Event/Eternal Recurrence of Evil in Stephen King's 11/22/63

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


In King’s suspense fiction, evil is "peopled” by stereotypes such as the abusive father, most notably in The Shining (1977) and It (1986), or the fervent ideologue like the religious-fanatic-mother in Carrie (1974). In 11/22/63, the same archetypes recur as America’s ineradicable everyday evils—to what extent, however, is evil so readily thinkable? This chapter shows how unexpected events with genuine historical impacts are willy-nilly deferred, suspended, in stories resorting to one template of horror, its effectiveness hinged upon its prescriptive (hence diminutive) representations of evil, all with predictable impacts on readers.

Evil cannot be reduced to a pattern (temporal or otherwise) wherein it is the primordial cause of events as momentous as that of the JFK assassination. The first part of the essay considers how far individual characters can influence history, in light of King’s caution against egotistical interferences; the second part examines the individual’s predictable powerlessness when confronted by evil circumstances; the final part underscores the forward momentum that King’s time-travel narrative owes the binary of good and evil, and in doing so it exposes the absence of radical or unexpected events therein. The implicit narrative insistence of 11/22/63, then, is that history is necessarily circumscribed by nationalistic essentialisms (e.g. JFK’s model of patriarchy) or some such diminutive forms of evil, which, in turn, deny the possibility that subversive actions can trigger radical historical contingencies.

Keywords: John F. Kennedy; 1960s; representations of evil; event; alternate history; contingencies
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEveryday Evil in Stephen King's America
EditorsJason Polley, Stephanie Hamilton
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book


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