It

It

by

Stephen King

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on It can help.

It: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The adult Eddie finishes telling his story and pours himself another drink. He then asks Beverly if she saw It take Patrick Hocksetter, the day after she and the others visited Eddie in the hospital. They recall how crazy Patrick was. Beverly remembers that he had sweaty, meaty hands, though he would touch girls as lightly as a feather. Richie remembers his pencil box full of dead flies. Bill asks Beverly what happened to Patrick.
Each of the Losers has a memory of Patrick that certifies him as a creepy kid, though none of these details really indicate that he is crazy as much as he just seems weird. The group relies most on Beverly’s recollection of Patrick because she recalls seeing how he died.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly thinks back to that day during the summer, when she was becoming more conscious of her curving body. She also remembers that her father was much sharper with her during those days. She was increasingly nervous around him. If her mother was not around, things were always worst. Beverly  remembers the smell they made between them as the summer wore on, and how her father stayed away from her partly because of that smell.
The ”smell” that Beverly alludes to is that of pheromones. Al has increasing anxiety over Beverly’s maturing body because his incestuous feelings are intensifying and become more difficult to resist when Elfrida is absent. To avoid his feelings, he beats Beverly, as though to make his perversity her fault.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly also remembers the Bullseye slingshot. Ben recalls that she put a hole in something that day with the slingshot. Ben begins to ask if it was Patrick Hocksetter whom she hit, and she says “no.” She recalls where she went that day. She decided to go to the Barrens to practice with the slingshot. She went by the clubhouse to see if anyone was there, but there was no one. All that remained of the group was the lingering smoke smell from the smoke-hole. Then, she went to the city dump. She figured that there would be lots of things to shoot at there. She recalls that Patrick, Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and “Belch” Huggins were also at the dump. She starts giggling when she recalls what they were doing: they had their pants down and were lighting their farts on fire.
Through Beverly’s memory of Patrick Hocksetter’s death, the group recalls memories of other important events that may have occurred that day. Beverly spends a rare summer day by herself. Like the rest of the group, she cannot resist the city dump as a playing area. This habit causes her to differ strongly from other girls her age, particularly Greta Bowie and Sally Mueller, who consider Beverly un-ladylike. Still, Beverly is amused by boys’ occasionally weird habits, such as the farting contest she witnesses.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly walks toward the dump, carrying her skates and the Bullseye slingshot. She hears a shout, then laughter. She thinks that it is her gang and becomes excited by the possibility of seeing Bill Denbrough. She knows that she is too young to love a boy, but she loves Bill all the same. She nearly walks up to the group before realizing that it is not her gang—it is Henry Bowers and his crew. At first, she thinks that they are naked. She ducks behind an old, junked Studebaker and she sees that they are not naked but just have their pants and underpants pulled down.
Bill’s leadership, as well as his inaccessibility—due to his single-minded obsession with getting revenge on It for killing his brother—are part of his appeal for Beverly. Beverly nearly endangers herself by walking up to Henry, which is why she hides from view. She does not want them to see her, but she is too curious about what they are doing to leave the junkyard.
Themes
Friendship and Loyalty Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Get the entire It LitChart as a printable PDF.
It PDF
Out of sight, Beverly’s first thought is to get away. Then, she thinks that she will be seen if she tries to run. She is also curious about what they are doing. “Belch” Huggins has his back to her and she sees that he has a very large, hairy ass. Hysterical giggles begin to bubble up in her throat. Next, she sees the boys’ penises. Henry’s is “small and hairless” but Victor’s is quite big. She thinks to herself that Bill “has one of those,” too. Now, Beverly is scared to move—if they know that she has seen “their things,” they could hurt her very badly.
Beverly is both intrigued by what she is seeing and frightened of running away. She worries that if the boys know that she has seen them, they may beat her up in embarrassment. Worse, her curiosity about their bodies, and the bodies of boys in general, could give them the idea of sexually assaulting her in some way.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Henry screams that “Belch” has released a fart that creates a three-foot flame. Next, Patrick Hocksetter sticks his behind in Henry’s face. Henry holds up a lighter and flicks it. Beverly’s jaw drops when she sees a blue flame look as though it is coming out of Patrick’s behind. The boys roll with laughter. She is laughing, too, but mostly because of having seen the boys’ “things.” The sight of them fills her with a mixture of horror and revulsion, which she finds funny. She wants to stop laughing, out of fear that they will hear her, but she cannot stop. Instead, she muffles her laughter. Her cheeks are turning red from the suppression and tears swim in her eyes.
