The Stand

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The Stand
First edition cover
Written by: Stephen King
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Post-apocalyptic fantasy
First published: October 3, 1978
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Graffiti written on the front of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta in red spray paint:
"Dear Jesus. I will see you soon. Your friend, America. PS. I hope you will still have some vacancies by the end of the week."

One of Stephen King's most well regarded (and thickest) books, The Stand is a classic work of modern apocalyptic fiction. It is the book which introduces (and primarily describes, on Earth at least) King's most famous villain and "antichrist" figure, Randall Flagg.

King set out to write "An American The Lord of the Rings", although he later demurred as to whether he was successful. Still, it is often rated his most popular book, and, along with IT, one of the most important works of King's early period.

The story concerns the travels and travails of well over a dozen characters following intersecting story arcs across the United States during and after an apocalyptic Super-Flu (nicknamed Captain Trips) kills 99.4 percent of humanity. The survivors are drawn into two camps on either side of the Rocky Mountains: One headed by the 108-year old, Moses-like Mother Abagail, is based in Boulder, CO; the other based in Las Vegas is headed by the demonic Flagg.

First published in 1978, the novel was reissued in 1990 in a "complete and uncut edition" containing about 400 additional pages of material from King's original manuscript.

A eight hour made-for-TV miniseries based on the novel aired for four nights on ABC in 1994. As of late 2011, a theatrical adaptation is being attempted for the second time-the first attempt was made during the 1980s and failed because of the difficulty adapting such a long novel for a big screen release, and the novel's dependence on narration to tell the story.

Not to be confused with the manifestations of one's inner powers in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

