Beverly Rogan is on an airplane, flying high over New York State. She laughs and stifles it so as not to appear odd. The guy next to her is young and attractive but has respected her desire not to talk. Now, he asks if everything is cool with her. He hands her a handkerchief to wipe off the tears from her laughter then asks what has happened to her hand. She says that she slammed her hand in a car door, telling another of many similar lies in the aftermath of her fights with Tom Rogan. Her seatmate asks her out for a drink in Boston. She declines because she has another flight; she thinks of Tom calling her a “bitch.”
Now, the narrative shifts to Beverly’s recollections of the summer of 1958. Unlike her friends, she contended with both the supernatural evil that pervaded her town and the personal evil of her abusive household. Beverly’s relationship to men is complex and her experience reflects typical misogyny, which renders women objects of desire but also sources of contempt. She cannot separate her seatmate’s attraction from Tom’s expression of contempt.
Before leaving Chicago, Beverly calls Kay McCall first. Kay is thrilled to hear that Beverly has left Tom She meets Beverly, who is arriving in a taxi, at the end of her driveway. On the ride over to Kay’s house, memories and names from her childhood in Derry pour back into her mind. Kay takes Beverly into the house, where Beverly showers. Kay makes her coffee and examines her injuries. Beverly tells Kay about the phone call from Derry and the promise she made years ago, but she is not specific about the promise.
Kay does not press Beverly about the details regarding her return to Derry. She is instead relieved that something has given her a reason to walk out on Tom for good. For Kay, who is a feminist, Tom represents the greatest evil that she can imagine.
Beverly takes a Greyhound north to Milwaukee, using the money that Kay McCall gives her. Despite the security people at O’Hare International Airport, she is afraid of her husband, Tom, looking for her. Her plane is now descending into Boston. She looks out the window and thinks of how Tom’s evil is small compared to what awaits her in Derry.
Tom’s evil is a part of that which already exists in Derry. The difference is that Tom’s hatred seems to be limited to women, while the hate and evil that consumes Derry is indiscriminate.
Beverly Marsh is eleven again and is leaning over the bathroom sink, from which she hears voices. The voice is saying, “Help me.” When she asks if someone is there, the voice tells her that they all want to meet her. The voice belongs to Matthew Clements, who says that the clown has taken him down into the drain and will soon take Beverly, Ben Hanscom, Bill Denbrough, Eddie Kaspbrak, and the others. A red bubble backs up the drain then pops. Now, Veronica Grogan speaks. A gout of blood sprays up from the drain, splattering the walls. Beverly runs into the living room, where her father, Al Marsh, is sitting.
Like the others, traveling back to Derry causes Beverly to revert back to her memory of her childhood in 1958. Her first encounter with Its evil is different from that of the boys. It does not occur while she is out exploring, but while she is at home doing chores. The red bubble is similar to the maroon stain that Bill saw in George’s photo album.
When Beverly shrieks about something in the bathroom, and Al Marsh asks if someone has been peeking at her. Al goes into the bathroom and does not see the blood that Beverly sees everywhere. Al tells Beverly that he worries about her—a lot—and punches her in the stomach. When he demands that she explain herself, she decides to tell him that she saw a spider. This makes sense to him, for he thinks that all girls are afraid of spiders. As he bends over the drain, she wishes that It would get him, then she feels guilty for having the thought.
This is the first time that King uses a spider as a symbol of something menacing. In this instance, it represents Al’s assumption of his daughter’s cowardice—and that of girls and women in general—in response to common pests. Beverly’s wish that It “get” her father mirrors Eddie Corcoran’s wish to push his abusive stepfather, Richard Macklin, into the Canal.
Al Marsh does not see anything in the pipes. He hugs Beverly and tells her to go to bed. She feels love for him again. She reasons that he hits her because he needs to “correct” her. Al believes that daughters need more correction than sons. Her father tucks her into bed, then masturbates over her. This later reminds Beverly of similar “shapes of men” that she will see throughout her life. She falls asleep.
Beverly’s association of love with abuse will lead her to choose Tom as her husband. Beverly’s memories of other “shapes of men” are the strangers who have sexually harassed her in public at various instances in her life. They are “shapes” instead of people due to their dehumanizing behavior.
