Sunday, May 4, 2014

More On The Dark Tower...And The Green Mile *Spoiler Alert*

When you dwell in the world of a book series like the DARK TOWER for so long, it naturally is something you are going to think a lot about. I continue to reflect on the series, the ending, and all it meant. I mean, 4000+ pages, man. That is crazy. Two months of my life. One thing that I've come to realize is how the series reflects on the rest of what Stephen King has done. Many of King's book crossover into the series, and that in and of itself is extraordinarily interesting. You get continuations of SALEM'S LOT, HEARTS OF ATLANTIS, INSOMNIA, and much more. That was really cool to read.

But beyond that, you get a deeper appreciation for the way King's mind works, and what philosophy underlies his fictional works. One connection I see is between THE GREEN MILE and DARK TOWER. At first, the two works do not seem interconnected, and there is no direct link between the books (as there is with, say, SALEM'S LOT). Yet I realize now that in many ways, these two stories are one and the same.

Paul in the GREEN MILE is faced with a moral dilemma. He knows that letting John Coughy die is something that puts his soul at risk. It is something he could face punishment for. Yet he also knows that denying is sworn duty as the one in charge of executions, of the Mile itself, is dangerous both for him, those around him, and for John. So he goes to John, a mentally slow individual who Paul know comes to believe is an extension of God's Will and Power, and asks him what he should do. John responds and tells Paul that he should let John die. This is the right thing to do, John says. So Paul does as he is bid. He follows the Christlike John Coughy. And what is the result? Paul is cursed with unnaturally long life. He is punished, forced to see all he loves die and to reflect for a long, long time on what he did and what it all meant. To add to the irony, it is Coughy himself who (however unconsciously) visits this punishment on Paul.

Roland, in the TOWER series, is also faced with a dilemma. Either he continues his journey to save the world, and (more importantly for Roland) to fulfill his promise to reach the top of the Tower, or to risk the lives of those he loves. Roland is not unconflicted about these problems. He knows he risks his very soul when he turns his back on those he loves most for his quest for what is, to him, God. Yet the Tower bids Roland come. The Tower indicates that all will be made right, and that Roland should continue on his quest. The Tower CALLS Roland.

Yet it is the Tower that ultimately punishes Roland for putting it first, above even those closest to him. And as Paul is punished with long life, Roland is punished by being put into an endless loop, being thrown back to the beginning of the story with some slight additions and changes, to help him realize what he is really supposed to do.

So it is like God puts a moral dilemma before you. He calls you one direction, tells you what to do, when really you are supposed to choose the other horn of the dilemma OVER THE ONE HE CALLS YOU TO. In the end both Paul and Roland are caught in the same trap, and given the same test, and fail the same way. There is a moral dilemma. God calls you one way. You are really supposed to travel the other.

Of course none of us really KNOWS if what we are doing is the right thing, even when we think we've discerned God's will. Because we are sinners and our discernment can be wrong. The key to life is repentance...knowing you are a sinner and so not being triumphant in your proclamation of what God wants you to do. Both Paul and to a lesser degree Roland are open about their uneasiness. Yet there is no mercy for them, only punishment.

If God does not forgive us of our mistakes on the road to Him then we are all doomed. Stephen King obviously believes in a God that plays just these kinds of games, and moreover is not forgiving when we don't win them. It may be the scariest idea he has ever come up with.

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