It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous inter-dimensional predatory life-form that exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself whilst hunting its prey. “It” primarily appears in the form of “Bob Gray” a.k.a. “Pennywise the Dancing Clown,” described by characters who see It as resembling a combination of Bozo, Clarabell and Ronald McDonald, in order to attract its preferred prey of young children, though it occasionally feeds on adults.
In October 1957, the town of Derry, Maine has been flooded by autumn storms, awakening an evil entity, known only as "It", a shape-shifting monster that targets children and lives in the sewers. As the storm abates, six-year old George "Georgie" Denbrough chases a paper boat, made with the help of his brother William (also known as Big Bill, Stuttering Bill, or simply Bill), along a gutter current until the boat is swept into a storm drain. Georgie attempts to retrieve the boat and encounters Pennywise, a seemingly friendly clown standing in the sewer. The clown entices George with sensations of a circus carried into the sewer by the floods, and offers to return the lost boat. When George attempts to retrieve the boat, Pennywise rips his arm off against the gutter and kills him. When the neighbors hear George's scream, they run outside to see what the matter is, but find only George's one-armed corpse and no sign of the creature.
Eight months later in June 1958, on the last day of school, Ben Hanscom flees from local bullies Henry Bowers, Belch Huggins and Victor Criss. Bowers had attempted to carve his name into Ben's stomach (to the horror of Huggins and Criss, who realized Bowers was going beyond their regular bullying, thinking he was only trying to frighten Ben), as revenge for Ben's refusal to let Bowers copy from his paper during a test; he only manages the letter H before Ben is able to escape. Ben escapes into the Barrens, a weedy jungle through which runs the Kenduskeag Stream, where he meets and befriends Bill Denbrough (George's brother) and Eddie Kaspbrak, an asthmatic. As a summer project, Bill and Eddie were attempting unsuccessfully to dam the Kenduskeag. Ben has a natural inclination toward architecture, and helps the other boys complete the dam. Through Bill and Eddie, Ben also befriends Richie Tozier, a wisecracking boy known for his dubious "Voices", and Stan Uris, a straight-laced Jewish boy with an affinity for bird watching. In early July, the five of them, along with Beverly Marsh, the sole female of the group, save Mike Hanlon from being beaten by Henry Bowers and his gang. A few days after fending off the bullies, Mike, one of the few black people in Derry at that time, officially joins their group. The children establish themselves as the "Losers Club." All are outcasts, emphasized by their unhappy home lives (with the exceptions of Mike, Richie, and Stan, whose home lives seem fairly normal) and the torments they have endured from bullies like the Bowers gang: Ben because of his weight, Bill because of his stutter, Eddie because of his physical frailty, Richie because of his smart mouth and thick glasses, Stan because of his Jewish ancestry, Mike because he is black and Beverly because of her poverty and gender. As their friendships mature, they realize that they also share common encounters with "It".
Bill describes to the group how, while lamenting his dead brother in his room, he had opened a photo album to see a picture of George come alive. Ben reveals that he had encountered a mummy the previous January, while walking home from school. Eddie recounts being attacked by a diseased creature, which he calls a leper, at an abandoned house. Beverly tells of hearing voices of dead children coming from her bathroom sink drain, followed by blood bursting from the pipes; her father and mother see nothing. In an early depiction of the Losers' strength when united, Beverly is unable to clean the blood herself until she enlists the help of Ben, Eddie, and Stan. After cleaning up the blood, Stan describes his encounter with the water-logged corpses of children when he became trapped in the town's Standpipe while bird watching, which he somehow fends off by shouting out the names of birds. Richie eluded Henry and his friends in town, and when he sat down beside a statue of Paul Bunyan it became possessed and attacked him, nearly killing him. Richie is unique amongst the group because he does not tell his account to the others and firmly believes it to have been a dream. He initially scoffs at the stories, and Bill encourages him to view the photo album back in George's room. After both boys discover in the album pictures of Pennywise, one of which comes to life, Richie recalls his own encounter with a werewolf. Determined to avenge his brother, Bill steals his father's Walther handgun and goes with Richie to the abandoned house, 29 Neibolt Street. At the house the boys are attacked by It, each perceiving a different form of the creature: Bill sees It as Pennywise and Richie sees It as a werewolf. Both barely escape with their lives on Bill’s enormous and talismanic Schwinn bicycle, Silver. Mike then retells his encounter with an enormous bird, which he had fended off by throwing a chunk of tile in its eye.
