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Adaption of Stephen King's Work in Movies and Popular Culture

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Stephen King is one of the most established names in the world and he has had an effect on so many generations. Since the 70s, Stephen King has become the most famous horror writer. His books are a mainstay of book racks everywhere in the world. The genius of Stephen King has produced a multi-media franchise that has included movies, gaming, television shows and comic books. “It’s nearly impossible to overstate how influential Stephen King is. For the past four decades, no single writer has dominated the landscape of genre writing like him” (Romano, P3, 2018).

Widely recognized and well-established novels of Stephen King discover a world of monsters, evident only through the imagination of the ‘marvelous third eye’. However more perceptible during the era of childhood. Samantha Figliola puts emphasis on the relation between imagination and perception, identifying the fact that children are not limited to the ‘rational’ adult world. Considering Stephen King’s illusion of childhood, this article will highlight crucial factors in two of his most widespread novels: nostalgia for childhood and understanding of reality in IT, and the second one: Vulnerability as experienced through innocent eyes in the Shinning. Children carry a healthy and robust imagination naturally. Certainly carrying both evil and magic in their world, illuminating the wonders, surprises and fears of an active mind. They can create the imagination of every bizarre creature, prowling a monster existing in the shadows. Believing in the unbelievable however, fades out with age and hence adults get immune to the monsters associated with childhood. Stephen King’s fictional children’s stories are a great reminder to an adult of ages long forgotten. King made sure to untie the grip on reality, letting the reader to hold their imagination and all of the nightmares within (King, Carrie, 2000).

Stephen King’s work in movies and popular culture:

Labeling his work disgracefully as the fictional equal to Big Mac and fries, Stephen King apparently achieved the incredible in his strange and extraordinary ability to go above the role that limits the horror genre and accomplish global success. The incredible numbers of novels that King published were over 50, short-story collections and also non-fiction works, with a sale of 350 million books globally. Even at the age of 70, King is releasing 2 books yearly, enchanting his constant readers everywhere. Big and small screens are continuously adapting many of his novels and short stories (King, Elevation, 2018).

As per Brown’s opinion, King has mostly been pretty cynical of what he has called ‘academic bullshit’ and his ‘love of the straightforward’ perhaps outspreads his taste in horror movies, possibly explaining why some of his versions have not achieved grave success. King’s lack of affectation and his wish to entertain constant readers sentimentally lies on his literary work and consequently any televisual and cinematic adaptation in which he could possibly have had a degree of influence. In chapter one of Mainstream Horror and Brand Stephen King, Brown tries to undo what supposedly made King an ‘unusual literary success’ placed first and asked a relevant question: who is even interested to buy all these books, anyway?

Brown restates that though the prime purpose of his book is to reflect many of King’s works and adaptations as the mainly typical form of horror, we need to check out what makes King’s ordinary in the first place. As he observes, a great beginning point is King’s remarkable literary success, which initiated in 1974 with the publication of Carrie and lasts to this day. Yet again, the numbers are mind-blasting: for example, by 1980, his 21st printing which was The Shining circulated with a total paperback of 4.4 million books. As observed by Brown, if the selling of books at a huge scale is the only reason of his mainstream success then it is rather ‘far more challenging to regulate how King attained global popularity assuming the niche confines of the horror category, following King’s continued labeling as a horror writer. Apart from writing books that cross the borders of class, age, gender and mind, Brown suggested that King’s achievements are owed in part to the revival development of the horror genre through literature, film and television in the beginning of 1970. Successful film releases and popular book adaptations include Rosemary’s Baby in 1968, The Exorcist in 1973 and The Other in 1972.

Early fictional success including Carrie in 1974, Salem’s Lot in 1975, and The Shinning in 1977 held his reputation as a horror writer with extensive mainstream appeal, although part of this may be described by his adaptable emergence during the recovery of the horror genre, the second part is disputably explained by what Brown expresses King’s ‘hybridity’. King’s stories more often explore the lives of usual people that discover themselves in extraordinary circumstances. In general, the use of language by King and place that beats into ‘the vernacular of every day’ with more sets of work in his home state of Maine and with accounts that emphasize particularly on the quotidian lives of the story characters. A fine example of this is Dolores Claiborne (1992), a stream-of-consciousness tale with a noticeable Yankee accent (both literally and figuratively). Subsequently, the extensively familiar idiosyncrasies and dilemmas of these characters ‘speak’ to readers on its own way (King, Carrie, 2000).