Tropes used in The Stand include:
  • Abandoned Hospital: The Stovington hospital.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The Marvel Comics adaptation. Helps that it features a lot of the darker stuff that was cut from the network TV mini-series adaptation due to content issues, as well as exploring the psyches of several characters like Harold Lauder, who were given the short shift in the TV mini-series.
  • After the End: The world of The Stand goes through an apocalypse and then focuses on the struggles of the survivors against the Dark Man of the west.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: In-universe, this is Stu's response to Harold E Lauder's death in both the book and miniseries.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, verging on Class 2.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The whole sub-plot with Cmdr. Starkey. Also, Fran's diary.
  • Arcadia: New England, Boulder.
  • Arc Words: "My life for you!" "M.O.O.N. That spells _____."
    • Crowning Moment of Funny, which is rare for King: Eventually, "M.O.O.N. and that spells moon."
    • A minor one, but: No great loss.
  • Audience Surrogate: Frannie, Stu, Nick, and Larry, for the most part.
  • Babies Ever After: Played with. The first baby to be born after the plague is only partially immune, due to having only one immune parent, and quickly dies. The first main character's baby is likewise partially immune, but survives.
  • Balls of Fire: Flagg releases an Energy Ball in the final book.
  • Because Destiny Says So
  • Beneath the Earth: The Lincoln Tunnel. Also, the Eisenhower Tunnel between Boulder and Flagg's realm.
  • Big Damn Villains: When Flagg saves Trashy from The Kid. Granted, it was just to advance Flagg's plans, but it was pretty sweet when Trashy walked away from the car with his new wolf friends, giving The Kid the finger and screaming many of the things The Kid said to him. Of course, he was sexually assaulted with a handgun before he got there.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Arguably downgraded to Downer Ending with the addition of the coda in the expanded edition.
    • Debatably still Bittersweet Ending; Russell Faraday is in an alternate Earth, which implies that the Earth he was in is more or less "spared" from HIS further torment. King has always used Flagg as an immortal harbinger of evil, so this is more of a Here We Go Again. He's on another level of The Dark Tower.
  • Black and White Morality: Look at that cover illustration.
  • Boom! Headshot!: Flagg sends two Mooks to capture the Judge and bring back his head with the face undamaged. When one gets trigger-happy, he accidentally catches the Judge in the head, leading to the You Have Failed Me... moment.
  • Bring Her To Me: Dayna Jurgens
  • Bring News Back: Doubles as The Untwist.
  • But Thou Must!: Frannie doesn't buy it.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live
  • Cameo: Several in the miniseries, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as the "monster shouter"), Joe Bob Briggs, Sam Raimi, and John Landis.
  • Canon Immigrant / Ensemble Darkhorse: Flagg became a recurring villain. In Eyes of the Dragon he's an Evil Chancellor and hinted to have been an executioner from the kingdom's dark past. In The Dark Tower, he was revealed to be Roland's primary nemesis. We learn he can reincarnate.
  • Canon Welding: The Stand became part of The Dark Tower continuity (as did most of King's work).
  • Captain Ersatz: The symbol of Flagg is a red Eye, which he uses to mentally scan the countryside. He's also a shapeshifter. Hmmmmm...
  • Catch Phrase - Somewhat, more in the miniseries than the book. Larry's hit song "Baby Can You Dig Your Man" is often sung by characters (ex. Trash and Glen in the movie, Joe and others in the book).
    • You come see me, ___. You and all your friends.
  • Chandler's Law: According to King, Harold's bomb was caused by him having writer's block, and feeling the heroes were getting complacent in Boulder.
  • Character Development: Larry starts off as a selfish, arrogant Jerkass, but gradually grows enough to become the de facto leader of the heroes after Stu gets injured en route to Las Vegas.
  • Chaste Character: Nadine, for unfortunate reasons.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The nuclear weapons out in the desert.
  • City of Gold: Cibola! Seven-in-One! Las Vegas appears this way to Trash in a mirage.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Since they are trying to rebuild society from scratch there is a lot of this going on.
    • Stu Redman is forced to perform an appendectomy. Later on, the Free Zone is forced to rely on a veterinarian until a doctor arrives.
  • Composite Character: Nadine + Rita (miniseries).
    • The miniseries also gave some of Nadine's sub-plots to Lucy.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Doesn't start out that way, but becomes one by novel's end.
  • Covers Always Lie: The scene on the cover doesn't happen in the novel.
  • Creator Provincialism: Subverted, since the action ranges across the country, not just in Maine.
    • On the other hand, King was living in Boulder at the time, and half the story is set on various carefully identified locales in that small town.
    • King has said he regretted not mentioning what happens to the rest of the world... beyond speculation that there may be rival Flaggs popping up all over the globe in an apparent violation of the villain playbook.
    • The book does make clear that the people running Project Blue deliberately spread it around the world once it's clear that there's no hope of saving America from annihilation.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Dark Man, Randall Flagg.
  • Dead Ex Machina: The spirit of Nick Andros leads Tom Cullen to save Stu's life.
