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Author Study: Stephen King Curated by Eric Zhang '18: Criticism and Analysis

A LibGuide about Stephen King.

Criticisms and Analysis

Literary Themes and Motifs

Death and Fear – These two are the bread and butter of any horror writer. Every one of King's works involves these themes in one way or another, although some feature fear and death more than others. For example, death plays a relatively small role in The Shining (it is seldom mentioned or discussed explicitly, and does not come into play until the climax of the story), while fear is omnipresent in all parts of the book. 

Memory – Memory is an oft-recurring theme in King's novels. The past of each characters adds depth and meaning. Jack Torrance in The Shining is tormented by the faults and regrets of his own personal past throughout the novel, which help drive on his descent into madness. In It, the repressed memories of the seven protagonists serve as the driving force behind the novel's plot – as each character recalls more about his troubled childhood, he is increasingly driven to defeat the demon that caused his trauma.

Childhood – King's novels tend to place childhood and adolescence in high regard, or at least give it a great deal of attention. The Shining, Doctor Sleep, Carrie and The Stand all involve child protagonists who are unnaturally, perhaps supernaturally, gifted. The power of childhood innocence is often explored in Stephen King's writing, but more often, King tends to explore childhood itself. It, The Body, Rage and others bring childhood and adolescence into the spotlight.

A video in which Stephen King discusses writing style and creative tips.

Soap Box: What are people saying about Stephen King?

What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis.

Harold Bloom

 King has an extraordinary eye for the details of life on the edge, and his characters try, in believable ways, to resist the false empowerments of violence and anger. 

Joshua Rothman

His are works of heroics and villainy, fortune and fate all lost in the karmic chaos that pits man vs. man, and humanity vs. horror.

Bill Gibron

Dickens has stood the test of time. Today no-one disputes his worth. The best of Stephen King’s work is has become so embedded in the culture I suspect he faces a similar fate.

Jane Ciabattari