My oldest daughter wanted to read more in the genre of horror. Stephen King is known as the ‘King of Horror,’ so she wanted one of his books. She first picked It, which I quickly suggested, “Maybe when your older,” knowing of the infamous orgy between a 13-year-old girl and six other boys. She eventually decided on The Long Walk as it seemed one of his few PG-13 -ish books. I have read Stephen King’s books in the past and never liked them. Since King wrote this under his pen name, I thought it might be different. This book did not change my mind; I still don’t enjoy King.
The Long Walk is about a walking competition between 100 teenage boys. Without getting into the specific game rules – the point is – slowing down or stopping gets one killed, and the contest ends when one is left walking, winning anything he wants. The narrator of the book is one of the boys, and thus I knew within the first few pages, he would make it to the final few. I suspect a dystopian society, but no details about the society except a popular competition where spectators watch kids get shot for not walking fast enough. There is never sufficient explanation of why 100 boys would sign-up, knowing 99 of them would die. I enjoy stories more when I understand the complex decisions of the characters, which this book lacked. The book consists of three types of scenes cycled throughout:
- grueling details of walking without stopping for days (mental and physical)
- good conversations, but also crude, disgusting, and sexual conversations between teenage males – none of which added to the story
- explicit details on how most of them die
The characters had, presumably, good things in their lives such as a pregnant wife, a girlfriend, work, etc. . However, none of these things seemed to measure up to the concept of – “whatever I want is mine”. This concept was worth dying over, or at least they thought this when they joined, but it didn’t last long. As the walk got longer, the characters started to bond, they began to miss their families, and the trauma of witnessing so many deaths started to affect them mentally. When the story gets down to the last few characters, they realized that “whatever I want is mine” would not equal happiness. Everything seems to be ‘Vanity of vanities.’
I thought a lot about the biblical book of Ecclesiastes while reading The Long Walk. This biblical book is a sort of philosophical text. The major themes are man must endlessly work with little gain, man will leave the world with nothing, and fruits of labor are not kept but passed on to others. Also, men must deal with oppression flourishing, sin corrupting the righteous, and the search for wisdom is frustrating (as God’s ways are mysterious). Despite having everything the world has to offer, man will be left unfulfilled as wealth can bring no satisfaction. Everything is vanity because death is everyone’s ultimate destiny. It does not matter if one is wise or foolish, righteous or wicked, rich or poor, man or beast – all will die.
I’m left with the concept to accept whatever God gives materially and want nothing more (as more is not more fulfilling)-
Ec 5:18-19 Behold, what I have seen to be good and to be fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life which God has given him, for this is his lot. Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil – this is the gift of God.
At the end of The Long Walk, the last few teens standing did not focus their thoughts on the prize. They were thinking about their families they left behind, the boys killed in the competition, and each other as they struggled with the last few steps. It was solely on the relationships with each other and the people they left behind. Ecclesiastes focuses a lot on the world’s material aspects and not necessarily on relationships, where these boys’ minds were at the end of their lives. They thought about relationships with those that they loved.
Our first relationship must be with God because God is love. To love others, we must remain in God.
1 Jn 16-19 God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us . . . We love because he first loved us.