Beverly is more amused by the sight of the boys’ genitals than she is by the farting, which is unremarkable to her. As silly as their competition is, she finds their penises even sillier and stranger. This seems to be the first time that Beverly has ever seen any boy naked. The sight of their genitals is alarming to her because they are so different from her own and seem so obtrusive.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Next, it is Victor’s turn, and Henry tells him that his fart made a twelve-foot flame. Victor howls with pain, saying that he would not care if it went twenty feet because Henry nearly burned his ass off. This comment causes Beverly’s fit of giggles to intensify, becoming more and more like silent screams. Her belly hurts, and tears stream down her face.
Victor “howls with pain” because the flame has gotten too close to his skin. Beverly finds it funny that the boys would risk giving themselves serious burns just to prove who has more intense gas.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, “Belch” Huggins, and Patrick Hocksetter end up lighting each other’s farts because of Rena Davenport—a bean farmer who has been courting “Butch” Bowers. That morning, Henry eats “an enormous quantity of leftover beans.” By the afternoon, Patrick decides that he and Henry should go to the dump to light their farts on fire. Victor is the first to announce that he has to leave, to help his father pick corn. Then “Belch” announces that he has to leave to make his paper route. Beverly watches the two boys leave and sneezes three times, quickly and quietly, into her cupped hands. She thinks that she should go back to the club house. She has lost interest in target practice and she has to pee.
It is telling that, when the boys are not bullying members of the Losers’ Club or watching schlock films at the theater, having a farting contest is the only other thing they can think to do. When the other boys leave, Beverly thinks that she should, too. However, she is still afraid of being seen and she remains fascinated by what else these boys do when no one else is around.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Henry and Patrick continue to light farts. Patrick then offers to show Henry something. Patrick says that it feels good. Then, Beverly hears nothing from the two boys. She is curious to look. She does not know what the boys are doing, but she is sure that it is something “nasty.” Patrick has one hand between Henry’s thighs. With his other hand, Patrick is rubbing his own penis. She is not sure of what is going on, but it scares her. She gets the feeling that, if they discover her seeing this, they will kill her. She sees that Patrick’s thing has gotten a little longer, but Henry’s has grown amazingly and nearly pokes his bellybutton.
Beverly’s idea of something “nasty” is related to the performance of sexual acts. Despite her crush on Bill and her father’s abusive behavior, she cannot yet fathom touching a penis or thinking of it as a source of pleasure. Moreover, it frightens her to watch it grow from flaccid to erect. Beverly thinks that they would kill her if they saw her because she would be a witness to homosexual experimentation.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Henry stares at Patrick’s hand “as if hypnotized.” Then, Patrick offers to perform oral sex. Henry responds as though startled, then slaps Patrick, knocking him back, before he can pose the question again. Henry claims that he doesn’t go in “for that queer stuff,” while Patrick says that Henry liked what he was doing. Henry warns Patrick that, if he tells anyone about what they just did, he will tell someone about what Patrick has been doing with dogs and cats and about Patrick’s refrigerator. Henry leaves and Patrick is left alone.
Henry draws the line at oral sex seems to him like an acceptance of homosexual behavior, or “queer stuff.” Henry blackmails Patrick into silence by threatening to tell others that Patrick secretly kidnaps, tortures, and murders local pets. Patrick is left standing alone, as though isolated from the world—which he is, due to his psychopathy.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly waits, but nothing happens. Five minutes drag by. It also makes her uneasy not to know for sure where Patrick is. She peeks through the windshield again and sees him sitting. He is playing with the lighter and seems hypnotized by it. A line of blood runs from his mouth to his chin. Beverly thinks of how crazy this boy is and how much she wants to get away from him. Moving very carefully, she creeps to the back of the Ford Studebaker. When she reaches the pines beyond the junked cars, she looks over her shoulder. She goes to pee and is pulling up her shorts again when she hears footsteps approaching. It is Patrick. He stops almost directly opposite her and looks at “the rusting Amana refrigerator.”
