On the night of May 28, 1985, Stanley Uris takes a bath. Patricia Uris, his wife, later tells her mother that she should have known from that that something was wrong, for Stanley never took baths at 7:00 PM in the evenings. Earlier, he was reading a book by William Denbrough, a childhood friend of Stanley’s. Patty observes that Denbrough’s books upset and depressed Stanley. Patty is a sweet, kind woman who finds it difficult to articulate what makes the books “bad.” She recalls that they were horror books, filled with monsters “chasing after little children.” There seemed to be something pornographic about them, though she had never spoken that word.
Patricia is a prim and prudish woman who senses a disturbance in her husband, though she is not able to make the connection between her husband’s relationship to Denbrough and the source of the disturbance coming from his childhood. Instead, she blames Bill’s books for being the source of something “bad,” believing that Denbrough’s imagination is a source of evil, as opposed to a reflection of that which already exists in the world.
That night in May, Stanley and Patricia Uris are sitting on their living room sofa, watching Family Feud. She is proud of the comfortable home in which they live, as well as their ability to afford two luxury cars. Patricia feels that she has come a long way from the outcast Jewish girl who was refused entry into the after-prom party at a country club in 1967. While reviewing these memories, she remembers, too, having tried to read a book by Bill Denbrough—a book about werewolves. She wonders what a man like Denbrough would know about werewolves.
Patricia defines her and Stanley’s success in the context of their material acquisitions and the fact that they live in an Atlanta suburb—a community that would have once shunned her for being Jewish. She defines success through others’ acceptance of her. She thinks that Denbrough, who is not Jewish, would not know what it feels like to be a “werewolf”—a person whom others suspect of being menacing.
Patricia Uris, then “Patricia Blum,” meets Stanley Uris at a sorority party. He is at this time a scholarship student at New York State University. They are introduced by a mutual friend and, by the end of the evening, Patricia is convinced that she is in love. When they plan to marry, her parents, Ruth and Herbert Blum, suspect that Stanley will be unable to support her. His plans to become an accountant are unimpressive. Stanley’s parents, Donald Uris and Andrea Bertoly, are equally concerned, despite having also married in their twenties. Only Stanley is sure of their future and, when Patricia secures a job teaching shorthand and business English in Traynor, Georgia, it is the beginning of their promising lives together.
Patricia and Stanley’s early life together is typical of many couples who marry young. Their parents worry that they are too young and will repeat some of the mistakes that they made in their youth. Donald also thinks that Stanley is not good enough for his daughter and that his plans to become an accountant lack ambition. Stanley’s sense of certainty about his future with Patricia indicates that, by marrying her, he believes that he has left his past in Derry behind him. Through his marriage, he creates a new story in which he lives happily ever after.
Stanley and Patricia Uris are married on August 19, 1972. Patty goes to her bed a virgin and, before making love, Stanley assures her that he will never hurt her. He keeps this promise until the night of May 28, 1985. In the ‘70s, Patricia’s teaching job goes well and Stanley gets a job driving a bakery truck. In November 1972, Stanley takes a job at an H&R Block. Three years later, Stanley quits H&R Block to open his own accounting business. Around the same time the couple begins trying to have a child. Despite the reservations of Herbert Blum, Stanley lands an account with Corridor Video, “a pioneer in the nascent videotape business,” which asks him to do “an independent marketing survey.” The work puts him in contact with Atlanta’s richest men. By 1983, the Urises are earning six figures.
The Urises are upwardly mobile. What sustains them is their commitment to each other and their belief that they can form a life together, despite opposition from their respective families. King foreshadows Stanley’s death by informing the reader that something happens to Stanley on the night that Mike Hanlon calls him in 1985. The details that Stanley took a bath at an unusual hour and that he broke his promise to Patricia indicate an eventual suicide. Despite the Urises’ successes, Stanley is a haunted man and a black cloud hangs over the family’s good fortune.
Ruth Blum writes her daughter letters in which she asks when the couple expects to have children, for Patricia Uris is not getting any younger. Both Patricia and Stanley agree, as they do about most other things, that they want children, but they cannot get pregnant. In 1976, they go to a doctor who informs them that nothing should be preventing them from having a baby if they want one and that the problem could be that of nerves. Stanley wonders if there is something wrong with his life—something that haunts him in his dreams and is related to a problem he thought he solved a long time ago.
