Under the Dome

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Under the Dome is a 2009 novel written by Stephen King.

After a rural Maine town finds itself suddenly enclosed inside a mysterious and almost impenetrable barrier, a power-hungry selectman launches plans to take over the town while others try to avoid his wrath and find out what created the barrier. Looked at as an allegory, it comes off as unsubtle, with hints of Does This Remind You of Anything?, but taken as a straight story, is surprisingly fast-paced and touching given the Loads and Loads of Characters it has to handle.

A cable miniseries adaptation aired on CBS between 2013 and 2015, with King and Steven Spielberg as executive producers.

Tropes used in Under the Dome include:
  • Action Survivor: Almost everyone still alive at the end of the story earns this to some degree, but particularly Ollie Dinsmore. Minutes from being consumed by an advancing wall of fire he improvises a life support system from an old oxygen tank and some potatoes.
  • The Alcoholic: "Sloppy" Sam Verdreaux.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: A giant fire is consuming the entire town and, due to the fact that there is very little oxygen intake into the dome, it becomes very hard to breathe.
  • Anyone Can Die: on the cusp of baring Big Jim's machinations to the town, the dearly-departed police chief's wife is summarily choked to death by Big Jim himself. Andrea Grinnell is gunned down in a town meeting. Most jarring, perhaps, is the gradual erosion of the Dinsmore family due to various and sundry Dome-related maladies: by accidental suicide, quite purposeful suicide, and another quite purposeful suicide; the remaining son survives. Barely..
    • King throws some final punches at the end when he kills young'uns Benny Drake and Aidan Appleton, old man Ernie Calvert and out-of-towner Thurston.
      • To put it in perspective: Chester's Mill had a population around two thousand when the dome dropped. There are 25 survivors all in all.
  • Anticlimax: The build-up of the conflict between Big Jim Rennie and the heroes doesn't lead to a final battle. Instead, Big Jim is brought down by an explosion that destroys the town, so he has nothing to rule over anymore, and eventually dies of a heart attack.
  • Arc Words: "Stop the Great Pumpkin! Stop Halloween!"
    • "We all support the team."
  • Ascended Extra: Carter Thibodeau
  • The Atoner: Sam Verdreaux, the town drunk, was paid by Rennie (in booze) to initiate the riot at Food City. Later on he makes up for it by helping Barbie and Julia make their way through the poisonous air to the alien "box" generating the Dome.
    • Barbie himself has shades of this, as it's revealed in flashbacks that he participated in the brutal beating and killing of a random innocent Iraqi in retailiation for a squadmate's death by IED.
  • Ax Crazy: Junior Rennie
  • Badass Grandpa: Ernie Calvert
  • Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop.
  • Big Bad: Big Jim Rennie.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Inverted. Mel Searles has a huge penis, so when he rapes Sammy, it's more painful for her.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: At the end in the Town Hall's bomb shelter, Carter turns on Big Jim in order to preserve oxygen. Didn't turn out the way he planned.
  • Berserk Button: Reverend Piper Libby has anger issues that she has managed to keep under control for most of her life. This, however, goes down the drain when she finds out that Sammy Bushey has been gang-raped.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Ollie throws rocks at the Dome, one of the soldiers from the other side starts a conversation with him:

Soldier: Why don't y'all quit on the rocks and do somethin about those cows? Herd em into the barn and milk em or rub soothin shit on their udders; somethin like that.
Ollie: We don't need to herd them. They know where to go. Only now they don't need to be milked, and they don't need any Bag Balm, either. Their udders are dry.
Soldier: Yeah?
Ollie: Yeah. My dad says something's wrong with the grass. He says the grass is wrong because the air's wrong. It doesn't smell good in here, you know. It smells like crap.
Soldier: Yeah?
Ollie: Yeah. My mother killed herself this morning.

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In one particularly creepy piece of narration King describes the reader as being present among the town's inhabitants but invisible to them, perceptible as only a light breeze.
  • Break the Cutie - Julia after her newspaper and apartment are destroyed. Later, there's a traumatic incident from her childhood which she's forced to re-live.