Beverly awakes when the alarm goes off in her parents’ bedroom. She looks at herself in the mirror and sees her breasts, which are still small, coming in. She cooks her father hamburger meat, as he demands. Beverly also makes his lunch and Al Marsh tells her to tell her mother, Elfrida, to clean the place. Beverly agrees that she will. He kisses her cheek and gives her a rough hug before heading out to work. She feels relief as she watches her father turn the corner and hates herself for the feeling.
Beverly is torn between wanting to love her father, particularly after he demonstrates fatherly tenderness, and wanting to be rid of him. Life with him also forces her into a highly restrictive gender role, exemplified by making her father breakfast. She is hyperconscious of her body, which she knows sexually excites her father, and is the source of his resentment.
Elfrida and Beverly clean their house. While Elfrida changes into her serving uniform, she asks if Beverly will wash the windows and Beverly agrees. She says that she has to cover for another employee because she and her “no-good” husband were in a car wreck due to his drinking. Elfrida tells Beverly to be grateful that her father does not drink. She says that Beverly will not have to fix her father’s dinner after her chores because it is his bowling night. She then remarks on how quickly Beverly is growing up, noticing her developing body. She then asks if Al ever touches her, but Beverly is unsure of what her mother means. Elfrida lets the matter drop. Elfrida leaves and Beverly goes to the closed bathroom door. Most of the blood is gone. Beverly wonders if she is going crazy.
Elfrida is aware of Al’s abuse of Beverly, but she overlooks it to avoid the possibility of Al leaving her. She imagines that other women endure worse situations, such as alcoholic husbands. Still, Beverly’s maturing body alerts Elfrida to the possibility that Al’s abuse can become sexual. Not wanting to describe to Beverly what she means by Al touching her, Elfrida lets the matter drop. She would rather ignore her fear than confront it or, worse, give her daughter the impression that her father endangers her safety.
Around three o’clock, Beverly locks up the apartment and goes out. She comes upon Ben, Eddie, and a boy named Bradley Donovan pitching pennies. Bradley has a lisp. He came down into the Barrens a week ago with Bill, who met Bradley at speech class in Bangor. Beverly plays and succeeds in getting her pennies closest to the wall, leading Bradley to accuse her of cheating. The accusation angers Ben. Beverly gives Bradley his money back, then the boy runs to the end of the alley, turns, and resumes calling Beverly a cheater with a “whore” of a mother. Ben runs toward him, but trips over a crate. Bradley disappears.
Bradley is irritated with Beverly because he does not like that he has just been beaten by a girl. His insult to Beverly gives the Losers’ Club reason to expel him from their group. Bradley is not from Derry, and has had no experience of It—and furthermore, his insult to Beverly demonstrates a lack of loyalty to all members of their group.
Beverly is embarrassed, and her feelings are hurt. She calls out, in a shrill voice, that her mother is not a whore but a waitress. Ben and Eddie find this funny and, in a moment, so does she. They make so much noise, howling with laughter, that a woman shouts at them from an apartment above. They join hands, with Beverly in the middle, and head for Center Street.
Bradley’s insult to Beverly’s mother hurts her—not because it is true, but because it reminds her of her and her mother’s objectification in their own household. She does not yet have the language to make that association, but she knows that she and her mother are ill-used.
Beverly, Ben, and Eddie pool their money and buy ice cream frappes at the drug store. They take their huge, waxed containers to Bassey Park. Stanley Uris joins them. Beverly tells the three boys about the voices she heard in the drain. She sees terror in their faces but not disbelief. Ben suggests that they go to her house and take a look.
The boys’ faith in Beverly contrasts with her father’s disbelief and tendency to blame her for her own fear. Their willingness to investigate assures her that she is not alone in facing her problem.
The children go in through the back door because Beverly is afraid of her neighbor seeing her walk into her apartment with three boys while her parents are gone. Beverly takes them to the bathroom. They, too, see the blood. Stanley suggests that they clean up the place. Beverly agrees. For the next half hour, they scrub to clean the blood that only they can see. They then go to a laundry to wash the rags. Ben then tells Beverly his story about seeing the clown on the frozen Canal. Eddie talks about the leper. When they look to Stan, he merely mentions that the wash is done. Then he admits that he did see something, but he does not want to talk about it.
Stan resists sharing his story with the others, though this is the source of their bond, because his experience jars with his sense of reality. Stan’s requirement for orderliness in his life and his inability to secure it is part of the reason why he commits suicide as an adult. The children all see the blood because they all believe Beverly’s story about the voices from the drain, just as she believes their story. Their mutual will to imagine conjures up what adults cannot see.
