Existentialism, “The Stand”, and Reading

All throughout our discussions of existentialism I’ve also been reading The Stand by Stephen King. The premise for this particular novel is quite indicative of our world’s absurdity: a malfunction at a government research facility caused a deadly virus to be released, and resulted in most of the US population being wiped out. The real story, though, is in the groups of people who come together after the dust settles.

King’s skill in creating worlds and creating characters is unmatched. I feel as though just by reading three quarters of this book I’ve lived the lives of hundreds of people. In this reading, I have found that being detached, and accepting the absurdity of the world that King has created, has made the reading experience very powerful and fun. More fun, certainly, than if I had tried to justify or derive meaning from the absurdity of the world. Allowing myself to just exist in the world, was much more enlightening and gratifying.

A further connection to The Stranger I’ve found in The Stand is the utter prominence of physical and sexual desires. This becomes a more pervasive motif during Part 2 of The Stranger, but in King’s novel it is fairly constant. This focus on sex as an aspect of human nature, rather than love, I feel, is another part of existentialism that Camus touches on, but could be explored further. I would be interested to know whether King’s use of sexual and physical desires, rather than love stories, had any connection to his beliefs about existentialism.

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