by Richard Bachman
[Trigger warning: gun violence, school violence]
Rage is Stephen King’s third novel, published in 1977 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. From what I understand, King started writing the book when he was only 19 years old, and while I’m sure there were changes made to the story and some serious editing done before it was published ten years later, it’s obvious that King is a born storyteller.
I’m not sure I needed to add the trigger warning at the top of this post, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Rage is about a high school senior named Charlie Decker who gets completely fed up with the adults in his life–teachers make fun of him, his father pretty clearly doesn’t like him and treats him like shit, and Charlie is tired of adults’ general feeling of superiority and their hypocrisy. Unfortunately, Charlie decides that the only way to be heard and get his point across is through violence…specifically gun violence…which he calls “get[ting] it on.” Teachers are killed and other adults are threatened. Rage is actually no longer in print. King had it taken out of publication in light of a number of school shootings that were very similar to events in the book (and because more than one teenage school shooter was found to own a copy of Rage).
But Rage is about more than angry teenagers and gratuitous violence. It’s about how hard it is to be a teenager, let alone a teenager who isn’t taken seriously by adults. Some adults tend to forget what being a teenager feels like–they forget that they were teenagers themselves at one point–and they treat teenagers like they’re just being over-dramatic and silly. It may seem to adults like teenagers blow things out of proportion or go overboard with their feelings, but those feelings are very real to teenagers. We can’t discount them. Their feelings are no less valid than ours. They’re trying to make sense of themselves and the world around them at a time when their bodies are actively fighting any rationality they might possess. They want to be taken seriously (as they should), and they want to be understood. It’s tough. I remember what it’s like. I am in no way condoning violence, but I think we forget that words have power, and that power is multiplied times 100 (or even 1000) when used against a hormonal, angsty teenager. Or not used at all, as the case may be. While I know that there are people in the world who are simply maladjusted and without morals, there are far more people who just need someone to pay attention and be understanding.
I’m rambling, but that is basically what Rage is about: 1. It’s hard being a teenager. 2. It’s even harder being a teenager who is misunderstood (or not taken seriously) and treated like crap by adults. 3. Teenagers are people, too, and their feelings are no less valid and real than ours, regardless of how silly we think they’re being.
Other random thoughts about Rage (that might contain a few spoilers):
–It’s very Lord of the Flies-esque, especially at the end.
–I think it’s interesting that Charlie’s school mates decided to stay in the classroom with him and “get it on,” even if I felt it was a little unrealistic. It turns into a big psychotherapy session, and lots of teenage feelings and secrets are revealed.
–Did Ted end up in a catatonic state because of what his classmates did to him, or was he doomed to break because he refused to open up and “get it on”? I’m not sure how I feel about what happened to Ted–my feelings are mixed, but consist mostly of disgust for the other students. I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it. He definitely didn’t deserve what he received, but I’m still undecided about what caused his catatonia.
–I loved the second to last paragraph of the book. How much honesty is too much? Charlie finds out.
There is more I could say about Rage, but I think I’m going to leave it at that. Have you read this book? Thoughts? Comments?
Click here to read sj’s thoughts.
(To learn more about Stephen King, please visit his website.)
**If you choose to purchase this title using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).