It

It

by

Stephen King

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It: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
During the group’s meeting at the library, everyone brings booze. Mike thinks that the only thing left to do now is to finish the job of catching up, “of stapling past to the present.” Beverly remembers that they were digging out the clubhouse when Mike brought his father’s photo album to the Barrens. Richie remembers the album performing the same trick that he and Bill saw when looking through George Denbrough’s old album. Ben then says that he remembers what happened to the extra silver dollar. He tells his old friends how he gave the other three to Ricky Lee before leaving Nebraska. He then asks the others if they made a silver slug out of the other one. Richie remembers being sure that Ben could do it but, in the end, they all got cold feet.
Mike encourages the group to remember what they can from the summer of 1958 and connect those memories to their current lives and, particularly, to what they experienced on their own earlier in the day. Photo albums are a symbol of how people must engage with stories from the past in order to understand what is happening in the present. Ben offers the first memory which will serve as a clue to help the others remember how they first repelled It.
Themes
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Mike goes to his fridge to reach for his six-pack of beer and sees Stanley Uris’s severed head beside his Bud Light. However, it is not the head of a man but of an eleven-year-old boy. The mouth is open in a soundless scream, but the head’s mouth has also been stuffed with feathers. The feathers are huge and light brown. Mike knows which bird the feathers come from. He remembers seeing the bird in May 1958 and then years later while visiting his father in the hospital. Blood from Stan’s neck drips down and forms a pool at the bottom of the refrigerator. Then, the head opens its eyes. It reveals the “silver-bright eyes of Pennywise the Clown.”
It is using the group’s knowledge of Stan’s recent death to haunt them and warn them that they could be next. It uses the image of Stan as a child because this is how Mike remembers his old friend. The bird feathers illustrate another connection between them, because Stan took an interest in ornithology and Mike has a latent fear of birds. Its “silver-bright eyes” also relate to Ben’s previous discussion of the silver dollar. The color is a point of connection between It and the group.
Themes
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Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
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The eyes roll toward Mike and speak to him. Mike refuses to believe that what he is seeing is real. The clown promises that It is, indeed, real. Referring to the Ritual of Chüd, It claims that the Losers’ Club will never make It laugh. The head rolls over on its face and comes toward Mike like “a hideous bowling ball.” Suddenly, there is a loud pop like the sound of a plastic cork coming out of cheap champagne. The head disappears and sends a net of blood up and back down. Mike thinks that he could clean up, but Carole Danner probably won’t even see the mess of blood in the fridge when she comes in the next day.
Mike knows that the blood is only real because it is a figment of his imagination. Carol will not see the blood, as it would not occur to her to think that there would be blood in the fridge. Mike tries to convince himself that the image is not real, but he cannot because he believes in the clown.
Themes
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Mike then looks up and sees balloons. They have messages. The blue ones say: “DERRY NIGGERS GET THE BIRD.” The orange ones say: THE LOSERS ARE STILL LOSING, BUT STANLEY URIS IS FINALLY AHEAD.” Mike then thinks about the first day he goes down into the Barrens after the rockfight. It is July 6th. He cannot remember what happened, though. He looks toward the balloons, not really seeing them now as he tries to remember that day. Richie calls after Mike from another room to ask if he is okay. Mike suggests that everyone else join him near the fridge.
The clown uses Mike’s memory of being socially outcast due to his race to taunt him. The clown also uses his subconscious fear of birds. The messages are double entendres. The first—“get the bird”—alludes to Mike’s fear of birds and is also the clown’s way of giving Mike the middle finger. The second—”Stanley Uris is finally ahead”—mocks Stan’s death but also suggests that Stanley had intuited something before committing suicide, which the others have yet to understand.
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Mike thinks back again to how they all meet in the Barrens. He remembers hearing Richie’s “Pickaninny Voice” pointing out the novelty of Mike’s presence. Mike says “hello” to everyone and is prepared to offer his thanks to the group for helping him get away from the bullies. Beverly asks if he would like one of her cigarettes and Mike politely refuses. Mike issues his apologies for how the others got banged up during the rockfight, but Bill tells him not to worry about it. He then asks Mike if he can pose a question to him.
In another circumstance, Richie’s impression might be perceived as racist and hostile. However, Mike seems to understand that Richie’s sardonic sense of humor is simply a part of who he is. This native understanding is part of the reason why the others know that he belongs in the group.