Beverly is uneasy not knowing where Patrick is because of how creepy he can be. Patrick’s fascination with the lighter suggests a taste for arson. His indifference to the blood running down his chin is a reminder that he does not regard the blood—or any aspect of his being—as real, and therefore sees no reason to acknowledge the fact that he is bleeding. This sense of unreality is an important aspect of his psychopathy.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly thinks that, if Patrick does happen to see her, she could easily outrun him. He is not as fat as Ben Hanscom, but he is pudgy. She pulls the Bullseye out of her pocket and puts about six steel pellets in her breast pocket just in case. She remembers the refrigerator now. It is the only one in the dump that has not been dismantled. Patrick hums as he approaches the fridge. Beverly feels a chill as she wonders what he is up to. However, if she had known about Patrick’s “private ritual,” she would have run away as fast as she could.
Beverly pulls out the Bullseye, in case she needs to defend herself against Patrick. She finds it odd that Patrick is humming as he approaches the fridge in the dump, as though he were grabbing something cold to drink out of his personal fridge. Beverly is worried, but she is also very curious about what unknown evil Patrick is hiding from the world.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
No one has the slightest idea of just how crazy Patrick Hocksetter is. Patrick has repeated the first- and third-grades. His teachers find him apathetic and his IQ is low-normal, but Patrick is much cleverer than his IQ results suggest, and by July 1958, he has become “a full-fledged psychopath.” He could not remember a time when he understood that other living beings were real. He has no sense of hurting or of being hurt. All of his teachers find him odd, but none of them have disciplinary problems with him. Certainly, no one knows that he has murdered his younger brother, Avery.
Patrick is not unintelligent, but lacks interest in school. The subjects that he learns there are unrelated to his actual interests. Furthermore, the social conditioning that students receive in school conflicts with Patrick’s sense that neither he nor any other living being is real. His teachers ignore his strange behavior because he is not a delinquent, which, in the 1950s, was the only official sign of a problematic child.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
When Patrick is in kindergarten, his parents have another son, named Avery. The baby cries late at night, waking Patrick up, and his parents are always hanging over Avery’s crib. Seeing all of this frightens Patrick. He realizes that his parents once brought him home from the hospital, too, which would make him “real.” If he is “real,” then Avery might be, too.
What makes Patrick psychotic is his inability to understand that living beings are actually living. It is not clear what Patrick thinks other people and animals are, or even what he imagines himself to be. What is clear is that “realness” frightens him.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Patrick goes into Avery’s room one afternoon around two-thirty, shortly after the bus drops him off from his afternoon kindergarten session. His mother is napping in her room. She is exhausted because Avery was fussy the night before. Patrick’s father is at work. Avery is sleeping on his stomach, with his face turned to one side. Patrick, with no expression on his own face, turns Avery’s head so that it is pressed directly into the pillow. He smothers him there. The baby struggles, but Patrick holds him in place. Finally, the baby becomes totally still. Patrick feels excitement begin to crest and then ebb in him. He goes downstairs for cookies and a glass of milk.
Patrick murders his younger brother very matter-of-factly—that is, he does it simply because Avery has proven to be an inconvenience to him. He has no expression on his face because he is neither angry at nor jealous of Avery—the baby, after all, is not real in Henry’s mind. The only emotion that Patrick feels is pleasure at having carried out his task with such aplomb. He gets cookies and milk to reward himself. This horrifying story is then another example of King showing that evil doesn’t only come from outside sources like It—evil is also very human, and can appear almost anywhere.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Patrick’s mother comes downstairs half an hour later and says that she did not hear Patrick come in, due to her being so tired. He thinks of how she will no longer have to worry about being so tired. She asks her elder son how his school day was. He says it was fine and shows her a picture of what is supposed to be his drawing of a house and a tree. However, the paper is “covered with looping meaningless scribbles made with black and brown crayon.” Patrick always brings home the same kind of drawing. His mother worries quietly about their “dark sameness.”
