Banned Book, “Rage” By Stephen King And Thoughts On Banned Art
*”Rage” Spoiler Alert*
It’s no secret that Stephen King has written many books throughout his decades-long career, but in 1976 he decided to write something that was a new concept for the seasoned author of Gore novels. Most of King’s books center around the supernatural somehow contributing to nightmarish circumstances for his characters whom all seem to live in the New England area. Since the idea of something more realistic with more detrimental and terrifying consequences for the characters was new, he decided to write this new novel under the pen name of Richard Bachman, titled “Rage”.
“Rage” is a story of a high school student named Charlie Decker who exhibits violent behavior at home and at school.
It would seem as though Charlie is lashing out at his dad, who was mentally and physically abusive to his son and also to his wife, and the mother of Charlie. Throughout the novel, Charlie has repeated flashbacks to his childhood. Two memories in particular of which revolve around his father being violent. On a camping trip with his father, Charlie sees his father gutting a deer, when his father makes a comment about his wife also being gutted much like the deer if she ever cheated on him. He also makes a comment that he would brutalize her face in order to assert power over his wife. The other memory was a particularly harmful memory for Charlie where his father beat him and then lied about the level of brutality in the assault when he was asked about it.
These memories are often revisited throughout the book and play an important part in the development of Charlie’s mental illness. In a fit of rage, Charlie assaults a teacher to the point where he has to have his skull reconstructed. The teacher survives, but the school decides to send Charlie to a mental hospital, and will of course be banned from school.
Upon returning home, Charlie and his father get into a fight after Charlie accuses his dad of being the root of his problems. Charlie picks up a hatchet to defend himself against his father who was holding a metal rake. Charlie ends up in the ER, and they lie to his mother about the cause for his injuries. Before this can take place, Charlie decides to seek revenge. Charlie brings his father’s pistol to school, where he proceeds to shoot another teacher.
It seems as though Charlie was using the teacher’s death as an intimidation tactic. After the teacher is killed in front of classmates, Charlie uses his power for what seems to be momentary games and flights of a whimsy adolescent. He then makes two girls in the class, wearing crosses, make out and beat each other up. He gets one of the girls in the class to talk about her sex life, which is very table when you take into account that this book was written in the early seventies.
Charlie seems to become enraged when he hears that one of his classmates, Ted, has been physically intimate with a girl he has a crush on. He taunts and abuses Ted, threatening him, throwing things at him and making loud noises.
The strangest part of all of this is that the other kids seem to become upset with Ted as well, bringing up his flaws. The students are enraged and begin throwing things at him, beating him and stepping on him. They apologize to the shooter, Charlie, who is now holding them hostage for everything that they have done to him.
Charlie feels as if he isn’t appealing to the opposite sex. Charlie without a doubt seems to hold a grudge towards the woman who won’t sleep with him and beats himself up constantly over the time that he went to a party with a girl, and nothing happened.
There are lots of books published about school shootings and student-on-student violence, one wonders why this book, in particular, was banned from being sold. I can attest to the fact that you can’t buy this book. I actually had attempted to buy a book that was advertised as having “Rage” and 3 other “banned” novels. I, however, was able to Google the audiobook and found someone reading it on YouTube. So why was this book, in particular, taken out of print?
There were 3 school shootings attributed to “Rage”, one in 1988, one in 1989, and one and 1993, this isn’t the first time that entertainers have been blamed for acts of violence.
Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Quentin Tarantino were blamed for the mass shooting of Columbine as were the German metal group, Rammstein. All of these things that teenagers like to do, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters of Columbine, also enjoyed partaking in. However, all of these entertainers still enjoy a level of popularity, and their works are still in circulation.
Charles Manson was a fan of the Beatles, one of the most popular music groups in history. While I ‘m not a psychiatrist and I have no background in product marketing, I will state my theory in why this book is no longer in circulation. Being that this book ends on a very positive note, which would seem very unthreatening to a reader who may be mentally and emotionally vulnerable. Unlike the very depressing endings of similar real-life situations which include a perpetrator losing their freedom or even their life.
With most of the hostages go free in “Rage”, a lot of them to say bye to him and smile, seeming emotionally unaffected as they leave. They don’t even seem to mind that they have to walk over corpses or that there is still a student who has been beaten in the room with him. Charlie goes to trial he is found mentally incapable of understanding his actions due to the abuse visited upon him by his father was an alcoholic and by his mother who, due to her son’s actions, becomes addicted to prescription drugs. The book ends with Charlie in the hospital, reading a letter from his High School best friend, who seems upbeat and wants to come visit him.
I subscribe to the theory that a lot of violent offenders are violent because they are mentally ill or they have been abused. However, this book is unrealistic in its portrayal of victim behavior. I think that might be the cause of this book being banned because it paints Charlie as a hero. Charlie is a murderer, but despite that, he seems to be well-liked and has very little trouble getting any of the students to go along with his plans.
This could potentially serve to paint an unrealistic and idealized picture of what that situation might be like.
I enjoy the book on the times that it shows both sides of the situation and would show how someone might react to being bullied or to being mentally ill. I like the fact that it humanizes the gunman, however, I think it was taking a little bit too far.
Interesting article. I just wanted to clear up a misconception. Rage is actually not a “banned” book. Stephen King himself removed it from publication after four incidents were linked to the book that took place between 1988 and 1997 stating in part, “I pulled it because in my judgement it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do.” He actually wrote the story while he was still in high school in ’65 long before his success and it wasn’t published under his own name until 1985. It was originally published under his pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977.
I’ve provided a link for further reading: https://www.businessinsider.com/school-shootings-drove-stephen-king-to-take-rage-off-shelves-2014-3?utm_source=copy-link&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=topbar&utm_term=desktop