The Losers are not the only persons to encounter It; various children vanish to be found dead and mutilated days, weeks, or months later, if they turn up at all. The Losers determine to destroy the supernatural being and seek out means to that end. After some research in the town library, Bill discovers an ancient spell known as the Ritual of Chüd, in which a shapeshifting monster called a "talus" and a human shaman lock tongues and tell jokes; the first to laugh is devoured by the other. Bill believes this ritual will allow them to defeat and kill It. While the seven are building an underground clubhouse in the Barrens in mid-July, Mike Hanlon brings his father's photo album and shows it to them all. The group discovers that Pennywise has existed for many centuries in the Derry area. In one photograph, Pennywise again appears and threatens to kill them all, appearing to them all as their worst fears. The Losers are demoralized and uncertain how to proceed. Ben gives them the idea to perform an Indian "smoke-hole" ritual to receive spiritual guidance from whatever forces stand against "It". After a heated debate about whether or not the boys will allow Beverly to attend the ritual, she lashes out at them and they decide to draw lots to see who must stay in the fresh air on the chance that one of the Losers will collapse during the ritual. Beverly lights the head of a match, blows it out, and each of the boys select a match while proclaiming their love for her. She is left holding the last match and discovers that no match heads are burned. The Losers take this as a sign that they are all supposed to participate. They use their now completed underground club house and green wood to cause a blinding smoke, forcing most of the Losers into fresh air. Richie and Mike are the only two to withstand the smoke, and witness a vision of It arriving on Earth in prehistoric times. When the visions end, the Losers express still further doubt over their ability to battle the monster.
A few days after the smoke-hole ritual, Eddie goes to a pharmacy to pick up his asthma medicine. The pharmacist, Mr. Keene, reveals that the medicine is actually a placebo, and Eddie is not actually sick; his "asthma" is an invention of Eddie's mother, Sonia Kaspbrak. Eddie leaves, disbelieving, and, on the way home, is attacked by Henry, Victor, Belch, and a psychopathic boy named Patrick Hockstetter. The bullies break Eddie's arm and spit in his face in retaliation for the rock fight. Eddie convalesces in the hospital, and though the other Losers attempt to visit him, they are sent away by Eddie's overprotective mother. Mrs. Kaspbrak is cast as an unwitting agent of It, the creature attempting to use her maternal concern to split the Losers. Eddie stands up to his mother for the first time, and earns a small amount of autonomy from her ministrations.
As Eddie recovers, Beverly stumbles across the Bowers gang (including Patrick) in the landfill, literally with their pants down, lighting farts with fire for fun. She hides behind a junked car, afraid they will see and attack her, and waits for the gang to depart. After Belch and Victor leave, Patrick (who, in a back-story, is revealed to have murdered his baby brother) masturbates Henry, and offers him oral sex. In response, Henry threatens to reveal Patrick's secret: besides killing his brother (of which Henry knows nothing), Patrick has been trapping animals in an abandoned refrigerator and leaving them to suffocate. After Henry leaves, Patrick decides to dispose of the animal corpses, but when he opens the refrigerator, he is attacked by It in the form of dozens of winged leeches, his worst, and only real, fear. Before he loses consciousness, It appears in the form of a man with a melting face and drags him to It's lair. Patrick wakes up as It begins to feed on him. After Beverly's escape, the Losers (sans Eddie) return to the refrigerator and discover a message from It written in Patrick's blood, warning them to stop before It kills them, which sends Bill into a fit of maniacal rage. At Bill's pleading, the others agree to help him.