  • Deadly Game: During the outbreak, a "junta" of defected black soldiers hold a large number of regulars hostage in a game show studio, drawing their names at random from a drum and killing them one by one on camera.
  • Dear Diary: Guess who reads Fran's Secret Diary?
  • Death by Irony: Harold spends at least two chapters writing and recording a Take That speech to be played by his bomb before it explodes. Nick, the only deaf character, is the only person in the house when it detonates.
  • Depopulation Bomb
  • Deus Ex Machina
  • Did Not Do the Research: The book mentions flyers being posted at the University of Kentucky Louisville Campus. No such campus has ever existed (though there is, incidentally, a University of Louisville...).
    • Chocolate still doesn't give you pimples. The chocolate Payday bars are often assumed to be this, but there *were* chocolate Paydays released several times (known as Payday Avalanche).
    • A particularly large medical DNDTR appears in the movie, in which researchers at the isolation center in Vermont watch as a character suddenly wakes up, rips the IVs out of his arm, rips out his endotracheal tube, and suffocates to death. Not only would a patient who'd been intubated be restrained at the wrists, sedated heavily, and possibly kept chemically paralyzed, but according to descriptions of the disease itself any victim in need of a ventilator would be already be too weak to move.
  • Disaster Democracy: Instituted (albeit in a modified form) in Boulder.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Trash blows up the airfield.
  • Doomed Expedition: Most of the trips west to Las Vegas. The surviving protagonists discover they must walk there with no food or packs. When they protest and suggest stocking up on canned food and a snowmobile, Glen Bateman says "That was the old world, and the old way was a death trip."
  • Doorstopper: Many editions, especially foreign language ones, go so far as to split it up into multiple books (incidentally, this actually becomes a plot point in 20th Century Boys, which is basically the Japanese version of The Stand).
  • Drama Bomb: Literal in this case.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come
  • Driven to Suicide: Rita, whom Larry survived the Lincoln Tunnel with, commits suicide in his sleeping bag. Also Starkey and several others who were involved in Project Blue.
  • Due to the Dead: Frannie Goldsmith burying her father in his garden, told in painful and realistic detail.
    • The leaders in Boulder say that this is why they created the Burial Committee which buries the victims of the Superflu. Actually, they did it for health reasons, they just don't tell it to the people because they don't want to cause panic.
  • Dying Town: Arnette, Texas, where the novel opens, is one of these even before the Captain Trips outbreak. Of course, every city and town becomes one of these as the virus spreads.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: As Flagg finds out to his everlasting annoyance.
  • Emergency Presidential Address
  • Empathy Doll Shot: In the opening credits of the miniseries.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Lampshaded. The characters speculate on what will happen to all those corpses, how life will never be the same, etc.
    • In the Made for TV Movie, Larry Underwood actually plays guitar and sings Barry Mcguire's "Eve of Destruction", a song about the End Of The World, on the outskirts of Des Moines. Which was on fire.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • The Epic: National/"Biblical" variety.
  • Escape From the Crazy Place / Survival Horror: Stovington Hospital.
  • Escort Mission: Larry and Rita leaving New York.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
  • Evil Will Fail: Randall Flagg's half of civilization begins to deteriorate when the presence of so many volatile personalities mix in one society, fear stops being as effective for control, and every minor failure makes the Big Bad himself go into fits of rage and lose his focus, causing errors in judgement.
  • Exact Words / The Untwist: Mother Abagail's final prophecy.
  • Eye Scream: Ray Booth grinds his thumbs into Nick's eyes while fighting him in the Shoyo jail. Nick subsequently loses sight in one eye and spends much of the rest of the book wearing a patch over it.
  • Failsafe Failure
  • Field Promotion: Several characters get one, most notably Nick.
  • Filk Song: "Among The Living" by the band Anthrax is a rock anthem about "The Walkin' Dude".
  • For the Evulz
  • Gender Flip: Fran's child, Peter, is Abagail in the miniseries.
    • Also the one-scene character of Ray Flowers becomes Raye Flowers.
  • Ghibli Hills: America after the plague.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong
  • Good Hurts Evil: Characters drawn to Flagg are afraid of Mother Abagail in her dreams.
  • Government Conspiracy: The creation of the virus, and the attempt to suppress news of its outbreak, culminating in Stu's abandonment and near-death, is dwelt on. Various military misadventures occur offscreen; see Paranoia Fuel.
  • Green Aesop: Nearly everyone on the planet dies. The planet got better, however.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Boulder Free Zone. Has nothing to do with falling rocks.
  • High Fantasy
  • Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: Randall Flagg tells the date as "this thirtieth day of September, the year nineteen hundred and ninety, now known as The Year One, year of the plague."
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Several times, most notably Bobby Terry.
  • Ill Guy: ...everyone, really; but especially Fran's dad in the miniseries.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: A truly epic one; "You might say he never flagged in his devotion."
