stephen kings salems lot essay research paper

The novel which we will analyze, called Salem s Lot, is among Stephen King s finest novels. From the manner he inside information the gory scenes of the narrative, to accomplish a edifice of tenseness throughout every page. Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the 2nd boy of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and so Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore twelvemonth at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a hebdomadal column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. Stephen made his first short narrative sale to a mass-market work forces’s magazine shortly after his graduation from the University.

Throughout the early old ages of his matrimony to Tabitha, who he met at the Fogler Library at the University of Maine at Orono, where they both worked as pupils, he continued to sell narratives to work forces magazines. In the autumn of 197l, Stephen began learning high school English categories at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the eventides and on the weekends, he continued to bring forth short narratives and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & A; Co. accepted the fresh Carrie for publication.

Renting a summer place on Sebago Lake in North Windham for the winter, Stephen wrote his next-published novel, originally titled Second Coming and so Jerusalem’s Lot, before it became ‘ Salem’s Lot. Although he has received his portion of unfavorable judgment, King has ever been really good at maintaining the readers interested in his novels, from start, to complete, to the following novel. This paper will analyze the ways that Stephen King builds tenseness in his novel Salem’s Lot, through four scenes which successfully manipulate the temper of the narrative.

The horror narrative depends on tenseness, for tenseness is a affair of clip and action passing. We know that some awful thing awaits the characters in a horror narrative – and awaits us as we identify with the characters and their state of affairs. Walter Bobbie described King s word picture absolutely when he said:

Alternatively of stalking among their dusty old-timers, he lets us glance into their psyches.

But the tenseness is required if that waiting is to be effectual as a device of horror. Mark Laidlaw provinces:

King takes the stance that he should give the reader a intimation of the ultimate horror early in the game, so when they re certain to be afraid that it s really traveling to go on, give them precisely what they’ve been nervously waiting for.

The reader must be teased, must be drawn into the narrative a measure at a clip, drawn nearer and nearer to the awful horror, cognizing he is being drawn and take parting in his ain fear with the writer. The horror that finally comes is measured by the sum of tenseness which has been built and which snaps violently and dramatically at the minute the horror eventually appears matured. King is a modern-day maestro of such tension-building and Salem’s Lot is a all right illustration of his trade in this respect.

Certainly one of the most cliff-hanging and successful scenes in the book is the 1 in which Corey and Barlow meet, after Corey has been confronted, humiliated, and terrified by Reggie, the hubby of the adult female Corey has been holding an matter with. The reader feels as if he had been exhausted mentally and emotionally by the old scene, in which Corey believed that Reggie was traveling to kill him with a scattergun.

Alternatively, Reggie lets Corey travel, and we are led to believe that Corey is headed out of town to salvage his life and go forth his all of a sudden ex-lover to fend for herself at the clemency of the angered Reggie. As we see, no scene by itself physiques suspense, except possibly the first scene of any book, for each scene depends upon the 1 that comes earlier and the 1 that comes after. Tension does non merely look, but is a affair of fluxing from one scene to the following, from a more relaxed scene to a more tense scene, and so on.

What makes Chapter 9 of The Lot ( III ) peculiarly tense is the reader’s sense, come ining into the scene, that the tenseness has been released for the minute when the scattergun’s trigger was pulled and the empty Chamberss resounded and Corey was let travel with his pride shattered but his lifesigns integral. But King has other programs in shop, for the suspense has merely been released for the briefest of minutes as Corey stumbles off, stinking and thought of the remainder of his life. Just so the alien in the dark – Barlow the lamia – addresses Corey:

Corey gave a smothered shriek and stared wildly into the dark … The air current was traveling in the trees, doing shadows leap and dance across the route. Suddenly his eyes made out a more solid shadow, standing by the rock wall that ran between the route and Carl Smith’s back grazing land. The shadow had a manly signifier, but there was something … something .