    • During the events of the book Ollie loses his brother, then his mother and finally his father. He decids to stay at their farm. Soon after, it's destroyed and Ollie spends the rest of the book being very close to death.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Sam Verdreaux, the town drunk. At the end of the story, Sam comes up with up with the plan to get Barbie and Julie to the dome-generating box, sacrificing his life to do so.
  • Corrupt Politician: Big Jim Rennie.
  • Corrupt Hick: Also Big Jim Rennie.
  • Cosmic Horror: The Dome is a toy for spiritual alien kids, who are playing with us like we play with ants.
  • Covers Always Lie: The hardcover cover art depicts a much smaller Dome than what is described in the novel. Not to mention the fact that the dome is actually invisible (the cover art shows a glassy, reflecting dome) and isn't even round (the cover art shows it to be neatly spherical).
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: Chef dislikes being called by his real name, Phil.
  • Doomed Hometown
  • Doorstopper: The hardcover clocks in at about 1074 pages.
  • The Dragon: Junior, and later Carter Thibodeau.
  • Driven to Suicide: Several people commit suicide after the Dome comes down, including Ollie Dinsmore's parents.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Many of the characters who die, including Andrea Grinnell.
    • Carolyn Sturge. King spent a decent amount of time developing her character, what with her coming to grips with taking care of Aidan and Alice, and even deciding that she'd give them up to their original parents, if they were still alive. On paper, this isn't as bad until you take into account that she only went to the town meeting because Aidan and Alice begged her to take them to it, resulting in them getting a front-row seat for her death. The worst part about it is that it came out of nowhere, as she's murdered for absolutely no good reason. Would double as a Crowning Moment of Sadness if the reaction period wasn't so brief.
  • Due to the Dead: Even though Chef left his wife, Sammy, became a meth addict and went completely insane, he still considered his duty to bury her body.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: While it doesn't rack up the body-count of some of King's apocalyptic stories, the book wipes out the entire town's population, plus all the passengers on a jumbo jet.
  • Evil Cripple: Junior has a brain tumor. Also his father has a heart condition.
  • Evil Versus Evil: For given values of 'evil', but neither side is really good: Big Jim Rennie sends eleven of his cops over to the Holy Redeemer church to take out Chef and Andy Sanders, and take possession of the propane stored there. Chef and Andy, who knew Big Jim would send men after them eventually, were lying in wait, and they kill every last one of the cops, except the one who really deserved it, Melvin Searles, who raped Sammy Bushey, who was Chef's wife back when he was still Phil Bushey and relatively sane. However, Melvin does buy it when Andy and Chef blow the stored propane and pull a Taking You with Me on the entire town.
  • Extreme Doormat: Andy Sanders. While he's the town's first selectmen, technically outranking Big Jim Rennie, he's actually completely under Rennie's control. After reaching his Despair Event Horizon, he meets Chef, and starts blindly following him, even to death.
  • Eye Scream: The death of Rory Dinsmore and also a nasty side effect of Junior Rennie's brain tumor.
  • Family Values Villain: Big Jim Rennie. The guy's practically pure evil and selfishness down to his core, but he still refuses to swear, drink, or take the Lord's name in vain.
    • His so-called "refusal to swear" is more than a little hypocritical, considering all he does is swap swear words with less offensive varieties; such as calling a woman he doesn't like a "rhymes-with-witch." The only difference between what he does and swearing is letter substitution.
  • Fat Bastard: Big Jim Rennie.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Your Mileage May Vary. A) There are like, 10 lines minimum? B) Due to good writing and better editing, the pace manages to be breakneck for over 1000 pages.
  • Fox News Liberal: Julia Shumway is described as a Republican, although she drives a hybrid car, attends the liberal church, and never expresses any sort of conservative opinion. Dale Barbara often says things like, "Are you sure you're a Republican?", usually after she says something implying that she doesn't blindly follow Big Jim's authority, which seems to be the book's main qualification for a Republican. Which would just be a sign of Barbie's own personal biases, except that she never once responds to him with a coherent reason why she is one. It's clear some politics is slipping in on King's part.