Only when Stanley and Patricia are unable to have children—their only major failure in life so far—does Stanley think that things may not be as ideal in his life as he thought he could make them. The absence of a definitive health problem makes their inability to have children seem eerie, as though an external force is blocking them from having the lives that they want.
Back on the night of May 28, 1985, Stanley Uris answers the ringing telephone in his living room. Patricia feels an instant fright and wonders if it is her mother, but Stanley greets someone named “Mike.” At the end of the mysterious call, Patricia asks him who was on the phone. Stanley assures her that it was no one and says that he is going to take a bath. When she asks him about taking a bath at seven o’clock, outside of his routine, he does not answer her. She later goes upstairs and lightly raps at the bathroom door. Stanley does not answer and she hears only the sound of dripping water.
The ringing telephone is a harbinger of doom. For Patricia, this takes the form of her mother’s voice reminding her about her inability to have children and the fact that she will soon be too old to have them. The sound of dripping water echoes the seconds of passing time—in this instance, not only the time lost during her fertile years, but also the time that she will lose with Stanley as a result of his suicide.
The bathroom door is locked. When Patricia Uris gets the key and opens the door, she finds that Stanley has “slit his inner forearms open from the wrist to the crook of the elbow,” then crossed them “just below the Bracelets of Fortune, making a pair of bloody capital T's.” He has also dipped a forefinger into his own blood, just before dying. On the wall tile, he has scrawled a message in his blood: “IT.” Another drop of water falls into the tub and Patricia finds the voice that eluded her when she tried to call for help. She stares at her husband’s “dead and sparkling eyes” and begins to scream.
Stanley slits his wrists “just below the Bracelets of Fortune”—a part of the hand that, in palmistry, indicates good fortune. Mike’s call tells Stanley that he will be unable to create the blessed life with Patricia that he hoped to have, due to the survival of It. Stanley’s “sparkling eyes” mirror those of the clown, whose eyes are also described as “sparkling” in various instances. This indicates that It maintains a power over Stanley through the persistence of memory.
Mike Hanlon next calls Richie Tozier, who manages the news about It pretty well, until he starts vomiting. Mike asks how much Richie remembers. Richie admits to remembering little about what happened when they were boys, but enough to agree to go to Derry anyway. He calls his travel agent, Carol Feeny, who agrees to make arrangements for transportation quickly, in exchange for Richie doing a few impressions for her amusement. Richie then calls the Derry Town House to reserve a room. Calling Derry sends him into a flashback of his childhood—particularly being bullied by Victor Criss and Henry Bowers.
Richie accepts the news as though it were a call to duty. Like Stanley, he moved on with his life and stopped thinking about his childhood in Derry, but the call from Mike reminds him of the promise he made. Though he claims to remember little about what happened, it seems that he has merely repressed his memories. By placing a call to a familiar place in Derry, his memories return, but they are memories of being in peril.
Richie Tozier then calls his program director Steve Covall and tells him that he cannot interview Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band because he has to go back to Derry, Maine, his hometown, and fulfill a promise that he made when he was eleven. Steve is incredulous, but Richie packs anyway and stuffs his pockets full of cash from his barrel safe. He suddenly remembers all of his old friends and recalls what a “bunch of losers” they had been. There are other things, too, just under the surface that he has not thought about in years: the house on Neibolt Street, the sewers, and Bill Denbrough’s dead brother, George. The onrush of these memories causes Richie to vomit, and afterward he feels cleansed. He goes out, tosses his suitcases into the trunk of his car and tells himself that he is going home now.
Richie’s economic success and celebrity in Los Angeles contrast with his sense of having been a “loser” in Derry. Part of leaving his hometown behind was to make an effort to reinvent himself. Whereas his voice impressions were not taken seriously by his friends and family at home, they make him a celebrity in Los Angeles. His memories of Derry are “under the surface,” just as It exists under the surface of Derry and under the surface of the imagination. When Richie “excavates” those memories, he feels ill because they bring him in confrontation with his own mortality.
On the night of May 28, 1985, Ben Hanscom, named “perhaps the most promising architect in America” by Time magazine, is at the Red Wheel. Its proprietor, Ricky Lee, finds it odd that Ben is coming in on a weekday. Hanscom always comes in on Fridays and Saturdays. Ben is Ricky’s favorite customer. Two years earlier, Hanscom was in London, building the controversial BBC communications center. This evening, Hanscom looks pale and distracted. When Ricky goes to draw him a beer, Ben requests a beer stein full of whisky—Wild Turkey—instead. Ben then shows Ricky a trick that he learned in Peru in 1978. He proceeds to squeeze the juice from two of the four lemon wedges into his nostrils, then drinks some of the whisky. The trick is that one is so concerned with the burning in their nose that they don’t notice “what’s going down [their] throat.”