Patrick’s mother senses that something is wrong with her elder son but either does not have the language to describe what it is or thinks it better not to ruminate on the subject too much. The “dark sameness” of the pictures—no matter what they were intended to depict—indicates that Patrick has no feeling toward anything and no interest in the world outside of himself.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Patrick’s mother discovers Avery’s death around five o’clock. Until then, she assumes that the baby is taking a very long nap. Patrick is watching television while his mother, who is screaming, holds the baby’s corpse in the open kitchen door, hopelessly believing that the cold air might revive him. It is diagnosed as crib-death. Patrick is gratified about how things settle down after the baby is buried, resulting in him getting his meals on time again.
While Patrick’s mother screams in agony, he does not go to her to comfort her but continues to watch television, as though nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. Patrick’s mother never registers this as odd because she is too consumed by grief over the loss of Avery.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Only Patrick’s father comes close to realizing the truth. He stands beside Avery’s empty crib about twenty minutes after the infant’s body has been removed. He cannot believe what has happened. Then, he looks down on the floor and sees track marks from Patrick’s rubber boots. His hand goes to his mouth and his eyes widen. A picture begins to form in Mr. Hocksetter’s mind, but before it can fully develop, he leaves the room and closes the door. He never asks Patrick any questions. Patrick, meanwhile, has no guilt and no bad dreams.
Mr. Hocksetter chooses to embrace denial instead of facing the real possibility that his elder son killed his infant son. Patrick made no effort to hide his crime, which is an indication of his mental illness. In his mind, Avery was a problem that he needed to solve. If Patrick had made the effort to hide evidence, that would indicate that he understood that what he did was wrong.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Domestic Abuse Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Back near the dump, Patrick has been looking at the refrigerator for a long time. It is filled with the corpses of missing neighborhood pets. The refrigerator has a powerful hold on him and he finds himself drawing pictures of it in school. Patrick’s latest victim is a pigeon that he discovered on Jackson Street two days ago. The pigeon pecked at Patrick’s hand several times, leaving several shallow digs. The pigeon is now “nothing but a skeleton surrounded by a ragged fall of feathers.” Beside its body are “dozens of flesh-colored objects that [look] like big macaroni shells.” They are actually leeches. Suddenly, one of them unfurls insect wings. The mutant creature flies into Patrick’s arm and turns pink, then red.
Patrick’s animal pictures at school are probably mistaken for the innocent animal drawings that children frequently produce in art classes. No one knows that the seemingly innocuous images—the only ones that do not reflect the “dark sameness” of Patrick’s other drawings—reveal something horrifying about the boy. The mutant creature that latches onto Patrick’s arm turns red because it is sucking blood out of him.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Though Patrick is afraid of almost nothing—it is difficult to be afraid when almost nothing is “real”—he has great loathing for leeches. He pulls at one of the creatures and crushes it. Although it explodes, it continues to suck at him. Patrick throws it away, but more leeches fly out of the fridge. He feels no pain but there is “a hideous draining sensation.” Also, the blood pouring from the leeches seems real enough. One of them falls down Patrick’s shirt and settles on his chest. Another settles on his right eye. Another flies into Patrick’s mouth and settles on his tongue to feed. There is still not much pain.
Patrick probably loathes leeches because they suck his blood and reveal to him that he has blood when he pulls them off of him. This reminds Patrick that he, too, is a living being, and he dislikes this thought. The draining sensation comes from the mutant leeches sucking the life blood out of Patrick. It is unclear if Patrick does not feel much pain because the leech bites do not actually hurt or because he is incapable of feeling pain at all.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Patrick is horrified, however, that parasites are hanging all over his body. Some of them drink to capacity, then burst like balloons, drenching Patrick with pints of his own blood. The one inside of his mouth also bursts, causing him to “[eject] a huge spray of blood and parasite-flesh like vomit.” He falls down, still screaming. Before he passes out, he sees a figure step from behind the last of the junked cars. It tells Patrick “hello and goodbye” in a “bubbling voice.” The figure, who is merely the shape of a man, then begins to drag Patrick toward the Barrens. Patrick tries to scream but loses consciousness. He awakes to find It feeding on him.