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Played totally, totally straight. If a character coughs or sneezes, chances are they're a goner.
    • So straight that when Stu fakes a coughing fit to spite his caregiver-captors in Stovington, it sends them into a complete panic until he reveals the joke.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted, since the flu doesn't spare the children.
  • The Infiltration: The Boulder leadership sends Judge Farris, Dayna Jurgens and Tom Cullen to Las Vegas to join (and spy on) Flagg's operation.
  • It Got Worse: First a plague wipes out most of humanity. Then a demonic drifter tries to conquer what's left. Finally, the ending reveals that he survived a freaking nuclear weapon, and is scheming anew. Then again, after 99.7% of humanity has been destroyed, the entire Randall Flagg situation seems rather tame in comparison. Also, Flagg's empire seems well on its way of falling apart on its own without any action by the hero characters in typical Stephen King style.
  • I Want Them Alive: "Flagg wants them taken alive."
  • Kick the Dog: Flagg runs into an innocent fawn. "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub!"
  • Kill'Em All: 99.4% pure example of this trope.
    • Even among the main characters, the death rate is pretty high.
  • Kirk Summation: Whitney Horgan's speech is cut short.
  • Large Ham: A few in the miniseries, notably Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man and Laura San Giacomo as Nadine.
  • The Last DJ: Ray Flowers. Literally.
  • Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition: The 1100 page "complete and uncut" edition.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Ten or twenty main characters following separate arcs in disparate locales. See here.
  • Look Behind You!: Stu Redman tells the "doctor" who's been sent to terminate him at the Stovington hospital that there's a huge rat behind him, then hits him over the head with a chair.
  • Lost in Translation: The Italian title of the book is "L'Ombra dello Scorpione" ("The Shadow of the Scorpion"). There are NO SCORPIONS in the book (of any relevance to the plot, anyway), either literal or metaphorical. None at all. Anywhere. Seriously, WTF?!?
    • Its mentioned by Flagg and other characters that he (Flagg) can possess scorpions.
  • Lovecraft Country: uncharacteristically averted. New England ends up being the Arcadia that the two surviving heroes return to. Just avoid the hospitals in New England, as always.
  • Magical Negro
  • Magical Realism: It's a story about the conflict between humanity and itself. And Old Scratch.
  • Mauve Shirt: Many characters.
  • May-December Romance: Larry and Rita.
  • Monochrome Casting: In both the book and the mini series, the only two non-Caucasian characters are Abagail and the Judge. Other than that, every single character stated to be black (book version) is either dead or joined up with Flagg. In many cases in the novel, the character's race is not mentioned.
    • Leo is Chinese. We know this because Stephen King feels the need to describe his "queer, dark Chinese eyes" every time he looks at Larry.
  • Mordor: Las Vegas. Truth in Television no less!
  • The Mountains of Illinois: In the TV Miniseries adaptation, Trash Can Man's arson incidents in Gary, Indiana and Des Moines, Iowa, are both shown with rugged mountains in the background, because they were filmed in New Mexico.
  • New Eden: Discussed by Glen Bateman, who suggests Ludd Was Right.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Originally set in 1980, updated to 1990 in the expanded version. The inspiration for Flagg was Donald DeFreeze, the Patty Hearst kidnapper (another inspiration was then-current cult leader Jim Jones).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Barry Dorgan insults Trash at the airfield, causing him to revert to his old ways.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Captain Trips.
    • Possibly a justified name- it's military in origin, and causes hallucinations and delusions. Though, clearly, it has more to do with Jerry Garcia.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: See Passing the Torch below.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: Abagail remembers appearing on a talent show back in 1902. Before her, a woman performed a "racy French dance", showing her ankles.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Extensively talked about by the characters themselves. One of the original "Evil US Government quarantines innocent civilians at gunpoint and leaves them to die" plots, it seemed uncharacteristically cynical (even for King) until, say 2005 (as if!) Not to mention Capt. Trips itself.
  • Passing the Torch: to Larry. In their final journey, Abagail prophesies that "one will fall by the wayside". Stu breaks a leg and convinces the others to go on without him Because Destiny Says So. They never see him again. This is because all the others die, in the end, he is fated to Bring News Back.
  • Pinball Protagonist: For all the emphasis put on Stu, Glen, Larry, and Ralph journeying to Vegas to confront Flagg, they don't accomplish much of anything tangible. Of course, this depends on various interpretations of the ending:
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: The Rat-Man
  • The Plague: Captain Trips, in its early stages, is indistinguishable from a common cold or a flu except by a doctor who knows what to look for.
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Tom does this to Flagg, who does it to Mother Abagail.
  • The Power of Rock: In the series at least, Larry takes his guitar (and nothing else) to Las Vegas. A loaded six-string may not help with the forces of darkness...