Surely the tenseness is about to be released with this scaring set-up, but King knows that tenseness is a beat, non a consecutive line. Consequently, this potentially dismaying phantom in the dark – geting minutes after Corey had believed he was traveling to decease by scattergun – is shown by King to be a instead good-humored kind, ingratiating himself with Corey, offering him a coffin nail and doctrine. Corey “began to experience a small calmer” . And so does the reader Begin to experience a small calmer. Corey has survived a disking near-fatal experience, and now he is holding a friendly fume and confab with an intelligent, helpful adult male who may be a spot unusual surely, but appears to hold no injury in head for Corey. In fact, the opposite seems true as Barlow the cheat begins to take Corey under his enchantment:

Yes, Corey said. Looking into the alien’s eyes, he could see a great many things, all of them fantastic.

The tenseness builds in the scene as Corey becomes progressively unmindful to the danger he is in, and the reader becomes progressively cognizant of that danger, until Barlow offers the beguiled Corey a opportunity at retaliation and “Corey sank into a great unretentive river, and that river was clip, and its Waterss were ruddy” .

Another scene in which King efficaciously builds suspense is the opening scene of Ben ( I ) . The scene with Corey depends in portion on what has come before, and this scene depends to a grade on the unusual information imparted in the Prologue. However, more than the Corey-Barlow scene, this opening scene with Ben Mears can be said to stand on its ain with regard to its success in constructing tenseness. It surely does non construct a tenseness comparable to that in the Corey-Barlow scene, but so once more tenseness in portion depends on our engagement with the characters and the narrative and the secret plan. The Corey-Barlow scene operates on the reader after he has become profoundly involved in all those elements, whereas the opening scene with Ben Mears driving toward his hometown and seeking to make up one’s mind if he will return or non is a much more introductory scene and therefore its tension-building will needfully be more elusive and implicative.

This is non to state that the Ben Mears scene is non effectual, for it most surely is. The point is that tension-building requires different kinds of tenseness at different points in a narrative, and

King knows that good. It is far from a nostalgic frame of head which Ben is in as he drives toward Jerusalem’s Lot. Jack Sullivan used a perfect mention to sum up the consequence that King created with this scene, when he said:

H. P. Lovecraft one time remarked that atmosphere is the all of import thing in this genre. A compelling ambiance can do us bury the cliches.

Actually, he is retrieving the accident which took his married woman’s life. He is inquiring why he would be coming back to a town where nil was left for him. He considers driving by, so realizes he has nowhere else to travel anyhow, nowhere else to name place. The indispensable tenseness of the scene is introduced as he looks at the skyline:

What he saw at that place made him throng the brakes on with both pess. The Citroen shuddered to a halt and stalled . From here the town was non seeable. Merely the trees, and in the distance … the peaked, gabled roof of the Marsten House. He gazed at it, fascinated. Waring emotions crossed his face with kaleidoscopic speed. Still here, he murmured aloud. ‘ By God. ’He looked down at his weaponries. They had broken out in goose flesh. ( King, 5 )

One ingredient of suspense and tenseness, of class, is the unknown. The reader surely has a sense of apprehension in this fateful scene, but he does non cognize the nature of that apprehension, he does non cognize the secret darkness power that the Marsten House possesses. This tenseness in the consciousness of the reader, in his emotional centre, is what hooks him, keeps him reading, keeps him desiring to cognize what is traveling to go on next, even though he is certain that it is a awful set of fortunes which is about to unroll.

One scene which builds suspense on two degrees is the 1 in which the Constable visits Straker while Barlow is off. On one degree, this scene ( Chapter 10 in Danny Glick and Others ) is reasonably straightforward. We know by now that we are covering, with Straker and Barlow, with unsavoury characters, to state the least. At the same clip, we identify with the funny and leery Constable as he pokes about. Straker is evidently concealing what he knows, and his evident unconcern and “distant” ( King, 100 ) response to the Constable’s inquiry about the losing kid make clear, on a surface degree, that some kind of immorality is traveling on. On another degree, nevertheless, the slightest coppice shot from King’s write give the scene a deeper degree of tenseness and premonition:

The full store had been carpeted and was in the procedure of being painted. The odor of fresh pigment was a good one, but at that place seemed to be another odor underneath it, an unpleasant 1. Parkins could non put it; he turned his attending back to Straker.