Ricky, like Patricia Uris with Stanley, is alerted to the fact that something is wrong with Ben due to a break in his routine. The simplicity of Ben’s life in Nebraska, where he has lived since high school, contrasts with his international celebrity. Oddly, Hanscom’s status as a famous architect is not the thing about him that makes him most unique, though Ricky does not know this. The Peruvian trick that Ben shows Ricky is a method of distraction—a way of trading one form of pain for another. Similarly, Ben gets drunk to distract himself from the daunting and painful task that awaits him in Derry.
Ben Hanscom then reminisces with Ricky Lee about his childhood, mentioning that he was “a regular butterball.” He talks about how he was bullied by Reginald “Belch” Huggins, Victor Criss, and Henry Bowers, then lifts his shirt to show the “H” that Bowers carved into his stomach. He squeezes the juice from two more lemon wedges and takes two more big swallows from the stein. Ben then offers Ricky the “three cartwheel silver dollars” that his father left him when he died. Ben was four when his father died. He wants Ricky’s children to have the coins. He says that he gave the fourth one to his old friend Bill Denbrough, who is a writer now. Ricky worries that Hanscom may be planning to kill himself.
Ricky’s concern comes from Ben giving away valuable heirlooms. People who intend to commit suicide often give away their things—but Ben gives away his things because he thinks that he may die in Derry. By giving the coins to Ricky, the reader is alerted to the fact that Ben does not have children. Also, like Richie Tozier, his own connection to his childhood is marred by memories of being terrorized. Unlike Stanley, though, Ben and Richie are willing to confront these memories.
Ben tells Ricky Lee about the call from Mike Hanlon. He says that he will fly back to Derry tonight—but not on his own plane; he has booked a flight. Ben insists that he has to go back, believing that everything he has accomplished so far is due to what he and the other members of the Losers’ Club were able to do back in 1958. When Ben leaves the bar, Ricky is convinced that he will never see him again.
Ricky senses that he will not see Ben again, because not taking his own plane suggests that Ben has no intention of returning. Ben thinks that he owes his success as an architect to the Losers’ Club’s ability to repel It and prevent It from killing them. Unlike so many of Derry’s children, they survived to adulthood.
Around the same time, Eddie Kaspbrak is busy stuffing his tote-bag full of “bottles and jars and tubes and squeeze-bottles and spray-bottles” from his medicine cabinet. His wife, Myra, calls after him. While Eddie is a short man with “a timid, rabbity sort of face,” Myra is “huge.” She demands to know where he is going, but Eddie says he can’t tell her. She then says that he cannot go, for he promised to get her Al Pacino’s autograph. Eddie says that Myra will have to drive the actor herself, but Myra complains that none of her uniforms fit anymore. Eddie looks at Myra and realizes that she and his mother, Sonia Kaspbrak, resemble each other so much that they could be sisters. Myra begs Eddie not to leave and he commands her to stop. As he makes his way to the front door, she wails, as though in agony.
Eddie has not resolved his unhealthy attachment to his mother Sonia, who is also responsible for Eddie’s hypochondria. As a compromise with his inability to marry his mother and his unwillingness to separate from her, he marries a woman who resembles Sonia and who demonstrates the same qualities of co-dependency. Like Sonia, who feared that Eddie would fall in love and move away from her, Myra fears that there may be something more important in Eddie’s life that could take him away from her.
Eddie Kaspbrak strides away from his wife, Myra, faster and faster to get to the taxi. Along the way, he is plagued by the voice of his mother and memories of all that he was forbidden to do as a boy—participate in physical education or use the X-ray machine at a shoe store—due to his mother’s fears of mortal illness. When he gets to the cab, he sees Myra standing in the doorway. He waves good-bye to her and directs the cabbie to Penn Station. On the way, he recalls memories of Patrick Hocksetter and Henry Bowers. He wonders where Henry is now and figures that he is probably in prison or a state asylum or even drifting around the country. He holds his aspirator tightly and feels dizzy as he imagines, not only going back home, but back in time.