    • This has more to do with the distinction between conservative and Republican. Julia Shumway is portrayed as conservative in a number of ways (one humorous example is her thought on what her historical hero's reaction would be to a world where civilians were required by law to pick up after their pet's poo), and she admits to having voted for Rennie when he was "saner" because she liked what he campaigned on. It's only when he shows his true colors as a power-hungry sociopath that she starts expressing more liberal misgivings about the abuses of power going on.
    • Perhaps a bit of Truth in Television: Maine's two Senators in real life are Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins: both Republicans that are left-of-center left of most Republicans.
  • Friend to Psychos: Big Jim is this to his son Junior.
  • The Fundamentalist: Lester Coggins, pastor of the Christ the Holy Redeemer church. When you consider other characters like this in Stephen King novels (like Mrs. Carmody of The Mist or Margaret White of Carrie), you might think he'd end up being a problem for the more reasonable inhabitants of Chester's Mill. He turns out to be a Red Herring, though, as he gets killed by Big Jim less than a third of the way through the book, when he tells Jim he feels that he must confess to the congregation that they've been running a meth lab.
  • Get a Room: When Mel Searles sees Chef and Andy kiss, he yells: "Hey, fags! Get a room! No, wait, I got a better idea! Get a room in hell!" Those turn out to be his last words.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Andrea Grinnell beats her painkiller addiction that way. Rusty advises her against that, telling her that she'll suffer greatly and will have seizures, which does happen.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The government does everything in its power to free the town of Chester's Mill from its predicament. This includes firing a cruise missile at the invisible dome surrounding the town, then a second missile when the first one fails, using specially modified acid which can melt through two miles of bedrock, despite the possibility that it could set the dome on fire, and then attempting to use a 'pencil nuke', only to have it melt down and kill fifteen people before it could be used. The government continues trying to build a second pencil nuke, but by that point, things are so bad they finally decide they don't have time.
  • Good Feels Good: Junior of all people experiences this, when he rescues the Appleton children. As a consequence, protecting them even becomes his final goal in life (after killing Barbie and his dad, that is) - although by the time he decides on this, he's gone completely mad and the safest place for the children would be as far away from Junior as possible.
  • Goodnight, Sweet Prince: When Andy is about to poison himself, he thinks that he will "just lie down on the bed, close his eyes, and then good night, sweet pharmacist, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck: Big Jim Rennie all the cotton-pickin' way.
    • Subverted; when things get really bad, he does rattle off a couple swears, although only one or two serious ones.
  • Hallucinations: Junior has these whenever his migraines are particularly bad; this is the first clue that his "migraines" may be something more.
    • Big Jim Rennie (presumably) hallucinates that the various people he's killed over the course of the novel have come back to haunt him.
  • Happily Married: Rusty and Linda Everett.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: The number of times the plot relies on the only character that knows something confronting the perpetrator without a backup plan or weapon is staggering.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard / Karmic Death: Big Jim Rennie. After Phil/Chef blows the stored propane, Jim and Carter Thibodeau retreat to the fallout shelter to avoid the ensuing firestorm. Carter eventually decides to kill Rennie because of Rennie's ungrateful behavior (and because he feels that he'll live longer if Big Jim isn't alive to breathe his share of the air in the shelter), but he makes the mistake of turning off the lights and Rennie kills him. However, this leaves Big Jim alone in the shelter, and he's unable to get the propane tank changed on his own. Alone in the dark with the body of his former bodyguard and suffering from heart flutter, he's haunted by visions of his victims claiming revenge against him. In blind panic, he makes his way to the exit of the fallout shelter, opens the door, and promptly chokes on the smoky, oxygen-starved air. And of course, it's only through Big Jim Rennie's actions that the town is in its current state in the first place.
  • I Call It Vera: Chef Bushey names his AK-47 "God's Warrior". When Andy Sanders ends up joining him at Holy Redeemer and becoming his meth-smoking buddy, he takes another AK that Chef had stored, and names it "Claudette", after his dead wife.
  • I Love the Dead: Junior and his "girlfriends".