Of class, this “unpleasant” odor, whatever its earthly or natural beginning, is more significantly the odor of immorality, and peculiarly the odor of immoralities disguised by a false forepart of new rug and fresh pigment. The immorality will non be hidden everlastingly, and that of class this is the beginning of tenseness in any horror narrative, and true in this peculiar narrative of vampirism as good.

King is evidently successful in footings of edifice tenseness in the novel and in these specific scenes. The Constable-Straker scene advances the novel and its tenseness in elusive ways, with a brief shot, a little reference of that unpleasant odor underlying the surface tenseness between the Constable seeking the truth and Straker seeking to maintain it hidden. The Ben Mears scene advances the novel by presenting the feelings the house gives Ben, and though the reader can non cognize the beginning of those feelings, he identifies with Ben and the hook is in which leads the reader into the narrative, fearing what is coming next. The Corey-Barlow scene is tenseness at its most heightened and hideous, as the reader knows what is go oning and Corey falls deeper under the lamia’s enchantment. Bill Crider gave an honorable sentiment of King, when he said:

Such narratives require a willing suspension of incredulity of class, but they besides require an writer who is an adept operator, one who can do horror seem non merely plausible, but about logical. King is an expert, and many of these narratives will non be easy forgotten . King is a maestro at utilizing different tension-building techniques at different points in his novel.


  1. Bobbie, Walter. Stephen King. Best Sellers. January, 1976: 304. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 309.
  2. Collings, Michael. The Many Aspects of Stephen King. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1985.
  3. Collings, Michael, and Engebretson, David. The Shorter Works of Stephen King. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1985.
  4. Crider, Bill. Stephen King. Best Sellers. April, 1978: 6 – 7. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 310 – 311.
  5. Crider, Bill. The Dark Half. Kirkus Reviews. September 1, 1978: 965 966. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 311.
  6. Egan, James. Apocalypticism in the Fiction of Stephen King. Extrapolation 25 Fall 1984: 214-227.
  7. Egan, James. A Single Powerful Spectacle: Stephen King s Gothic Melodrama. Extrapolation 27 Spring 1986: 62-75.
  8. King, Stephen. Salem s Lot. New York: New American Library, 1975.
  9. Laidlaw, Marc. Stephen King. Nyctalops. Vol. 2, No. 7, 1978: 34. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 3 11.
  10. Magill, Frank N. , erectile dysfunction. Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1983.
  11. Magistrale, Tony. Crumbling Castles of Sand. Journal of Popular Literature 1 Fall/Winter 1985: 45-59.
  12. Mewshaw, Michael. Stephen King. New York Times Book Review. March 26, 1978: 13, 23. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 310.
  13. Norden, Eric. The Playboy Interview: Stephen King. Playboy June 1983: 24-26.
  14. Patten, Frederick. Stephen King. Delap s Fantasy and Science Fiction Review. April, 1977: 6. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 310.
  15. Schweitzer, Darrell, erectile dysfunction. Detecting Stephen King. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1985.
  16. Sullivan, Jack. The Shining. New York Times Book Review. February 20, 1977: 8. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 310.
  17. Winter, Douglas E. Stephen King: The Art of Darkness. New York, NY: NAL, 1984.
  18. Bobbie, Walter. Stephen King. Best Sellers. January, 1976: 304. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 309.
  19. Crider, Bill. Stephen King. Best Sellers. April, 1978: 6 – 7. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 310 – 311.
  20. King, Stephen. Salem s Lot. New York: New American Library, 1975.
  21. Laidlaw, Marc. Stephen King. Nyctalops. Vol. 2, No. 7, 1978: 34. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 3 11.
  22. Sullivan, Jack. The Shining. New York Times Book Review. February 20, 1977: 8. Rpt. in LLC, Ed. Carolyn Riley. Volume 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1979. 310.

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