He is powerless to stop his mouth, because to joke about things is easier than running in fear of them especially at such a scary time as childhood.) But Richie's real "Loser" quality is his glasses. Time and time again, his glasses become the focus for ridicule and embarassment. When a larger kid pushes Richie and his glasses break, his mother screams at him, even though it wasn't his fault. There are often references made to the fact that his glasses are always held together by adhesive tape. And the cyclical smoke that resurfaces under his contacts, forcing him to wear glasses again (and, symbolically, become as he was in 1958) is important.

For instance, I don't think it's coincidence that Richie is the big "seer" of the group. He, along with Mike, saw the coming of It. It is important to Mike's character because of the history; for Richie it is the seeing. Also, the shape at the house on Neibolt Street becomes the Werewolf because Richie saw it first. And let's not forget the apparition created through his biggest childhood fear, the Crawling Eye. His glasses and his eyes were the cumulative symbols of what was wrong in his childhood, thus becoming his greatest fear. By punching at the Eye, he defeated this fear (which goes a long way to understanding why he got contacts in the first place.)

Then what was the whole Paul Bunyon thing about?

Here's my theory: Richie entire childhood life (and, to a lesser extent, his adult life) was based on illusion. His Voices and jokes were a way to mask the real Richie. He created a persona for himself first out of necessity and later used it professionally. During the firstencounter at Neibolt Street, Richie realizes that Bill's Dad's gun hurt the Werewolf, but his sneezing powder hurt it more. The powder was a joke, an illusion, but an illusion Richie believed in.

That's why, when the reality of the Paul Bunyon statue suddenly became magical, it was easier to believe that a dream casued it. Richie's mind works on a reality/fantasy basis. It's either one of the other. He goes into a long internal dialogue stating that he can believe in Mike Hanlon's monsters, but he cannot believe in Paul Bunyon turning into the giant from Jack & the Beanstalk. The statue is real, the monsters are fantasy. When the essential reality of the statue is comprimised by the essential un-naturalness of It, Richie's mind cannot work around that. Thus, it becomes an illusion perpetuated by Richie's own mind, seeing as he's the one with such a knack for them.

It's also important to note that Richie is "the person who knew bill better than anyone until Audra Phillips." He was Bill's best friend, the only one approaching Bill's "Big Bill" status. This is the reason why he, an only he, could have rescued Bill from the deadlights. (On that note, I'll tell you that it infuriates me that the tv film didn't regognize this, and put Ben in there as well.)

On final insection, Richie Tozier is a great character and as real as the others. He's just a little harder to figure out.

Beverly Marsh

Bev, like Eddie, grew up and married a mirror of her parent. Eddie, at least, partially recognised the similarities between mother and wife (holding the pictures up side by side is the most direct indication.) But Bev seems not to know, at least until she recieves Mike's phone call, that her choices in the type of relationships she's had with men have all been abusive. Tom Rogan was only the most recent and most brutal.

Perhaps the forgetting has something to do with that. During that summer of 1958, Bev made a paralell between her abusive father and Bill Denbrough, for whom she had a "crush" too deep to be just a crush. She recognized that she loved both of them, they both had power over her, they both were "authority". But Bill, she came to understand was "Authority that listened." Later, when she hid from Henry and his gang in the clubhouse with Ben, she came to discover a different sort of love and understanding: a mutual bond in which two people could help each other and take comfort in each other. Later that day, she discovered desire.

But when she left Derry, she forgot all that, only remembering the abusive and underlyingly incestuous relationship with ther Dad. Tom fits into his role neatly, demeaning her, abusing her, and calling her "little girl."

Maybe the reason she, in some way, craves this type of relationship has to do with what made her a Loser in the first place. Like Stan's Losership wasn't defined by his Jewishness but by his cleanliness, Bev was a Loser because she was poor, not abused. The fact that she knew she was poor and felt inferior to girls like Sally Mueller put her in a position to feel humility. She got used to feeling ashamed, and took it as a course of life. After forgetting Derry (and even after becoming rich, which, incidentally, she gives Tom credit for) she is still in that mind-set that she will never be ghood enough.

But during the summer of 1958, she is good enough. She is, with the exception of Bill himself, the most important member of the Losers in many ways. She is the only female of the group, which seems slight until one considers that It is also female. The power of Beverly counteracts the power of It: the forces of Good and Evil present in the novel's two main female characters.

Michael Collings states, in his wonderful original review of IT, that the opening sequence of the sacrifice of Adrian Mellon and the much later scene detailing the ritual sexual intercourse with Beverly is important because, by its nature, heterosexuality opposes homosexuality

Here's another correlary: Beverly's love making to the boys, the ritual act of it, apposes It's unisexuality. It is pregnant with some unthinkable alien spawn, through no means but It's own. Therefore, the very human relationship with Beverly binds them together, joined in an act that It cannot duplicate. The closeness is the Loser's power over It: the power of faith, the power of belief, and the power of love and desire. (BTW, this also goes a long way to explaining another opposite: It is pregnant while the Losers are childless.)

It's really a shame that Bev had to handle the intervening years, suffering through one after another abusive relationship. But it's good to see, at opposite ends of the book, Tom's rough and tumble sex with Bev being replaced by the gentleness of lovemaking with Bill (and later, the companionship with Ben.) It's also kind of poetic justice that Tom (like Norman, later, in Rose Madder) is killed by a female.