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Mike thinks for a moment that Bill is going to ask him what it is like to be black. Instead, Bill asks him questions about baseball. The group bonds a little over this shared interest. Mike asks what they have all been up to. Richie tells Mike how Ben once flooded out the Barrens. Now, the group is going to dig themselves a clubhouse. Ben says that digging in the ground is a better idea because people tend to fall out of treehouses and break bones. He plans for everyone to dig about five feet underground in a square that he pegged there. Then, they will “shore up the sides” to make sure that the walls do not cave in on them. Finally, they will place boards over the top of the hole. The group agrees to share the expenses of the materials that they will have to buy at the hardware store. Bill then invites Mike to be a part of their club, but first, he says, he must share the club’s secret.
Mike is accustomed to people only being interested in him—or repelled by him—due to the color of his skin. Bill’s questions about baseball, however, demonstrate an effort to bond with Mike as a fellow boy, who Bill presumes would take as much of an interest in the sport as he would. Notably, though, this is different from how Bill would interact with Beverly. The decision to build the clubhouse comes after their encounter with the bullies. An underground clubhouse is safer because they cannot fall out or be pushed out if another confrontation occurs.
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Before Bill divulges the secret, he asks if there is anyone who does not want Mike in their club. No one raises a hand. Bill then asks who wants to tell the secret. Beverly sighs and looks at Mike, then she begins telling him about all of the children who have been killed.
The final test to see if Mike can be a member of the group is to see if he will believe the Losers’ Club’s secret. Beverly seems to worry for a moment that he may not believe their stories.
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The members of the Losers’ Club tell Mike, one-by-one, their own unique stories about their experiences with It. While walking home that night, Mike thinks that he should have listened to their stories “with disbelief mounting into horror,” but he does not. He listens with comfort. He also tells everyone that he, too, has seen the clown. He saw him on the Fourth of July. Mike also thinks to himself that this was not the first time that he saw something that seemed wrong.
Mike puts the group at ease and assures him that he is one of them by relating his own story about It. Mike knows how incredible these stories are, but he also knows that there is something uniquely wrong in Derry and that the other kids are the only ones who are acknowledging the problem.
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Mike thinks again about the bird. This is the first time that he really allows himself to think about it, except in his nightmares. At Beverly’s prompting, he goes on with his story about the clown. He saw it while he was playing the trombone with his school band in a parade. He describes it as wearing a silver suit, white makeup, and a big red smile that looks like it were smeared on with blood. He also had orange buttons on the suit and orange tufts of hair. Mike recalls that the clown knew that Mike was looking at him and turned toward him and waved. The feeling that Mike got after the clown looked at him was worse than any feeling he had from being chased by Henry Bowers.
The feeling that Mike gets from the clown is worse because Mike knows that the clown is not real. It is possible to resist Henry, who, while substantial in size, is still only a boy. The clown, however, seems to have the ability to read Mike’s mind. There is also something disorienting about the clown’s appearance. He does not seem to be there to entertain but only to engage with and frighten Mike.
Themes
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Mike and his band then march up Main Street. He sees the clown again, handing out balloons to kids. The clown then waves at him and winks, as though they share a secret between them or as though the clown knows that Mike recognizes him. Mike thinks that he knows the clown but has to check the pictures in his father’s album to know for sure. Mike also tells the group his story about the bird. This gets Stan’s attention. He asks Mike what kind of bird he saw.
Mike is again disoriented because it now seems as though others can also see the clown. Still, the clown is fixated on Mike. Mike also thinks that the clown is not from the present but has some connection to the past images in Will Hanlon’s photo album.
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Mike describes the nightmarish bird as a cross between a sparrow and a robin but with an orange chest. Ben asks what is so special about a bird. Mike responds that the bird was “bigger than a housetrailer.” The group looks at him, shocked and amazed. Mike swears that he is telling the truth and that the bird looked like something out of a horror film.
The mention of the “orange chest” tells the others that the bird is a form of Pennywise. Mike worries that the group will not believe his story, though he has believed their stories. This is because to him, the memory still feels like something out of a fantasy.
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Mike watches the faces of the others grow concerned and scared but never disbelieving. This fills him with relief. Mike tells the story of the bird and of how he ran from the Ironworks to escape it. Later, Bill, Richie, and Ben walk to the Derry Public Library, still keeping a close watch out for Henry Bowers and his gang. Ben asks Bill if he believes Mike’s story. Bill thinks that the story is true and the other boys agree. They also remember Mike’s detail about the bird’s tongue having “orange fluffs” on it. They cross the street to the library. Now, with Mike having told them that story, the bird exists in everyone’s imagination and any one of them could see it at any time.