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Stephen King’s portrayal of fear and illusion:

The tendency of an adult to curb imagination and fear is present in both novels. Repression is usually understood as ‘some….emotion, or feeling- which has been immersed….The ….appearance of the repressed make an impression of threat and ‘uncanniness,’ equally in Sigmund Freud’s sense of ‘unheimlich’ – something that turns out to be obvious, though one feels it ‘have to remain hidden. Terror of the ‘unheimlich’ praises Figliola’s thought on the success of King’s work. Adults stood by the strict rules of suppressing juvenile fears which is certainly a rational logic. They are resistant to supernatural happenings because of contracted imagination, demanding proof in order to believe. ‘To experience fear, calamity and human savagery, yet vicariously, is also to get some appreciation of their reality. Kings offer adults to relive childhood fear. While accepting this invitation, blocked ‘phobic pressure points’ are conveyed to the forefront of the mind. The interior collapse of Jack Torrance reveals the danger of permitting these monsters to aggravate. The fanciful imagination during the childhood period is the reason and origin of several so-called monsters. They are shaped, expanded and then intended to reside in the closed area of a child’s imagination until bidden by fear or uncertainty. King states that ‘we make horrors to assist us with the real ones… the delusion of horror is itself an out-letting …it may be the reason that the mass-media dream of horror can at times turn out to be nationwide analyst’s couch. It is been argued by Tony Magistrale and Michael Morrison that irrespective of the fact that Americans protect themselves from the casual invasiveness of violence, it is always difficult to expect the outcome from an inconsistent mind. Imagination in his literary such as ‘pushing a child from the top of terrace merely for candy bars’, becomes difficult for the readers to absorb, hence they try to escape themselves from the certainty of such horrors. The idea preferred by the authors while creating a horror situation is to unveil its reality in the open, for the people and reader to imagine and experience the real terror and fear. It is also argued by Tony and Michael that acknowledging the intensity and closeness of horror enable the people in society to realize and process these kinds of fears in real-life experiences (King, The Mist, 2007). The capability of King Steward, as explained by Edwin Casebeer in most of his writing, is to establish a sense of fiction. The nature of that fiction is usually evaded by the readers as it persuades the readers to effectively handle and deal with the dilemmas through confidence and courage. Most of the images and scenes created by King are designed with the objective to enable people to comfortably deal with their issues. These issues are given core and central focus that ultimately results as the combination of shock and therapy for the readers. It is usually perceived and argued by most of the critics that the obsession of King with the number of anxieties that are originally produced by the traumatic experiences that occurred during his own childhood. As one of their writings of King entails about his own personal experience from his childhood when he was just 4 years old. He explains that he went to his neighborhood friend to play with him at his house. The house of this friend was located near a railroad line. His face was pale when he arrived back to his house, while his body was shivering with fear. The situation continued for the rest of that day and he remained quiet avoiding communication with everyone. Later, it was found that the neighborhood boy, with whom he went to play was killed by the freight train while crossing the train track. The author further added the comment that he has lost his memory after that incident and now he doesn’t even remember how that incident happened. Most of the critics have argued on his style of writing and publishing the sense of horror and trauma among readers. Jeppson argued on his writing expressions stating that his style of writing and exposing the dilemma are interlinked with his matter together with the impact that the event has led to his mind and thoughts. It is analyzed that the literary of a king has usually emphasized on traumatic events and issues so as to establish fear out of the subconscious. It is personally been admitted by King that there exist some internal monsters whose overabundance ultimately plagues him regularly. To this context, the king believes that with the help of creating awareness regarding such monsters, he can effectively control their limit and subsequently assist the people at the mass level to deal with its fear effectively. On the other hand, a lack of confidence and courage to confront these mega monsters can result in the failure of a child, who will eventually spend the rest of his life with the hidden fear sheltering in the depth of his mind (Lüsted, 2010).