Rat-Man: (smashes guitar) Disco is dead!!

  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The ABC TV mini-series. In order to get the mini-series greenlighted, King had to cull the darker aspects of the novel for network TV, which in turn led to some decent revisions of the story: removing the "female zoo" sequence and expanding upon Nadine and Larry's relationship as far as the two hooking up in the city rather than once Larry's former companion died. Also, while some of the casting decisions (Frannie, Harold and Randall Flagg in particular) were widely reviled, the makers of the series did shockingly well when casting the rest of the cast: Miguel Ferrer as Lloyd Henried, Matt Frewer as Trashcan Man, pre-Hollywood A-List Gary Sinise as Stu Redman, Rob Lowe as Nick Andros and Bill Faggerbakke as Tom Cullen.
    • I wouldn't say Nadine and Larry's relationship was expanded; they meet earlier in the movie, but they were still given more development in the book.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: In the mini series when the Judge is shot. You can see the bullet holes, but it's nothing like the book description where there was nothing left of his face. Considering the whole reason Flagg was angry at his men was that he wanted the face to be recognizable, this made the scene make a lot less sense.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Of course.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Barry Dorgan's men.
  • Ravens and Crows: Uh oh. There's a corvid perched on a fencepost portending ill omens!
  • Refusal of the Call: Several characters refuse to acknowledge the dreams.
  • Scenery Gorn
  • Send in the Search Team: Ignoring the dreams, Harold insists that help will be found at the Stovington Hospital where Stu was imprisoned and left to die.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A chapter is devoted to vignettes of plague survivors who succumbed to gruesome accidents because they were reckless and/or lacked the interpersonal support they could have expected from normal pre-plague society. One plague survivor is literally Stuffed Into the Fridge and dies of suffocation.
  • Shout-Out: "Captain Trips" was originally a nickname of Jerry Garcia. King had first used it much earlier, for another Superflu, in his Night Shift story "Night Surf".
  • Squick: In-universe: The dead body Larry finds in the lavatory with a swollen neck the size of a tire. Larry says it had this effect on him despite everything else he'd seen.
  • The Stinger: Added to the Uncut edition, to strengthen the tie with The Dark Tower: Randall Flagg wakes up after the nuclear blast in another universe, and begins to take over a society once again. Ka is referenced.
  • Take That: Several towards Ronald Reagan (in the 1990 edition). For instance, paraphrased: "[1] is over seventy." "Ronald Reagan was serving at older than that." "That's not exactly a great recommendation..."
  • Taking You with Me: Once America's leadership realizes they're doomed, they deliberately infect other countries (and more importantly, continents) with Captain Trips.
  • Talking in Your Dreams
  • Technology Is Evil: Played straight. This book was written in the '70s and "back to the land" themes are prominent.
    • Not to mention Captain Trips is a scientifically engineered Holocaust.
    • Flagg is described as "the last magician of rational thought." Also, Glen speculates that Flagg is drawing all the "rationalist, engineer types" who want to quickly get the old society back up and running, military and all, while Mother Abagail attracts those seeking a Hidden Elf Village or Utopia and struggles to turn on the lights. It's not suggested that Straw Atheists are attracted to Flagg, however; merely people looking for quick solutions.
    • Interestingly, the book inverts the typical "Magic Versus Science" trope: supernatural forces merely take advantage of the sudden, artificially engineered holocaust to initiate the Apocalypse more or less.
  • Tempting Fate: "Piece of cake!". In the miniseries, he says it three times while climbing the washout.
  • Throwaway Country: A divine wind ensures that Los Angeles gets the short end of a nuclear fallout incident entirely offscreen, thereby sparing the good guys. Don't even ask what happened to other countries.
  • Title Drop: Abagail, during her Final Speech. "And with God's help, you will Stand..."
  • Too Dumb to Live: During the chapter where King describes all the people killed in the aftermath of the outbreak, a heroin addict injects some of the drug into his system. The highest purity he ever hit was 12%, and that put him into a comatose sleep. The stash he comes across is a fresh delivery to a dealer, and he doesn't consider that the dealer hadn't had a chance to "cut" the purity before succumbing to the super-flu, so he unwittingly injects himself with 96% pure heroin. No great loss.
  • Totally Radical: Teenage characters unironically calling cops 'pigs', which even in 1980 was a rather dated insult and had become all the more so when the setting had been updated to 1990.
  • Trains Run On Time: Las Vegas gets the utilities running in their city much more quickly than Boulder, and discipline is harshly enforced, with crucifixion being a common punishment for crimes as petty as recreational drug use.
  • True Companions: Stu, Larry, Glen and Ralph. There's also:
    • Stu, Frannie, Harold, and Glen.
    • Larry, Nadine, Joe, and Lucy, along with Rita.
    • Nick, Tom, Ralph, and Mother Abagail.
  • Typhoid Mary: Campion; the second he and his family made it off the base and encountered other people, it was already entirely too late to contain Trips.
  • The Unfavourite: Frannie seems to have been this to her mother.
    • Harold was also one of these, apparently.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: In the miniseries version of The Stand, Mother Abagail helpfully informs the heroes: "The Beast is loose in the fields of Bethlehem. The rats are in the corn!" She also says:
  • Walk Into Mordor: The third act of the book centers on one. See above.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: Stu and Fran's reason for leaving Boulder.
  • Wham! Line: "After all, why else could he suddenly do magic?"
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: The escape of Campion, the security guard at the research facility who spreads Captain Trips beyond hope of containment, is explained thusly:

"He drove through the main gate just four minutes before the sirens started going off and we sealed off the whole base. And no one started looking for him until nearly an hour later because there are no monitors in the security posts--somewhere along the line you have to stop guarding the guardians or everyone in the world would be a goddamn turnkey...."

  1. who's under consideration for a member of the committee