After Eddie is released from the hospital, Ben makes two slugs out of silver, believing the cinematic convention that silver will kill monsters. The group test fires slingshots and determine Beverly to be the best shot, and so the slugs are put into her care. The Losers return to 29 Neibolt Street and enter the house, its interior made magically huge and vertiginous by It. In a run-down bathroom, It attacks the Losers in its Werewolf form, primarily focusing its efforts on Bill, hoping to destroy the head of the Losers. After It injures Ben, Beverly injures It with one slug, but loses the other; however, the Losers chase It away by convincing It that a final slug is ready to be released upon It. The Losers realize that their united belief is the strongest weapon against It.
In August, It turns to Henry Bowers, whose sanity had been eroding throughout the summer, as It's minion. It provides Henry with a switchblade, with which the boy promptly murders his crazy, abusive father. Henry recruits the unsuspecting Victor and Belch and takes them into the Barrens, where they drive the Losers into the sewers. Under Derry, It attacks the Bowers gang in the form of Frankenstein's monster, decapitating Victor and ripping half of Belch's face off, though Henry escapes. Wandering aimlessly for hours in the sewers, Henry ultimately falls into the Canal and drifts back into the Kenduskeag, where he falls unconscious for several hours. When he comes to, Henry returns home to find the police there waiting for him; as it turns out, It has framed Henry for most of the people that It killed both before and during the summer of 1958 (including Patrick, Victor, and Belch).
The Losers press deeper into the sewers and confront It in the form of a giant eye, which Eddie defeats using his asthma inhaler, proclaiming it to be battery acid. Finally the Losers come to It's lair, a chamber deep below the heart of Derry. On a small door leading the inner chamber, is a symbol which is It's name spelled a strange way, so that it can be interpreted as being a picture of whatever thing that a person fears the most. Once entering, the creature appears as a giant spider. Bill enters It's mind through the Ritual of Chüd and comes to a darkness beyond the universe, where It's true form resides: a mass of floating orange light. With the help of a galaxy-spawning entity called the Turtle, Bill defeats It and the monster retreats, grievously wounded. The Losers decide that It has been destroyed and attempt to leave the sewers, but find themselves lost. As the Losers panic in the dark, their mystical bond begins to fray. In order to keep the bond, Beverly has sexual intercourse with each of the boys. The Losers finally escape from the sewers, emerging at sunset. Stan cuts their palms with a shard of a Coke bottle and the seven make a blood oath to return to Derry if It ever resurfaces.
In July 1984, two homosexual men named Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty are assaulted and Adrian is thrown off a bridge by three homophobic youths. They are arrested for murder when Adrian's mutilated corpse is found, though one of the murderers (as well as Mellon’s own boyfriend) claims that he saw a clown kill Adrian underneath the bridge. When a string of violent child-killings hits Derry following Adrian's death, Mike, now the town’s librarian and the only one of the Losers’ Club to remain in Derry, calls up his six friends on the night of May 28, 1985 and reminds them of their childhood promise to return.
Bill is now a well-known writer of horror novels (after King's own self), currently living in England and married to an actress named Audra Phillips; his childhood stutter (which he had successfully conquered) begins to return after Mike's phone call. Beverly, now living in Chicago, is a sought after designer in the fashion industry and very successful, but married to an abusive man named Tom Rogan; Mike's phone call prompts her to turn the tables on Tom, savagely retaliating when he uses physical violence in an attempt to prevent her leaving. Eddie, who has become a full-fledged hypochondriac, has moved to New York City where he runs a limousine rental company and is married to a woman named Myra who is exactly like his mother. Richie lives in Los Angeles and is a professional comedian with a radio show and talk show, where he finds it even easier to hide behind his comical voices and impersonations, as they have made him very successful. Ben is now thin and a successful architect, living in Nebraska; after receiving the call from Mike, he discovers that the scars he received from It's childhood werewolf assault (which were almost completely faded) have returned. Stan is a successful accountant residing in Atlanta, Georgia and married to a woman named Patty. It is heavily implied that Stan is the only one of the relocated Losers to retain some memory of the previous encounters with It; during a discussion with his wife about their inability to have children (despite the fact that both their reproductive organs were functioning normally), Stan confesses to his wife the belief that something from his past should be over but is not, yet he cannot remember what it is. Five of them return to Derry with only the dimmest awareness of why they are doing so, having almost completely blocked out virtually every aspect of their childhood (most notably their encounter with It). The only one not to return is Stan, who commits suicide in fear and dread of another encounter with It by slitting his wrists while in the bathtub; he uses his blood to write IT on the wall with his dying strength.