According to King, the monsters created by him in the stories actually represent the wealth and power of internal struggle that is gained by the human being since his childhood. Some of the themes that are shown in the work of King resemble that of fairy tales. The characters such as corrupt adults are dealt by the powerful child heroes, the heroes who are assigned with the task to battle against these evils. By portraying the power of affiliation and friendship, through his characters such as Grimm’s Hansel and 5 Gretel, the king has effectively proved the strength of alliance that could help in overcoming the massive evils of adulthood. In his main stories, his idea and theme have always been the same, as to demonstrate the key points that could help in targeting the issues related to adulthood including negligence of parents, alcoholism, and child abuse. The context of his stories is a great source for developing an understanding among adult readers concerning the helplessness of innocent and immature children.

Stephens’s King’s twenty-second book and eighteenth novel IT which was published in 1986. It is that book that transitioned into one of the most notorious two-part clown film. The moral of the first part of I.T sets the tone for the second part of the movie. A quiet town is where it was set, Derry Maine. Throughout the film seven friends were tormented by the notorious “Pennywise the dancing clown”, Bill sets himself as the leader of what they called “the losers club”. Bill’s little brother Georgie was the opening of the torment that each kid would receive. Despite kids telling their parents, while they know of it, they don’t usher a word. It’s an aura of horror in Maine and Pennywise was victimizing each kid one by one.

Manifestation and Magic in IT:

IT has deeply explored imagination power, illusion and dishonesty. It is basically the suitable and effective utilization of mask that creates differences between Derry and the internal and external appearance of the monster. In the very initial segment of IT, the strength and bonding of friendship and courage is been tested of the seventeen characters. As the novel moves forward, the seven young characters return back to Derry in their adulthood summoned by the rebirth of IT. Along with their ancestors, aging has transformed and suppressed the memories of these characters which ultimately results in the loss of their imagination. In this story, the return of seven characters to Derry indicates the need of their central character to challenge their fearful history. As time passes by, the children gradually understand the fact that not all adults can be relied upon in life (King, It: A Novel, 2016).

Personal turbulence is one of the core elements utilized by the author to establish an effective association between the reader and the character. The prominent examples are fairy tale and horror stories that are followed by the breakups of parents’ core relationships, the fatality of loved ones, isolation of youngsters or separation of lovers. The reader is forced to involve himself in these issues in both genres and tries to confront them with his own expertise and experiences. In this regard, the king has used his vital characters for the traumatic conditions where they could assist the readers as a form of therapy, demonstrating the idea that issues with such gravity can only be dealt with through confrontation (King, It: A Novel, 2016).


It is argued by King that finding a balance can help adults in embracing imagination and adulthood. As per the expectation, it has always been assumed that adults will murder Santa Claus hence children grow till certain age with similar perception and their personal understanding of reality. King argues that fiction is an idea that helps the adult reader to reunite with the inner child that actually resides in him. The illusion of childhood created by King in his literary provokes terror and imagination for mature readers. There are several forms for this kind of fear that includes: negligence from parents, bullying, child abuse, and mainly isolation. Referring back to the context of Derry in adult time, there was the need of rediscovering imagination for the Loser’s Club as to challenge IT. It is claimed by King that adults are perceived as the worst of monsters if they lack imagination. The essential key that could help in leaving childhood is the purity of ethics, imagination of juveniles and balance of maturity. As time and age pass by, the imagination of the Tooth Fairy and Santa are disappeared from the mind on their own. However, king proves that anything that could retain this magic is the human power of imagination. Imagination can only have a rebirth in the human mind through literature.


  1. King, S. (2000). Carrie. New York City: Simon and Schuster.
  2. King, S. (2007). The Mist. London: Penguin.
  3. King, S. (2016). It: A Novel. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  4. King, S. (2018). Elevation. New York City: Simon and Schuster.
  5. Lüsted, M. A. (2010). How to Analyze the Works of Stephen King. Edina: ABDO.
  6. Romano, A. (2018). US: Stephen King has spent half a century scaring us, but his legacy is so much more than horror

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Adaption of Stephen King’s Work in Movies and Popular Culture. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Adaption of Stephen King’s Work in Movies and Popular Culture.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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