Beverly presses Stan to tell her what he once saw. He says that, on a rainy April evening two months ago, he was in the little park where the Standpipe—a vertical pipe extending from the water supply—is. Stan likes to go to the park to watch birds. He and his father usually go together, but on this particular night, his father has to work overtime. Stanley walks to Memorial Park. He takes out his bird album and examines the birds in the area, comparing them to the pictures in his book. He hears a sudden loud noise, but sees nothing that could have caused it. The door to the Standpipe is open, strangely. Stan swings it half-closed and it moves easily. He asks if anyone is there and there is no answer. Instead, he hears Calliope music, like the kind at carnivals. “Camptown Ladies” begins to play, and shadows emerge.
When Stan goes to the park without his father, he witnesses It. The shadows that appear on the walls are those of ghosts. They give Stanley the impression that he is not alone, but he is also not in the presence of the living. There is something disorienting about the light and happy sound of the carnival music and the play of dark shadows on the walls. Moreover, it is strange to hear carnival music in the Standpipe, which is a local landmark that is partially open for tourists and a main water source for the fire department. The purpose of this music is to disorient and distract Stanley.
Stanley runs back down the stairs, afraid and breathing hard. The music has become a dirge, and water spills down the stairs. Stan does not smell cotton candy, popcorn, or doughboys, but wet decay instead. Stanley asks again if anyone is there, and this time gets a response: “We’re the dead ones.” Figures emerge, saying that they float and that Stanley, too, will soon float.
The music now signals the threat of Stan’s death. The smell of wet decay is the smell of the sewers and of all the bodies that It keeps down below.
Stanley can feel water around his feet. He grabs for his bird book in his slicker pocket, but it will not come out. He gives it another “tremendous yank” and it comes out. He starts screaming bird names. The door to the Standpipe opens and Stanley takes a giant step backward to go out. One of the corpses plays with a pompom on one of its fingers, dangling it like a yo-yo. Stanley gets up and runs across Kansas Street. He realizes that he has just seen dead bodies and runs for home.
It probably intends to drown Stanley, which is why water pools around his feet. Stan’s knowledge of ornithology serves as a defense, because birds give him comfort and his knowledge gives him confidence, which makes him less vulnerable. Still, the sight of dead bodies is good reason to leave the Standpipe.
By the time the dryer stops in the laundromat, Stanley has finished his story. Eddie says that they should talk to Bill about all of this, as he will know what to do. Stanley, however, does not want to do anything. Beverly insists that they ought to talk to Bill. She also says that they should talk to the police chief, which Stanley finds absurd, given the fantastic nature of their stories.
Because Stan knows how implausible their experiences are, he does not think that the police, who only deal in concrete reality, would believe them. Stan worries, too, about being regarded as crazy. For Eddie, the next most helpful authority would be Bill.
Eddie mentions how Stanley Uris escaped the clown by reciting the names of birds. Stanley says that the others can tell Bill about everything if they want to, but, for him, there are worse things than being scared. The dead boys who lurched at him down the spiral staircase in the Standpipe had offended him more than frightened him. They offended his sense of order. Beverly asks if he will at least go with them while they talk to Bill, and Stan agrees.
Eddie realizes that Stan’s unique knowledge of birds is what helped him, but Stan is not interested in exploring this. He seems to want to forget about what he witnessed in the Standpipe, preferring to chalk it up to a hallucination. To believe what happened would make it real, and for it to be real means that the world makes no sense.
Beverly leaves the boys outside of the Kleen-Kloze laundromat and takes the rags home by herself. She goes to the bathroom and looks down the dark drain—there are no voices. She gets her father’s measuring tape and slides it down the drain. She takes it all the way to its final stop—eighteen feet. Then, she hears voices again, warning her that she can die trying to fight them. Fresh blood trickles over the clean white porcelain and back into the drain. She takes one of the clean rags and wipes the blood. She gets a second rag to clean her father’s measuring tape. She then goes to the backyard and throws the dirty rags into the incinerator. Beverly then falls to her knees and weeps.
The blood keeps coming out of the drain, as a sign to Beverly that she cannot escape the evil that exists below Derry. It appears to her in the form of blood that she must continually clean because her father has assigned her to keep the house in order. The sight of blood, even though her father cannot see it, disrupts her own sense of order. There is also the fear that something wants to kill her and have her join the chorus of voices in the drains.