The parasites remind Patrick that he is, indeed, just flesh and blood and that his body is just as vulnerable as those of the animals that he has killed and that of his dead younger brother. The figure who steps from behind the cars is Pennywise. Patrick cannot see the clown clearly because he is losing consciousness. However, he does feel It feeding on him, much more forcefully than the leeches.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
At first, Beverly does not know what she is seeing. All that she knows is that Patrick Hocksetter is thrashing around and screaming. She thinks that there is a great deal of pain in that screaming and she wishes that she had not come here. Then, the screams stop, and Beverly hears someone speak. It is her father’s voice saying, “Hello and goodbye.” The voice does not speak again, and she thinks that she has imagined it. She walks out of the bushes toward the path, still prepared to run from Patrick if she has to. She looks around and sees a lot of blood. When she bends down to touch it, she realizes that it is not fake.
Beverly does not know what she is seeing, but she is fascinated by it. The clown knows that Beverly is present, which is why It assumes the voice of the person whom she fears the most—her father. Beverly is still unsure whether or not Patrick is dead, despite hearing his screams. The sight of his blood is a shock to her.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly feels a flash of heat in her left arm and thinks that she has been stuck by a burr. However, she realizes that something is biting her and goes to pick it off. Now, seeing the leech, she understands where all the blood has come from. Her eyes go to the fridge. She sees some of the parasites crawling “sluggishly” outside of the fridge. She prepares her slingshot and tries to use them for target practice but misses. Oddly, too, she sees the ball curve. She turns and runs. She stops, panting, and looks at the place in her arm where one of the leeches has bitten her. The flow of blood is slowing. She realizes that the leeches are a part of It.
The leeches are not merely products of Patrick’s imagination; they are real. They are also indiscriminate. However, they are not so impressive to Beverly because she is not afraid of leeches. Beverly is aware, however, that some supernatural force is at work when she sees the projectile from her slingshot curve. She runs away from the scene, forgetting that she cannot really escape from It.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Beverly wants to flee but her curiosity gets the better of her again. She follows a trail of grooves in the soil. They lead her around a bend and she is facing the river. She looks down and hears “a thick and monstrous chuckle.” This is too much for her and she becomes overwhelmed by panic. She flees through the trees.
The grooves are the trail leading to the place where the clown has dragged Patrick. The chuckle comes from the clown, whom Beverly can no longer see but whose presence is still palpable.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Four hours later, all of the members of the Losers’ Club, except for Eddie, are crouched in the bushes near the spot where Beverly saw Patrick Hocksetter open his fridge. The smell of rain is in the air and Bill is working to patch up Beverly’s wound. The rain then comes and turns into a storm. The group decides to check out the fridge. Bill opens it with the clothesline that he has used to wrap Beverly’s wound. There is a message inside the door: “STOP NOW BEFORE I KILL YOU ALL. A WORD TO THE WISE FROM YOUR FRIEND PENNYWISE.”
Patrick’s dead pigeon is gone, as are the mutant leeches. The message inside the door is a warning. The group is learning more about Pennywise—for instance, It does not only take good children like George but also bad ones, like Patrick. Beverly has also learned that It takes bodies down near the river. The way Pennywise carries Patrick away is similar to how he carries off Adrian Mellon.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Bill advances toward the fridge and threatens to kill Pennywise, screaming about how It murdered his brother, George. Bill kicks wildly at the heap of pompoms that have come out of the refrigerator. Bill says that he can sense that It is afraid of the group. Beverly agrees; then, Bill, in a moment of vulnerability, asks for the group’s help. The children put their arms around one another in a group hug. No one speaks, and Beverly’s eyes are tightly shut. She remembers the sound of the rain, their shared silence, and “vague sorrow” for Eddie not being with them. She also recalls feeling “very young and very strong.”
The pompoms are props that mock Bill, suggesting that George’s murder was a gag or an amusing trick. Bill knows that It is afraid of the group because they are getting better at understanding It. Also, they have managed to stick together, despite the recent interference of Sonia Kaspbrak. Still, Beverly feels Eddie’s temporary absence. Her vague sorrow will become clearer at the end of the novel, when Eddie dies.
Themes
Evil and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Fear and the Power of Fantasy Theme Icon
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon