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The Pathology of Pennywise the Clown

Updated on September 16, 2019
Stephen A Brown profile image

I am an avid reader of the horror genre who likes to analyze characters in books and films. I am also a researcher of the paranormal.


The Pathology of Pennywise

Pennywise the Clown has been terrorizing the minds of adults and children alike ever since the publication of Stephen King’s book “IT” in 1986. As a member of Generation X, I remember vividly when I first heard of the book in 1989 as a young teenager. From the earliest time I can remember, I have always been drawn to the macabre, but something about Pennywise the dancing clown as hatched in the mind of Stephen King, has contained a pathology that is hard is describe.

When I started reading the book as a young teenager, Pennywise both resonated with me and repulsed me. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the origins of this psycho clown, I will elaborate a bit. Pennywise is much more than perhaps an alien or demon (certainly he has qualities of both), but in his purest form he is an ancient cosmic malevolent entity who originated from another universe. His life form was encapsulated inside of an asteroid that crashed into earth millions of years ago into the area that would ultimately become Derry, Maine.

Therefore, Pennywise is surmised to be much older than the earth and perhaps even the local universe itself. The pathology of Pennywise is manifested in his torment of young children as he likes to prey on their greatest fears. All though this makes for great storytelling, initially this was a very repulsing concept on my young psyche. He is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the degeneracy of the human mind; except much worse.

Because Pennywise is much older and wiser, in addition to being an extraterrestrial, he uses these traits and abilities to manipulate and to ultimately overpower and destroy his young victims. He has a type of omniscience that is unmatched by the wisest of sages. This is what makes Pennywise such an odious figure. I personally believe that Stephen King is very allegoric in his writing and that he likes to convey ideas about the inequity of society among many other things.

This shape shifting clown, I believe, is metaphoric for the higher power structure in developed countries that has a toxic habit of taking advantage of the lower and middle classes for their own selfish gain. The loser club, as portrayed in the book and the 1990 mini-series, is only able to conquer Pennywise through sheer willpower by the Ritual of Chud and through a systematic understanding of the Turtle. Therefore, evil, in any form, is conquered not only through belief and trust in a higher benevolent force, but also a confidence and belief in oneself. This is the aspect of the book that resonated with me.

Many believe that the horror genre is essentially worthless. However, if analyzed properly, this genre has the capacity to teach us many things about life and the unfortunate evil that consistently pervades our planet.

Pennywise in the drain
Pennywise in the drain | Source

Tim Curry done an exceptional job of portraying Pennywise and done the character justice, but Bill Skarsgard was much more sinister in his portrayal of the evil shapeshifting clown from hell. Pennywise has an insatiable appetite for inflicting physical, mental, and emotional pain on his victims and operating through deceit, manipulation and the vulnerability of the weak. This is the pathological essence of Pennywise the Clown.


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