Five Best Child Characters in Stephen King Novels
Stephen King's Best Child Characters
Stephen King, in addition to being a wildly popular horror author, also has a great talent for writing child characters. Though in many novels children are plot devices, or serve a certain purpose--to create tragedy, to create comic relief, to merely act cute--King's children are often just as complex and interesting as his adult characters.
Whether the child is running in fear from The Shop, running from hedge maze animals, or lost in the woods, they're always memorable and serve to heighten the reader's feelings of suspense and fear--because there's little more terrifying to an adult than a child in danger, or a child itself being the source of danger.
Read on for the best children Stephen King created via the written word.
"The Gunslinger" Audiobook
Stephen King's eight volume epic, the Dark Tower series, follows Roland across dying lands as he seeks the Dark Tower, to set the world aright. He travels with his ka-tet: a woman in a wheelchair named Susannah, an addict in recovery named Eddie, a precious young boy named Jake, and an odd, loyal little creature named Oy.
Though Roland has a special bond with each member of his ka-tet, he has a deep affection for the boy--and it's his terrible choice in regards to Jake, one that splits time and almost drives Jake insane, that tortures him. It's also hard for the reader.
What makes Jake one of Stephen King's best child characters? He's what every one would want their own child to be, despite the fact that Jake's parents are not so enthralled with him. He's brave, smart, resourceful, and determined, yet also deeply needing love, affection, and a place to belong. He's an integral member of the ka-tet, and doesn't merely serve as a being to be taken care of--he takes care of his friends just as much as they tend to him.
Gage Creed, from "Pet Sematary"
In the beginning of Stephen King's "Pet Sematary," Gage Creed is an adorable toddler--sweet, affectionate, beloved by his parents. When he is hit by a truck in the road and killed, his parents can't cope with the loss--and they bury the boy's body in an old Indian burial ground. Gage's body comes back to them, but what's inside the toddler is no longer innocent or good. Instead, the child has become a bloodthirsty, relentless monster determined to kill his parents and anyone else he can.
What makes Gage one of Stephen King's best child characters? It's how straight up terrifying he is. Unlike Jake, Gage is not a complex, real person--he's a monster, every parent's worst nightmare: their angelic child replaced by utter evil. Evil children are some of horror's scariest creations, and in Gage Creed Stephen King gives us a child of nightmares.
"The Shining" Trailer
Many readers list Stephen King's "The Shining" among their favorite of his works, and for good reason--it's terrifying on both a psychological level and a things-that-go-bump-in-the-night level. Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic and struggling writer, has one last chance to redeem himself: by serving as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel over the winter, and finishing his novel during the long, quiet winter months. He takes with him Wendy, his wife, and Danny, his son. But Danny has the shine, and before long he realizes something evil is in the hotel--and it's using his psychic power to grow stronger. Worse, it wants to make him its own. As Jack slowly goes insane, intent on murder, Danny and Wendy struggle to outwit him and stay alive.
What makes Danny such a great child character? Both his special talent and his fragility. Danny is different from other children, more sensitive--his eyes are open to another world. At the same time, he's too young to handle that world without guidance--it frightens him, and he withdraws to a safe place in his mind. It's his childish innocence that makes the reader root for him and want to protect him, and his extraordinary psychic abilities that make him so interesting.
"Firestarter" Film Trailer
Many of Stephen King's child characters have special abilities, but Charlie McGee's are perhaps the most terrifying. Her parents, subjects to an experiment by The Shop, both developed mental powers, at a cost to their physical health. Charlie, though, is born with such powers and has no limitations--her strength grows as she does. In fact, she can start fires with her mind--the book even hints that her power could destroy the world, should she let it. The government wants Charlie back, and during their pursuit and eventual capture of her she endures more heartache and trauma than any child should have to suffer.
What makes Charlie McGee one of Stephen King's great child characters? That's she simultaneously an innocent and incredibly dangerous. Charlie wants to be a normal girl, living a normal life with her father--but she can't. Instead, she's pushed into using her power to protect them and then herself, each time with devastating consequences to others and her own mental state. It's both terrifying and sad--a very memorable combination.
Rarely does Stephen King write a slim novel, and rarely does he focus entirely on a child's character, without any adults around. In "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon," he does both. Trisha gets lost in the woods on a family hiking trip, wandering aimlessly and taking comfort from listening to news about her crush, baseball player Tom Gordon, on her walkman. As days pass and she grows weaker, she begins to hallucinate about the terrifying God of the Lost, struggling to stay sane and keep hope that she will leave the woods alive.
What makes Trisha one of Stephen King's great child characters? It's the obvious affection he has for her as an author--he's taken a simple story and focused deeply on her, showcasing her bravery, resiliency, and strength, all amazing things in a nine-year-old child.
Other Children in the Works of Stephen King
Of course, this list barely scratches the surface of the many children in the works of Stephen King--we also have the Loser's Club and the boys in "The Body," among others.
Who is your favorite child character in the works of Stephen King?
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