Like Richie and Ben, some of Eddie’s first memories of Derry are of the bullies that he encountered there. These images of Hocksetter and Bowers are more tangible forms of evil than It, whose true form the children never fully understood. Eddie’s associations of the bullies with violence, as well as his sense that he is returning to a place that threatens him with harm, conflicts with his mother’s voice, which instructs him to avoid any risk—real or imagined. Eddie’s loyalty to his friends, however, overrides his fears.
At Beverly Marsh Rogan’s Chicago home, her husband, Tom Rogan, is nearly asleep when the phone rings. Tom is angry that Beverly is on the phone with someone he does not know and is even angrier to find her smoking. She then tosses a suitcase onto the bed and pulls a bunch of casual clothes out of her bureau. After seeing the cigarette, Tom does not care about who she was talking to or where she thinks she’s going. He recalls a night when they were heading home after a movie and he slapped her for smoking. He demanded then that she promise not to smoke again without his permission, and she agreed. Now, she is smoking again, requiring another one of his “lessons.” Tom’s “lessons” result in Beverly wearing sunglasses on gray days and turtlenecks and cardigans on hot days.
Just as Eddie “married his mother,” so Beverly “married her father.” The inability of both Eddie and Beverly to confront and resolve their childhood fears and anxieties in regard to their parents results in them seeking parental approval through doppelgangers—that is, through people who mirror their mother and father, respectively, in habits and appearance. Tom beats Beverly for smoking, but merely uses supposed concern for her health as an excuse to control her. Similarly, her father, Al Marsh, beat her because he “worried a lot.” He used parental concern as a tool to usurp control.
Tom Rogan goes to a belt “hanging from a hook” in the closet. He recalls his mother giving him “whuppins” for being “bad.” He was the eldest of four children and was left responsible for them after his father Ralph died. Beverly Rogan appears scared and frightened—not of Tom, but of what she heard on the phone. She continues to smoke her cigarette, which juts out of her mouth. She explains that she was speaking to an old friend and, before she announces what she has to do, Tom demands that she shut up and says that he has to give her a “whuppin.” Unfazed, Beverly tells him to put the belt down. Tom suddenly feels invisible while Beverly recalls her childhood in Derry and tells him who Bill and George Denbrough are.
Tom is a misogynist who exercises his resentment against his abusive mother by becoming an abuser of women. He uses his mother’s preferred tool—a belt—to infantilize and humiliate Beverly, just as he was humiliated by his mother’s beatings. Beverly’s sudden unwillingness to submit to Tom’s abuse makes him feel “invisible,” due to his sense that he has, however momentarily, lost power over Beverly. Her preoccupation with Derry takes her mentally, out of the present and away from Tom.
Tom Rogan swings the belt at his wife, Beverly, who grabs it away from him. He scolds her for this. A fight ensues after he runs toward her like a bull, with his head down and the belt swinging wildly. Beverly goes toward the vanity and throws bottles at him, screaming that she is going to the airport. Blood runs into Tom’s right eye. Beverly looks hard at Tom and says that if he ever comes near her again, she will kill him. Tom rushes at his wife, but she stands her ground. She pushes the vanity table toward him, it falls, and its mirror breaks. She remembers all of the times that she has thought of leaving Tom. She decides now that she is leaving and will stay gone.
Beverly’s resolution to keep her promise to the Losers’ Club also gives her the strength to leave her marriage. Her commitment to destroy the evil in her hometown also commits her to eliminating the personal evil that has consumed her life since her marriage to Tom. By recalling the story of her childhood with the Losers’ Club, she inadvertently creates a new story in which she can have a life without Tom.
Tom Rogan goes after his wife once more, but Beverly now has his belt, swings it, and hits him in the mouth. Blood pours out of his mouth and between his fingers. This is the same belt that Tom has used to hit Beverly on the legs, buttocks, and breasts for all kinds of perceived offenses—working late at the studio and forgetting to call, getting a parking ticket, serving dinner cold.
Whereas Tom hit Beverly in places that men associate with women’s sexual attraction—the places that were also the sources of her father’s resentments—Beverly hits Tom in the mouth—the origin of his duplicitous speech, which feigns concern for her while also seeking to control her.
Tom goes after Beverly again, but this time, she swings the belt low and hits him between the legs. As he crouches in pain, she senses a “new Beverly” take over. She steps onto a chunk of glass while grabbing her suitcase. She lets the belt drop from her hands while Tom screams after her. He threatens to kill her. Beverly leaves the house and walks three blocks before realizing that she has left her wallet and credit cards at home. She sits down on a low stone wall and begins to laugh. She is frightened but free. She picks up her suitcase and flees into the night, still laughing.