When Mike sees that the others believe him, he is relieved. However, their fear comes from their awareness that they may now see the bird from Mike’s nightmares, too, because he has put the image into their imaginations. In addition to this fear, the group still worries about Henry. Fear and threat are perpetual aspects of the group’s lives. The mention of the “orange fluffs” makes it clear to them that the bird haunting Mike was Pennywise.
Themes
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Bill tells them that Stan Uris once suggested that they all had to do something about It as soon as possible. Ben and Richie ask Bill what they should do. He suggests that they use a silver bullet to kill the bird. He learned this from the movies, which say that silver bullets are always final. Richie asks how they are supposed to get a silver bullet. Bill says that they will have to make it. Bill says that he is going to use his father’s Walther, a gun. Ben then takes responsibility for obtaining the silver. With the bullet, Bill says, they can blow the bird’s head off. The three of them stand there for a moment longer, then walk into the library.
Because the images that Pennywise uses to haunt the group often come from the movies, the group figures that they can use the tools of movie heroes to defeat It. Bill and Ben agree to take things given to them by their fathers—the only strong male figures they can think of outside of characters from television or the movies—to assist them in defeating Its latest glamour.
Themes
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A week passes, and it is mid-July. The underground club house is nearly finished. Ben and Richie are working on the clubhouse while the others have gone to get more materials. Richie tells Mike that he owes them twenty-three cents if he wants to be in the club—part of his share of the cost of the hinges for the clubhouse. Mike, who is holding his father’s photo album, fishes the change for the hinges out of his pocket. Ben points to the album and asks what it is. Mike says that it’s his father’s collection of pictures of old Derry, and Richie asks to see it. Mike says that it would be better to wait until everyone comes back. The conversation then turns to rock-and-roll, with Richie listing all of the white artists he likes, while Mike mentions the black originators—none of whom Richie knows.
While baseball serves as a point on which Bill and Mike bond, Mike and Richie bond over rock-and-roll. Both are aspects of American culture in which black and white people co-exist. Mike wants to wait for the others to come before he shows the album and tells them about what is inside. If he retells the story later, the others may get more or less information than Richie, or the image from the album could disappear.
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Richie then attempts to sing a rock-and-roll song, which amuses Ben and Mike. When Mike holds his nose and laughs so hard that tears come out of his eyes, Richie jokes that “Negroes have no taste” and that he is not jealous of black people. He would rather be Jewish like Stan, he says, and open a pawn shop from which he sells people “switchblades and plastic dog-puke and used guitars.” Ben and Mike scream with laughter. Their laughter is young and carefree. Little do they know that, the previous afternoon, a thunderstorm came through, creating “a spate of water” that pushed forth the body of Jimmy Cullum. Jimmy’s face is mostly missing except for his nose. Bill and Eddie come back toward the clubhouse, wondering what Mike, Ben, and Richie are laughing at. As they cross the Kenduskeag, they hurry “past the unseen ruin of Jimmy Cullum.”
Richie’s jokes about anti-black racism and anti-Semitism bring levity to otherwise painful topics. In this instance, despite being only eleven, Richie demonstrates an innate comedic understanding that it is important to laugh about the things that cause pain. His ability to make the others laugh briefly takes their minds off of the clown and Its murders of local children. For an instant, they can revert back to being kids with no awareness of the mortal danger that surrounds them in Derry.
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After Bill and Eddie bring back the boards, Ben gets to work with pulling out the rusty nails. Eddie warns Ben that he can get tetanus—which Richie mishears as “titnuss”—if he cuts himself on a rusty nail. Eddie explains what tetanus is and how it can lead to lockjaw. When Eddie goes to pee, Richie then tells him that he has to remember to “shake off,” otherwise he can get cancer. Eddie says that the reason there is so much cancer in the world is because people like Richie and Beverly smoke cigarettes. Bill Denbrough calls “beep-beep” to bring an end to their bickering and finish the house, which will be accessed by a mahogany door that someone threw out.
“Beep-beep” is usually a signal to Richie to let him know that he has gone too far with his brand of humor. The boys’ talk is typical of boys their age. They are curious about sex and their growing bodies, but they are also ignorant due to the conservatism of the era, which offers no real sex education. Eddie warns Richie and Beverly about the dangers of their smoking, which was also common in the era and a method for kids to rebel.
