Top 10 Stephen King Passages
I'm a huge fan of Stephen King (as you might have gathered) and I've read most of his books. I could go on for hours about why his stories are awesome, but it might be more interesting to show you my 10 favorite passages. You probably know some of them, since they are almost legendary, but I hope there might be a few surprises as well.
I could easily have picked 10 passages from each of King's books, but I've given myself the challenge of only picking one from each book. Oh, and I've been pretty careful not to spoil anything. Here goes.
No. 10: The Body
"The most important things are the hardest things to say."
Alright, let's get this one out of the way. Of course it's on the list. It's famous, it's profound and it's true. It's also the opening line of The Body. I'm actually not sure if this one is originally King's, or if it's something he picked up somewhere, because I've heard it somewhere else since reading the story. The meaning of the quote is obvious, and the central message expressed in it is very classical King: overcome your fears. Simple and powerful.
No. 9: Misery
"I am your number one fan."
This one is mostly funny, although it also contains a great deal of nasty, once you know the context: A writer is being held hostage by a psychotic fan who forces him to rewrite her favorite story. And she keeps saying that line, I'm your number one fan, as if it justifies what she's doing. She is one of King's greatest bad guys (or bad women) and a really nicely written psychopath.
No. 8: The Green Mile
"I'm sorry for what I am."
Yes, I know, John Coffey is perhaps an obvious Jesus-metaphor (even sharing initials) but I think he's done well, and King clearly knows his Christianity. This quote is the last thing Coffey says before being wrongfully executed, and it's a beautiful parallel to the "forgive them, for they know not what they do"-thing that Jesus says during his crucifixion. I think John Coffey isn't really apologizing, but rather saying something like "I know I'm not the guilty one here, but I also know you have no choice in doing this, and I forgive you." I don't know, maybe I read too much into it. But I thought it was strong enough to make the list.
No. 7: Bag of Bones
"This is how we go on: one day a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time."
This one shows King's pragmatic approach to life. You just have to keep going, even when you're hurting. You have to keep doing what you love, even if you can't see the purpose or feel anything. Also, Bag of Bones is one of my absolute favorite King-novels, much more tender and sensitive than usual, yet exciting and terrifying at the same time.
No. 6: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
"No good thing ever dies."
This story is really all about hope, a theme that might not always be apparent in King's stories, but - I believe - is always there, even in the grim and hopeless stories like Pet Sematary. "No good thing ever dies" is King's way of telling us that good will always triumph in the end, because it is inherently unbeatable - no matter how much it's beaten. Also, if you're into spirituality, you might have linked this quote to the passage from A Course in Miracles: "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists." Wise words!
No. 5: Carrie
"People don't get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don't stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it."
This was King's very first book to get published, and he was very young back then. Still, this quote shows some of the main themes to haunt his writing for years to come: There is evil in the world. The evil is inside us all. It makes us do evil things. And the most important one: In the end, we're actually not to blame, because we're only human. Meaning that even the bad guys have understandable reasons for doing what they do. This is why King writes so compelling bad guys.
No. 4: The Dark Tower
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed."
This one is a little tricky. You'll probably only get it if you've read the entire Dark Tower-series. And it contains a huge spoiler, so I'll try to be careful about not saying too much, for those who haven't read it. The phrase is the opening line of the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, but it also appears in the last one, The Dark Tower. The sentence on its own really isn't saying much, other than it's an enticing opener (a discipline King is a master of) and it's also pretty legendary. The way it's used again in the last book is really quite extraordinary, and it completely blew my mind. Sorry I can't say more about it. You'll have to read the series!
No. 3: The Shining
"Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win."
This is such a great way of foreboding something horrible. In King's stories, the main character doesn't always survive, and that's due to King's vision of the world, which isn't exactly puppies and rainbows. His outlook is very realistic, very stark and even grim sometimes. This quote demonstrates that outlook perfectly and leaves you with a sense of dread. Also, it's great how he takes monsters and ghosts and make them so much more real and palpable by making them synonymous with our dark side.
No. 2: The Gunslinger
"Go then, there are other worlds than these."
I'm not quite sure why this one is so powerful, but it is, even without the setup. There's something almost poetically beautiful in the way that sentence expresses acceptance of some great loss, yet posing the hope for reunion in another time or place (or life). Also, I really like the plural form, revealing the possibility of an endless number of choices leading to an endless number of outcomes. And ultimately, the quote tells us to let go and trust in the universe. Incredibly powerful. I originally put this one as no. 1, but changed my mind in the last second.
No. 1: Desperation
"God is cruel. Sometimes, he makes you live."
Alright, I might be biased on this one, because this book means a lot to me. I read it as a young teen, and I think it might have been one of the very first King-novels I picked up. The story is gripping and terrifying and really strong, but what made the greatest impact on me was the religious symbolism. I don't consider myself religious, and I don't think you need to be to appreciate this quote. Just exchange "god" for "universe", and you're fine. The upside-down logic of this quote is so striking, telling you that sometimes getting up and moving on, even when it seems impossible, is the only thing you can do. That sometimes, even though giving up (I know 'death' is meant to be taken literal in the context of the story, but I exchange it for 'giving up') seems like the only thing to do, you need to find a way to go on. It still gives me the chills!
It's good, it's funny, it's creepy, and it's very, very famous. You might wonder why it's not on the list. The reason being, it wasn't in the book, only in the movie. I read somewhere that Jack Nicholson actually ad-libbed it.
"We all float down here."
It's very memorable and made particularly famous thanks to the first movie adaptation. But I just never really found it scary. What's so horrible about floating?
"Get busy living or get busy dying."
(Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption)
This one just might be your favorite, and if it is, you're probably disappointed it's not on the list. I think the other quote from Shawshank is better, and frankly, I don't think this one is that good. Sorry!
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