Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic

By Tony Magistrale | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

In Flight to Freedom:
The Voyage to Selfhood
and Survival

Early in The Stand, Larry Underwood is forced to traverse the entire length of the Lincoln Tunnel on foot. Most of his journey is in darkness, punctuated only by the sounds of rats feasting amongst the decaying dead and his own frightened footsteps. In the novella The Body from the collection Different Seasons, Gordie Lachance must walk along a narrow train trestle high above a shallow stream. "If a train came, it was maybe enough room to avoid getting plastered... but the wind generated by the highballing freight would surely sweep you off to fall to a certain death against the rocks just below the surface of the shallow running water" (366). And in The Talisman, Jack Sawyer must pass through the Oakley Tunnel in upstate New York, an experience that leaves him nearly claustrophobic.

The image of the tunnel or narrow passageway is used in each of these instances to highlight the anxieties of the characters who must pass through it. In each case, however, the successful completion of these "night journeys," to borrow Douglas Winter's phrase, also symbolizes the emergence of a new stage in the development of the individual involved. For Larry Underwood, the Lincoln's Tunnel's enclosure parallels his self‐ enclosed past as a rock star in the pre-plague world. His emergence into the light at the other side of the tunnel is an image of rebirth signalling the inception of a new, more responsible personality. The passageways that Jack Sawyer and Gordie Lachance endure mark transition phases in their life-journeys as well. The Oakley Tunnel in The Talisman and the train trestle in The Body enlarge into symbols of the social landscape that dominates both books: like the trestle and tunnel, the societies Jack and Gordie encounter on their respective voyage-quests are

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