The Stand  

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The ultimate twentieth century parable of abandonement is Stephen King's The Stand (1978).

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/science fiction novel by Stephen King originally published in 1978.

Stephen King said of The Stand, the greatest allegory of good vs evil since Heart of Darkness: "I love to burn things up," . "It's the werewolf in me, I guess.... The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke."


Plot summary

"Captain Trips"

June 16, 1980 – July 4, 1980

At a remote U.S. Army base, a weaponized strain of influenza, officially known as Project Blue and nicknamed "Captain Trips", is accidentally released. Despite an effort to put the base under lockdown, a security malfunction allows a soldier, Charles Campion, to escape with his family. By the time the military tracks the already-deceased Campion to Texas, he has triggered a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions which eventually kills off 99.4% of the world's human population.

As the pandemic intensifies, a multi-faceted narrative—told partly from the perspective of primary characters—outlines the total breakdown and destruction of society through widespread violence; the failure of martial law to contain the outbreak; the military's increasingly violent efforts to censor information; and, finally, the near-extinction of mankind. The emotional toll is also dealt with, as the few survivors must care for their families and friends, dealing with confusion and grief as virtually everyone they know succumbs to the flu.

The expanded edition opens with a prologue titled "The Circle Opens" that offers greater detail into the circumstances surrounding the development of the virus and the security breach that allowed its escape from the secret laboratory compound where it was created.

"On the Border"

July 5, 1980 – September 6, 1980

Intertwining cross-country odysseys are undertaken by a small number of survivors in three parties, all drawn together by both circumstances and their shared dreams of a 108-year-old woman in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, whom they see as an embodiment of good. The woman, Abagail Freemantle—better known as "Mother Abagail"—becomes the spiritual leader for the survivors. Mother Abagail directs them to Boulder, Colorado, where they struggle to re-establish a democratic society called the "Free Zone."

Meanwhile, another group of survivors is drawn to Las Vegas by Randall Flagg, an evil being with supernatural powers. Flagg's governance is brutally tyrannical, using gruesome methods of torture and execution to quell dissent. Flagg's group is able to quickly reorganize its society, restore power to Las Vegas, and rebuild the city with the many technical professionals who have migrated there. Flagg's group launches a weapons program, searching what remains of the United States for suitable arms.

Mother Abagail, feeling that she has become prideful due to her pleasure at being a public figure, disappears into the wilderness on a journey of spiritual reconciliation. During her absence, the Free Zone's leadership committee decides to secretly send three people to Flagg's territory to act as spies. Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross, who are disaffected Free Zone inhabitants tempted by Flagg, stage an attack on the committee with a bomb. The explosion kills several people, but most of the committee members avoid the explosion thanks to Mother Abagail's timely return. However, she is dying from malnutrition.

"The Stand"

September 7, 1980 – January 10, 1981

The stage is now set for the final confrontation as Flagg's group becomes aware of the threat from the Free Zone. There is no pitched battle, however. Instead, at Mother Abagail's dying behest, four of the five surviving members of the leadership committee—Glen Bateman, Stu Redman, Ralph Brentner, and Larry Underwood—set off on foot towards Las Vegas on an expedition to confront Flagg. Stu breaks his leg en route and convinces the others to go on without him, telling them that God will provide for him if that's what's meant to happen.

The remaining three are soon taken prisoner by Flagg's army. When Glen refuses to grovel before Flagg, he is killed by Lloyd Henreid, his second in command. Flagg gathers his entire collective to witness the execution of Brentner and Underwood. Moments before they are to be killed, the Trashcan Man, an insane follower of Flagg's, arrives with a stolen nuclear warhead. Flagg's magical attempt to silence a dissenter is transformed into a giant glowing hand—"The Hand of God"—which detonates the bomb, destroying Las Vegas and all of Flagg's followers, along with Larry and Ralph.

The inhabitants of Boulder anxiously anticipate the birth of a baby by Stu's love interest, Frances Goldsmith; they fear that the child may not possess an immunity to the superflu and may die, implying a permanent end to humanity. Soon after she gives birth to a live baby, Stu returns to Boulder, having been rescued by a Free Zone spy named Tom Cullen. The baby, Peter, manages to fight off the superflu. The original edition of the novel ends with Fran and Stu questioning whether the human race can learn from its mistakes. The answer, given in the last line, is ambiguous: "I don't know."

The expanded edition follows this with a brief coda called "The Circle Closes", which leaves a darker impression and fits in with King’s ongoing "wheel of ka" theme. An amnesia-stricken Flagg wakes up on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific, having somehow escaped the atomic blast in Vegas by using his dark magic. There he begins recruiting adherents among a preliterate, dark-skinned people, who worship him as a deity.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Stand" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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