The remaining Losers’ Club meets at a Chinese restaurant for lunch on May 30, where, after a long meal and stories from the intervening years, Mike enlightens them to the apparent nature of It, gleaned from a large amount of research he has done himself: It awakens once roughly every twenty-seven years for twelve to sixteen months at a time to feed on children before going into slumber again. He suggests that, due directly to their intervention in the summer of 1958, they injured It so badly that the cycle, which usually came to an end in the winter months of the year, stopped abruptly and prematurely in August. The group holds a vote in which they decide to kill It once and for all. He also enlightens the remaining Losers about the similarities in their lives: they are all incredibly successful in their careers, are all quite wealthy, and are all childless. Mike suggests that before deciding what exactly to do, each Loser takes a walk around Derry to become re-acquainted with their childhood home and meet up at the library later, and also decides not to tell them any more and allow them to remember what occurred on their own, fearing that they may commit suicide as Stan had done if they discover what happened before they are ready to remember it all. He warns them that they are all targets, and he does not expect every one of them to return that evening. As they finish the meal, their fortune cookies are revealed to have a multitude of disgusting things inside of them, such as a huge cricket and a human eye, courtesy of It.
While walking around Derry, many of the Losers witness manifestations of It. Ben goes to the library, his favorite place in Derry as a child, and sees It, both as Pennywise and as Count Dracula, who warns him to leave the city by nightfall. Eddie goes to an old baseball field and is attacked by It in the form of the leper that attacked him on Neibolt Street and as zombies of several of It's 1958 victims. Beverly goes back to her father's house and is greeted warmly by a kindly old woman named Mrs. Kersh who claims to be the daughter of IT, who first appears in her true form of a witch of the sort from the tale of Hansel and Gretel, and then IT attacks first in the form of her father, who It claims died five years before, and then as Pennywise. Richie goes to a statue of Paul Bunyan and It appears to him there after Richie recalls that It tried to kill him in the form of the statue. The four all escape danger. Bill, while not seeing It, meets a kid who challenges him to ride his skateboard. Bill warns the boy to stay away from abandoned areas and open storm drains. He later goes to a second-hand shop and finds his old childhood bike there, remembering how it saved his and Richie’s lives. He purchases it and takes it to Mike’s home to fix it up.
While the Losers are taking their walking tours down the memory lanes of Derry, three other people are also converging on the town: Bill's worried wife, Audra; Beverly's abusive husband, Tom; and Henry Bowers with assistance from It in escaping the mental institution of Juniper Hill where he has lived since his trial. Henry is convinced that he can get revenge on the Losers.
The Losers meet at Mike’s library after closing time and reminisce about the summer of 1958. Afterwards, the Losers leave for their hotel rooms. Mike stays at the Library a little longer and is confronted by Henry. After Mike informs Henry that It will most likely kill him after he kills the Losers, they fight and Henry stabs him in the leg, hitting his femoral artery. Mike badly injures Henry with a letter opener, but Henry is able to escape, and Mike, using his belt as a tourniquet, calls the hospital and successfully gets help, despite Pennywise's attempts to block him. Henry, with the guidance of It (in the form of Belch’s reanimated corpse), and transported by the cursed car Christine, goes to the hotel and attacks Eddie. Henry successfully breaks in to Eddie’s room, but Eddie manages to disarm Henry, gouge out his right eye with a broken bottle, then stab him in the hand. Henry knocks Eddie back and Eddie breaks his arm in the same place that Henry had broken it before. Henry then falls on him and is impaled on the bottle, finally dying.
