An American poet named Edna St. Vincent Millay once stated that “childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.” Throughout many mediums, such as horror, we can see how childhood is often described as a time of innocence that needs to be protected and usually this protection comes from the adults, or better known as the heroes of the narrative. However, for some less fortunate children, they don’t have that heroic figure to fall back on, and this leads to a moment in which their view of innocence is shattered. And that child experiences a dramatic change, becoming the heroic figure themselves. This momentous moment can be caused by many experiences in the child’s life. For example, it could be the loss of a loved one, cruelty inflicted by others, or even the abuse at the hands of a trusted guardian. By analyzing the children from the movie It (2017), we will examine how trauma can affect a child’s mind.
Trauma is something that everybody has to go through at some point in their lives. This trauma can range from someone’s first breakup to something as severe as someone witnessing a murder and, even though two people might experience the same trauma, it doesn’t mean that they will be affected in the same way. Stephen King’s book It includes themes of trauma and dives head first into, not only how children are coping with it but, from the words of Brett Hayes who is a professional writer who reviews movies for Birth Movies Death, “overcoming and fighting oppressive forces that seek to weaken, destroy, and devour us.” To further look into how children cope with trauma, the film version of the story showcases two of the seven kids that form the Loser’s Club as having their own struggles dealing with trauma.
First off, there’s Eddie who once lived with his obese, single mother who’s featured prominently as a helicopter parent. What’s worse, she is always trying to convince him that he is sick, so that way he forms a dependence upon her and never wants to leave. Then, as an adult, we can see how growing up severely attached to his mom has made him seek and marry an almost carbon copy of her. This pattern of events can also be seen in Beverly who, as a child, was raised by an abusive father and ends up marrying a man that is equally as violent and controlling. This constant cycle can be seen almost as twisted form of therapy because these children crave the comfort of a family but, since all they knew growing up was abuse, they cling to that sense of familiarity because it’s all they know.
This kind of abuse is often a plot device that is commonly used to explain why a child is no longer considered innocent. These children have been shown firsthand the horror of the world from someone that they should have been able to trust and because of this absence of trust, this is often the moment that a child is forced to grow up sooner than expected. In the very beginning of It, we bear witness to the innocent and pure Georgy’s gruesome murder at the hands of Pennywise, the evil entity that haunts Dairy. This is a very important scene because it presents us one of the main rules that Pennywise seems to follow. He goes after children.
Kids are often seen as pure or innocent beings that are weak and because of that, Pennywise sees them as his ideal prey. He is an all-powerful being, and someone as weak as a child wouldn’t be able to hurt him or so he thought. This belief is shattered with a single shot from a gun and in that moment, the children go from being the hunted to the hunters. Our main cast of children are not the normal pure beings that many children are thought to be. Each and every one of them has had their own form of trauma and once a child experiences enough trauma, they are usually forced to grow up sooner than expected. This has led the Loser’s Club to fill the role that is commonly filled by an adult; the role of the hero. But for every hero in the world, there is a nemesis.
Although Pennywise is the villain of the story, the character Henry Bowers represents the classic bully character and works as the club’s nemesis from the start of the film. He is constantly trying to put down kids that he sees as weak and even goes as far as to severely hurt them at times. Towards the end of the film, we learn that Bowers had a home life somewhat similar to Beverly’s in the sense that they both are getting abused by their fathers. Both characters are similar on that front and yet their responses to this are so different. Yes, they are both abused but they handle this abuse very differently. Bowers lashes out and abuses others, whereas Beverly’s experiences at the hands of her father have made her into the protector of the weak. This can be seen when Ben and Beverly first meet on the last day of school. After seeing how Ben fumbles around just at the mere presence of a girl, she decides to warn him about the bullies that are looking for him. This act of kindness can be seen as her trying to help others even though she doesn’t have to.
Pennywise is successful in corrupting Bowers, this can be seen when he convinces Bowers to kill his father, but fails to corrupt Beverly. Beverly becomes stronger through the bonds of friendship that she relies on, whereas Bower’s relies on no one but himself. This difference in support systems is ultimately what leads to Bower’s demise. He is the kind of person that holds all his feelings in and doesn’t rely on those close to him, so he is an easy target for Pennywise because Bower’s is essentially alone whereas Beverly has her friends supporting her. This difference in Bowers and Beverly can almost be seen as a metaphor for trauma victims. When someone experiences trauma but doesn’t have someone to rely on, it is almost always harder for them to break away from that trauma and become stronger. This is because they don’t have a support system to help them if they are having a bad day or to help them if they start going down the wrong path. To sum up my point here is a quote from Britt Hayes who writes about Stephen King’s It in an article for Birth Movies Death: “What matters is not the how and why, but who you become because of it.”
References: Hayes, Britt. “Stephen King’s IT Explores Trauma in Terrifying Ways.” Birth Movies Death. Nov. 11, 2012. https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2013/11/11/stephen-kings-it-explores-trauma-in-terrifying-ways. Accessed 26 Apr. 2020.
Cheyenne Mason is a student at Indiana University pursuing a degree in nursing in the hopes of eventually reaching her goal of becoming a pediatric nurse for Riley Children’s Hospital. In her free time she loves to reads and drawings. A random fact about Cheyenne is that she really loves archery and has actually placed 2nd in her county competition just two years ago.