- Rage (novel)
infobox Book |
name = Rage
image_caption = First edition cover
Richard Bachman(Stephen King)
language = English
genre = Horror
media_type = Print (
isbn = ISBN 0-451-07645-1
The Long Walk
"Rage" (originally titled "Getting It On") is the first novel by
Stephen Kingpublished under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Though he began writing it in 1966, before his first published novel, "Carrie" (1974), it wasn't published until 1977as a paperbackoriginal. It was collected in 1985in the hardcoveromnibus " The Bachman Books".
The narrator, high school senior Charlie Decker, details his growing rage against the authority figures which populate his world. He finally snaps and hits one of his teachers with a heavy wrench he had taken to carrying in his pocket; after much wrangling and discussion, the incident was dropped and he was allowed to return to school. His mental problems worsen upon return to school and he snaps during a meeting with the school principal. This time, he storms out of the meeting and retrieves a gun from his locker. After setting the contents of the locker on fire, he returns to his classroom and shoots Mrs. Underwood, his math teacher. The fire sets off an alarm and the school begins to be evacuated. Charlie then shoots another teacher, Mr. Vance, after Vance enters the classroom to tell the students to evacuate. The school empties and the police and media arrive on the scene.
This begins a long discussion with his hostages/fellow students. Among many other things, Charlie says that he honestly does not know why he chose to do these things and claims that if he did know, he probably wouldn't do them. While toying with various authority figures who attempt to negotiate with him, he turns the class into a sort of therapy group, causing his schoolmates to semi-voluntarily tell embarrassing secrets about themselves and each other. Interspersed throughout are narrative flashbacks to Charlie's own unpleasant childhood and adolescence, particularly his horrid relationship with his father, an abusive alcoholic.
He finally comes to the realization that only one of the other students is really being held there against his will: a seeming "big man on campus" named Ted Jones, who is harboring his own unpleasant secrets. The other students attack Jones, leaving him battered and catatonic, and file out of the school. When the police enter the classroom, the now-unarmed Charlie deliberately makes a wild "threatening" gesture and is shot three times. He survives and is committed to an insane asylum, where he finishes telling his tale to whomever he is telling it, saying it is time to turn out the light.
Connections to actual school shootings
The novel's plot vaguely resembles actual events, to a degree that the author is no longer comfortable with the book in print for fear that it may inspire similar events (" [Rage is] now out of print, and a good thing.")King, Stephen: "Blaze", Foreword, June 2007.] , as it had already been associated with two previous high school shootings:
*Michael Carneal, who shot three students on
December 1 1997in West Paducah, Kentuckyhad a copy of "Rage" in his locker, and
* Another high school shooting mirrored the book in a very similar fashion. Although he has stated that he did not read Rage until later, [http://treas.gov/usss/ntac/chicago_sun/find15.htm] in 1993, Scott Pennington held his classroom hostage after shooting his English teacher in the head and then shot a janitor who had come after hearing the gunshots. He held the classroom hostage asking similar questions as in the book. He finally surrendered to police and was sentenced to life in prison at Kentucky State Reformatory. Pennington had a meeting with the English teacher before the shooting due to her concern over his essays. It was said that his essays were very dark which prompted her to discuss his writings with the school board. Pennington later said that he did not dislike his English teacher but he only wanted to shoot two people, any two people, in order to make him eligible for the death penalty.
When King decided to let "Rage" fall out of print in the United States, it was available only as part of "The Bachman Books". The other novels that appeared in that compilation ("
The Long Walk", " Road Work", and " The Running Man") are now published as separate books in the USA. "The Bachman Books" is still in print in the United Kingdom and other countries.
In a discursive keynote address King delivered to the
VermontLibrary Conference, he explored the complex sociological and cultural issues surrounding this novel and its apparent link to school shootings, which he placed within the broader context of America's fixation on violence.
"The Carneal incident was enough for me. I asked my publisher to take the damned thing out of print. They concurred."King, Stephen: "Stephen King's Keynote Address, Vermont Library Conference", VEMA Annual Meeting, May 26, 1999. Available On-Line at http://www.horrorking.com/interview7.html] King went on to describe his complicated, nuanced view on this subject, which acknowledged the culpability that cultural or artistic products such as "Rage" play in influencing individuals, particularly troubled youths, while also declaring that artists and writers can not be denied the aesthetic opportunity to draw upon their own culture —-- which is suffused with violence, according to King —-- in their work.
In an article on the ominous writings of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho for
Entertainment Weekly, King said "Certainly in this sensitized day and age, my own college writing — including a short story called "Cain Rose Up" and the novel "Rage" — would have raised red flags, and I'm certain someone would have tabbed me as mentally ill because of them...." [http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20036014,00.html]
Cain Rose Up"
* [http://www.horrorking.com/interview7.html Stephen King's Keynote Address]
* [http://www.horrorking.com/rage.html Character list and description of Rage]
* [http://bookpoi.com/rage_by_richard_bachman_first_edition_identification.html Bookpoi] - Identification characteristics for first edition copies of Rage by Richard Bachman (Stephen King).
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