Meanwhile, It appears to Tom and orders him to capture Audra. Tom brings Audra to It's lair under the city. Upon perceiving It in true form, "the deadlights" (bright orange lights that can hypnotize, and even kill people, if exposed to them long enough) Audra becomes catatonic and Tom drops dead in shock. Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, and Eddie, after calling the library and finding out that Mike is near death and understanding that the town, which is essentially under the control of It, will not help them, realize that they are being forced into another confrontation with It. They descend into the sewers.
While in the sewers, the remaining Losers use their strength as a group to "send energy" to a hospitalized Mike, who fights off a nurse that is under the control of It. Later, deep within the sewers, It appears as George but Bill overcomes the illusion. They reach It’s lair again. Bill and Richie engage It in the Ritual of Chüd again, but Bill realizes that "the Turtle cannot help them" due to the Turtle's death by choking on a regurgitated galaxy or two. Richie rescues Bill from the deadlights and manages to severely injure It. Eddie helps them and saves their lives, but he is killed in the process. Beverly stays with Eddie and the traumatized Audra, who has been woven into a giant spider web by It’s Spider form. Bill, Richie, and Ben follow It when It retreats due to injury. They discover that It has laid eggs, and they are near the time to hatch. Ben begins destroying the eggs while Bill and Richie follow It deeper into the cavern to finish the job once and for all. Bill crushes It's heart between his hands, finally killing It. At the same time the worst storm in Maine's history sweeps through Derry and the downtown area collapses. Later, Michael, writing in a journal, concludes that Derry is finally dying.
The novel ends with the various Losers returning home and forgetting about It, Derry and each other all over again. Ben and Beverly leave together, and Richie heads back to Los Angeles. As a sign that It really is dead and a watchman is no longer needed, Mike’s memory of the events of the summer of 1958 also begin to fade, much to his relief. Bill is the last to leave Derry. Before he goes, he takes Audra, who is still catatonic, for a ride on Silver, hoping that they can beat her catatonia the same way he and Richie beat It in 1958. They succeed, now the get high and find out penny wise is fake.
“It” apparently originated in a void containing and surrounding the universe, a place referred to in the novel as the “Macroverse” (a concept similar to the later established Todash Darkness of The Dark Tower series). It’s most commonly used name is Bob Gray or Pennywise (at several points in the novel, It claims its true name to be Robert Gray) and is christened “It” by the group of children who later confront It. Likewise, It’s true form is never truly comprehended. It’s favorite form is that of a clown (with fangs and large claws when it stalks a child) known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and Its final form in the physical realm is that of an enormous female spider, although It is possibly male (or more likely has no gender), the Losers Club considers it female. It’s spider form is closest the human mind can get to approximating It’s actual physical form. It’s natural form exists in a realm beyond the physical, which It calls the “deadlights.” As such, the deadlights are never seen and It’s true form outside the physical realm is never revealed, only described as writhing, destructive orange lights. Coming face to face with the deadlights drives any living being instantly insane (a common H. P. Lovecraft device). Bill comes dangerously close to seeing the deadlights, but successfully defeats It before this happens, though during their first confrontation with It, Ben believes that he nearly sees It’s true form, and nearly panics as a result. The only known person to face the deadlights and survive is Bill’s wife, Audra Phillips, whose encounter with the deadlights nevertheless renders her temporarily catatonic.
It’s natural enemy is “The Turtle,” another ancient Macroverse dweller resembling a God-like deity, who, eons ago, created our universe, and possibly others. The Turtle shows up again in King’s series The Dark Tower. The book suggests that It, along with the Turtle, are themselves creations of a separate, omnipotent creator referred to as “the Other”. The Turtle and It are eternal enemies (creation vs. consumption). It arrived in our world in a massive, cataclysmic event similar to an asteroid impact, in the place that would, in time, become Derry, Maine, where It waited for humanity to appear.
It’s power is apparently quite vast; during the second Ritual of Chüd, It offers the Losers money, power, and supernatural lifespans if they spare It. Of course, It could merely have been bluffing in order to save itself. Nonetheless, It is able to manifest in multiple places at once (at one point, It possesses Alvin Marsh, Beverly’s father, and Henry Bowers at the same time) and choose to make itself and anything related to itself visible to some while invisible to others. When It confronts Richie Tozier in 1985, It threatens to give him prostate cancer, a brain tumor, and turn his tongue into pus, and Richie is convinced that It could actually perform such feats.