In the end, Bev stood with her friends and was strong. She chose to believe in love and desire, the things she believed in when she was young, and that was what got her out of the tunnels. Eddie and Stan weren't so lucky, but maybe that's why it's Bev that sees their reflections in the window. Because she was able to finally let go of her past and believe.

Ben Hanscom

Ben is the most well-rounded character in It (no pun intended.) His being fat earns his place in the Loser's Club, but like all of the Losers, there are underlying facets that define him far more than his weight.

At the beginning of his "young" stage in 1958, Ben is a shy, bookish boy with no friends. He has an attatchment to his mother and other adults, who adore him because he is a "good boy." His only relationships come with adults: he goes so far as to volunteer to help Miss Douglas catalogue books when the other children go home. He also has a crush on a girl in his class named Beverly Marsh -- he looks past the rich girls in the glass and centers on the poor girl with the bruise on her face. Perhaps on a deep, unknown level he sees a certain desperation for companionship in her, as well. In a bold move that seems to be the first step he takes to achieving friends on his own, he writes Beverly a poem:

Your hair is winter fire
January embers
my heart burns there, too

and mails it to her. This act of reaching out for companionship is one of the first steps taken to infuse the Loser's club as a whole.

That day, while being cut by Henry Bowers (the fact that Henry decides to carve on Ben's stomach rather than his arms or face is significant), Ben breaks out of his character even further -- fighting back, kicking Bowers in the crotch, and tumbling down the hill into the Barrens where, later, he meets Bill and Eddie.

Ben stays with Eddie while Bill goes to get Eddie's asthma medicine, and the fact that he doesn't run off is another strengthening bond. By his nature, he is afraid and alone. But escaping from the Mummy earlier that year and escaping from Bowers that day toughened him. As Beverly later observes: "Ben may have been nothing but a frightened fat kid at the beginning of the summer, but he was stronger now; they all were." Bill also thinks of Ben as tougher than Richie and less likely to break down suddenly than Stan.

Then there is his talent for building things. The first group effort, the building of the dam in the Barrens, even shuts Richie up for awhile. His production of the Smoke-Hole allows Mike and Richie the vision of It's arrival to earth, and his forming the silver slugs later helps save his own life. These three incidents, the dam, the Smoke-Hole ceremony, and the battle at Neibolt Street, are three of the most significant sequences in the book, all made possible by Ben Hanscom. It is apparent that he is one of the most important members of the Loser's Club; his knack for creation could only flourish through his acceptance into freindship.

He is also the most sensitive and, in many ways, the most thoughtful of the club. He recognizes Bill's leadership in the group, accepts it, and knows that Bev is in love with him. He allows that in his mind, and in his heart, knowing that he could have Bev as a friend and love her silently. Everyone else seems to recognize the love Ben feels for Beverly except Bev herself, until the day of the final confrontation. The exchange between Bev and Ben in the Smoke-Hole after her escape from her father and Bowers & co. is perhaps the most sensitive and sweet conversations in all of King's work. People that say he just writes horror and cares only about blood and guts should get a load of this:

"Thank you for the poem, Ben."
"The haiku. The haiku on the postcard. You sent it, didn't you?"
"No. I didn't send you any haiku. Cause if a kid like me -- a fat kid like me -- did something like that, the girl would probably laugh at him."
"I didn't laugh. I thought it was beautiful."
"I could never write anything beautiful. Bill, maybe. Not me."
"Bill will [...] never write anything as nice as that."
[abridging, here]
He was even able to look at her as he said it.
"I wrote the poem."

This conversation allows Bev and Ben to form a deeper bond with each other, allowing more tenderness in the later love scenes than any of the Losers can give her. Bill makes her skyrocket, both in the tunnels and later at the Derry Town House, but Ben fills her with love and desire, and that is the reason why she goes home with Ben at the end.

On a final note, perhaps Ben comes the closest to discovering the true nature of the Loser's Club and the forces that guide them. During a quiet moment, he wonders about power, where it comes from and where it goes. The power of the slugs, the power the Losers have to defeat It and Bowers time after time. Did the power simply come from them, or was a higher force at work? It is in this unarticulated musing Ben has with himself that defines the entire novel.

He realizes that power comes from everywhere, but the greatest of these sources is the influence of love. He recognizes that Bill has power over Bev because she loves him, and that she has power over him because he loves her. Collectively (and, yes, it is Ben who mentions this 27 years later, at the library) the Loser's Club all love each other, a binding love that overcomes amnesia and death. And somewhere, some Other is looking down on them with love, as well.

In closing, Ben Hanscom comes to maybe the most complete closure. At the beginning of the novel, both as an adult at the bar and as a kid on the last day of school, he is a lonely boy with no friends, and he is in love with Bev Marsh/Rogan. In 1958, he stands up for Beverly, feeling an overpowering need to protect her (my guess is if It hadn't gotten Tom, Ben would have probably done a job on him.) And after he finally confesses his love to her, and goes the further step of making love with her, he loses her. After twenty-seven years (and around two hundred pounds), he catches her again, and this time holds on.

Not bad for a lonely fat kid who's handy with Lincoln Logs, huh?