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Bill notices the album in Mike’s hands and the group looks at it. Bill warns that no one should touch the pages. The group goes from hand-to-hand with each of them gingerly handling the album by the edges of its pages. In one picture, there is a group of about six kids gathered around a “funny fellow.” The setting does not look like Derry at all, except for the Canal. The funny fellow has a huge grin and does not wear make-up, but he has two tufts of hair that stick up like horns.
The children handle the album “gingerly” because Bill remembers how the temptation to touch an old photo in George’s album caused him to nearly lose his fingers. The image of the clown seems to double as that of devil, due to his hair sticking up “like horns.”
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Mike goes to another picture, which is from 1856. In this photo, a bunch of drunks are standing in front of a saloon, while a politician tries to speak to them. A group of bonneted women stand nearby, looking with disgust at the men’s intemperance and buffoonery. Mike explains that this is one of the many “foolcards” that were popular about twenty years before the Civil War. In another picture, the clown is wearing “a loud checked vest-busting drummer's suit” and is “playing the shell-game with a bunch of drunken loggers.” He winks at a lumberjack. Bill estimates that this latter picture is from about a hundred years after the foolcard.
The photos provide examples of how the clown has existed throughout Derry’s history. Derry’s inhabitants, from all social classes and in all eras, have been tolerant of the clown. Mike’s mention of “fool cards” not only suggests gags but also beasr a relation to the “fool card” during Tarot readings. The fool card bears the image of a jester or clown. This card signals new beginnings and faith in the universe.
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Mike then points out a clipping from the Derry News. The picture shows a woodcut of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Ironworks. A fellow in a morning coat and a tophat prepares to cut the ribbon while a crowd watches. On the left is a clown. The artist catches his image upside down, which makes his smile look like a scream. The next pictures are from the Prohibition era and the end of World War II. A parade is moving along Main Street toward Up-Mile Hill. Suddenly, the dots in the picture begin to move and Richie recognizes It. Richie alerts Bill to the same image that they saw in his brother George’s room. The parade wiggles toward the Losers’ Club. The clown prances along the sidelines, doing splits and cartwheels and performing other gags. Only the children in the photo see him and they shrink away. Ben goes to put his hand to the picture, as Bill did in George’s room, but Bill stops him.
The clown’s presence at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kitchener Ironworks establishes the connection between the giant bird that Mike saw while playing there and the clown. As with George’s album, one of the images in Will Hanlon’s album comes to life. King uses this motif to show the reader how history is alive even in the present. Derry’s unwillingness to contend with history and its unresolved problems allows It to thrive. Ben is tempted to engage with the images by putting his hand in the photo, thereby physically re-entering the past, but this is clearly dangerous.
Themes
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Ben thinks that it is okay to touch the picture as long as the plastic cover is on. He then lifts it up and Beverly screams. The clown is now rushing toward them. It then leaps up a lamppost in the foreground of the picture. Beverly screams again and Eddie does the same, though his scream is “faint and blue-breathless.” The plastic of the photo bulges out and the clown threatens to kill every member of the Losers’ Club. It identifies itself with every “glamour”—mummy, leper, werewolf, and others—that the kids have imagined. Stanley snatches the album from Bill’s hand and shuts it.
The clown seems to rush at the group, as though It is a character from a 3-D movie they are viewing at the Aladdin. It uses the group’s understanding that images can come alive, which they have learned from cinema, to haunt them. It also identifies itself with the movie characters that both frighten and entertain them, just as Pennywise is a figure of both fright and entertainment.
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Bill helps Stan come to terms with the fact that, this time, everyone has seen the clown. Bill thinks that, together, they can still kill It. He then suggests that they all go back to the clubhouse and finish constructing it. He thinks about how he is, in a way, using the others to get back at It for killing his brother, George. There is an element of bitter selfishness in it that makes him wonder if this is what it feels like to be an adult. He thinks to himself that, if this is how adults have to think, then he never wants to grow up.
Now, everyone has the same amount of information and they are united in their belief that Pennywise exists. Bill knows that he can use his friends’ belief to get them to help him avenge his brothers’ death. He feels guilty for using their union for his own personal ends, and wonders if, as an adult, he will also privilege self-interest over the purer love of friendship.
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