Through the novel, some events are described through It’s point of view, through which It describes Itself as the “superior” being, with the Turtle as someone “close to his superiority” and humans as mere “toys.” It describes that It prefers to kill and devour children, not by nature, but rather because the fears of children are easier to interpret in a physical form and thus children are easier to fill with terror, which It says is akin to “salt(ing) the meat”. It is continuously surprised by the children’s victories and near the end, and It begins to wonder if It perhaps is not as superior as It had once thought. However, It never believes that the individual children are strong enough to defeat It; though It suspects the presence of “the Other” working through them as a group, It dismisses the possibility — an error which proves fatal.as he prepares to return home.
Different forms of IT
- Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Its primary disguise. Mainly used when hunting children. Carries balloons often.)
- George Denborough, when Bill examines his brother’s photo album
- Dorsey Corcoran’s re-animated corpse and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, when pursuing Eddie Corcoran
- The voice of Betty Ripsom, one of It’s victims, overheard by Betty’s parents through a drain to taunt them
- A giant bird, inspired both by a crow that attacked Mike Hanlon as a baby and also Rodan, a giant pteranodon featured in a Japanese horror movie from 1957, when pursuing Mike Hanlon (oddly, it also appears as a giant bird to Will Hanlon, Mike’s father, thus making him one of the few adults who can see It)
- The Werewolf, when It encounters Richie & Bill (wearing a Derry High School blazer inspired by the 1957 horror film, I Was a Teenage Werewolf)
- The Leper, when Eddie first encounters It under the porch of the house on Neibolt Street
- A mummy. Ben Hanscom recalls seeing a mummy walking along the frozen canal towards him. It carries balloons that float against the wind.
- The Eye, when encountering the Losers under the city
- Alvin Marsh, Beverly’s abusive father, as she is terrified of him
- A swarm of leeches, when attacking Patrick Hockstetter
- A swarm of piranhas, when Eddie is frightened of crossing the stream
- The shark from Jaws, seen by a boy named Tommy Vicananza in the Derry canal in 1985
- Dracula, seen by Ben in the Derry library in 1985. It does not look like any of the traditional variations of Dracula, but rather looks Kurt Barlow from King’s own Salem’s Lot: very old and with razor blades for teeth. He asks Ben: “What did Stan see before he committed suicide?” The vampire then chops down his mouth and causes his lips to split open and bleed on the floor.
- A statue of Paul Bunyan attacking Richie Tozier in 1958. In 1985, Richie sees that this statue is replaced by a giant Pennywise.
- Tony Tracker, manager of a trucking depot in Derry during the Losers’ childhood. Eddie Kaspbrak sees It in this form when he visits an old baseball diamond near the depot in 1985.
- Frankenstein’s Monster; It is perceived in this form by Henry’s cronies, Victor Criss and Belch Huggins.
- A Doberman pinscher. When It appears to Henry Bowers in 1985 at Juniper Hills Mental Institution, It turns into an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) dog of this breed because it is the only animal that the guard on duty fears.
- The moon, while giving It’s orders to its servant, Henry Bowers
- Victor Criss, while convincing Henry Bowers to help It
- The witch from “Hansel and Gretel.” Beverly Marsh visits her old home to find a woman named Mrs. Kersh living there. Mrs. Kersh then transforms into the witch, showing that she is actually It.
- Decomposing corpses of children perceived by Stan Uris, as he enters the Standpipe and remembers the tale of the kids who drowned in the water pipe
- Reginald “Belch” Huggins - It takes this form when It gives Henry Bowers a ride to the Derry Town House (to murder the remaining Loser’s Club members) in 1985. It picks Henry up in a 1958 Plymouth Fury, a direct reference to King’s novel Christine.
- The Deadlights, when Henry Bowers and the Losers encounter It. This is It’s true form in the Macroverse. People will see this form of It, if they look too long in the Spider’s eyes
- The Giant Spider, which is It’s physical true form on Earth
It on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_%28novel%29