Beverly is jolted with adrenaline—so excited to take back control over her own life and to stand up to Tom that she does not even feel the pain from a shard of glass entering her foot. After fleeing from the house, she laughs at the absurdity of her situation—she escapes from Tom but has no money to go anywhere. In this instance, however, her sense of freedom overrides her fear and she continues on.
In England, Bill Denbrough explains to his wife, Audra Phillips, that he must go back to Derry, Maine. She asks him who was on the other end of the phone that has recently rung. He looks at her and imagines her concern within the context of a story. This reminds him of his years at the University of Maine on a scholarship, when he takes a creative writing course and gets Cs for most of the stories he writes. He gets an “F” for one entitled “The Dark,” which he later sends off to the men’s magazine White Tie and gets published. His writing instructor, with whom he regularly clashes, is unimpressed by the notice of Denbrough’s publication, asking if Bill thinks that money means anything. Bill thinks to himself that, indeed, it does.
Bill’s method of coping with events in his life is to use them in his fiction. In college, he took his memory of George’s childhood fear of the dark and used it both to understand the nature of his younger brother’s fear and to try to control it. If he could not save George in real life, he would try within the context of a story. The publication of the story tells Bill that there are other people who also identify with the fears that he explores, which makes his instructor’s disapproval seem less relevant. In this way Bill is also a stand-in for King himself, who might be scorned by some “literary” critics but is nonetheless incredibly popular.
Bill Denbrough goes on to write his first novel in his senior year of college and sends it off to The Viking Press because he likes the publisher’s logo. Viking publishes the book when Bill is twenty-three, and three years later, he meets and marries Audra Phillips—a woman five years his senior. Gossip columnists give the marriage seven months. They meet while he is writing the screenplay for his novel The Black Rapids, which is retitled Pit of the Black Demon. His agent, Susan Browne, with whom he has an affair, warns him not to do it. Bill insists. He needs to get out of New England. He thinks the title of the film is terrible, but the production is quite good. Audra is the star of the film. They meet during production in Hollywood and fall in love.
Like Stanley Uris, Bill rapidly achieves success and finds love while still very young. His life appears perfect, which is a set-up for impending danger. Denbrough’s fondness for Viking’s logo—a ship—is related to his memory of the paper boat that he constructed for George shortly before his younger brother died. Bill thinks that, through writing, he can hold on to his brother’s memory and rearrange the circumstances that occurred in the aftermath of George’s death. Bill moves to Hollywood, as though to fully embrace a life of make-believe.
Audra tells Bill what she knows about him. She recalls stories he has told her about his past, about how he lost his brother, George, and how he later worked his way through university. She recalls how they met when she was addicted to drugs and alcohol and caught up in the fast life of Hollywood. She was drawn to his slow speech and his steady manner, knowing that she would be able to depend him. Now, someone calls from the United States, saying that he must leave her. Bill admits that he never told her the full truth of what happened to George, only his name and who he was. He mentions the blood oath that he and other members of the Losers’ Club took in 1958. He notices that the scar on his hand, where he and the other children cut their palms, becomes more visible after Mike Hanlon’s call.
In relating what she knows about Bill, Audra inadvertently reveals how little she really knows about her husband. Her recollections about him have less to do with his own life than with the ways in which Bill has impacted her life. Bill is conflicted between his commitment to Audra and his commitment to the Losers’ Club, which becomes visible after Mike’s call. Like a stigmata, the old wound returns, reminding Bill of his destined calling to return to Derry.
Bill says that the children took an oath to return to Derry if It “ever started to happen again.” Audra asks what Bill is talking about. Bill starts talking about how he lost his stutter, which he attributes partly to speech classes, but mainly to leaving Derry and forgetting everything that happened there. Now, his stutter is coming back, just as the scars are coming back. Audra asks to go with Bill to Derry. He insists that she must never go to Derry and makes her promise never to set foot in the town. She agrees and asks when she will see him again. He hugs her “tightly,” but he never answers her question.
By remembering Derry, Bill regresses to his childhood self. In this mode, he does not have the control of language that he later cultivated to contain the evil that took his brother and nearly consumed his own life. Bill’s tight hug is reminiscent of the “hug” that the clown gives Adrian Mellon, in mockery of Don Hagarty’s love. Bill’s hug foreshadows how Audra, too, will end up in Its grip.