  • It Got Worse: All thanks to Big Jim Rennie.
  • Infant Immortality: Children and babies can and do die in this story, but Little Walter Bushey seems to emerge from potentially lethal situations with alarming regularity.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Andy Sanders is about to kill himself, when he's interrupted by a phone call.
  • Invisible to Normals: In a few short sections set from the viewpoint of Julia Shumway's corgi, it's stated that dogs are able to hear the voices of the dead due to their extra-sensitive hearing. A random ghost points the dog to the VADER file (which had fallen behind a couch, unbeknownst to anyone), which leads to Andrea Ginnell finding the file and finally finding out about Rennie's corrupt side businesses.
  • I Want My Mommy: Frankie DeLesseps cries out for his mother right before he's killed by Sammy Bushey.
  • Jerkass: The youths who have been recruited as temporary police officers — Frankie, Junior, Georgia, Mel, and Carter.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Turns out this is the only reason behind the Eldritch Abomination's actions.
    • And the kids who attacked Julia when she was a kid.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: A comprehensive list of them is provided at the beginning of the book, after the map of the town.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: The town's leaders make the decision to deputize some young adults in order to beef up the police force. These young adults? The town selectman's sociopathic son and his delinquent friends.
  • May-December Romance: Carolyn and Thurston. Several peope mistake them for father and daughter.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Big Jim. If you're not getting the pattern yet, he is not a nice guy. About five days into the Dome ordeal he has instigated a riot, framed one of the few men who could save the town for murder, burnt down the newspaper offices and effectively turned the whole town into a police state. He'd be a Magnificent Bastard if he weren't so utterly vile.
  • Meaningful Rename: Chef
  • Murder-Suicide: Sammy kills Frankie and Georgia before turning the gun on herself.
  • Mythology Gag: The symbol on the box emitting the Dome vaguely resembles the symbol on the door to IT's lair in the sewers beneath Derry, Maine—another King haunt.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Subverted by Rennie when Junior dies. Whe Carter says that he was a good guy, Rennie responds: "No he wasn't. But he was my son and I loved him".
  • Next Sunday A.D.: A specific date is never given, but it probably takes place during President Obama's second term as one car is described as having a faded Yes we STILL can bumper sticker on it. At one time, Carter reads about the 2012 BMW in Car and Driver. Also, there's free long-range Wi-Fi (WiMAX?) in rural Maine.
    • Don't forget a sequel to Lost (which is very clever).
  • Non-Indicative Name: Despite the title of the novel, and the cover art for the hardcover, the "Dome" isn't particularly round. You know, like the word "dome" would imply. Rather, it follows the town's borders exactly (and the town is constantly referred to as being shaped like a boot) and then extends up to five miles into the air.
  • Oh Crap: Rusty has a truly magnificent one when he realizes that the Propane Supply is about to explode and flash-fry the town.
  • Pet the Dog - Junior has exactly one decent moment, when he rescues two children separated from their mother. It's especially jarring as it happens mere moments after he and one of his cronies physically and verbally assault two people they practically dragged naked out of bed.
    • Big Jim Rennie has one of his own, after Junior dies.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Well, not everyone, but all of the children in town and anyone who passes through the radiation belt near the orchard experience unnerving dreams of something bad going down in Chester's Mill.
  • Police Are Useless - Most of the nice cops are, anyway. Per Word of God, ineptitude is a theme.
  • Precision F-Strike: While other characters swear throughout the book, Jim Rennie utters a legitimate curseword exactly once.
  • Rape as Drama: Sammy Bushey is gang-raped by the new "cops" of Chester's Mill.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Cox.
  • Redemption Equals Death: 'Sloppy' Sam Verdeaux makes up for his part in starting the Food City riot by driving Barbie and Julia through toxic air to the box generating the Dome. He lets them have the tires to breathe from, and dies shortly after of a punctured lung.
    • Andrea Grinnell who has been aiding Big Jim for years in exchange for drugs. She gets clean the hard way, choosing to suffer through horrible withdrawal pains to speed up the process, then publicly confronts Rennie. She gets gunned down for her trouble.
  • Refusal of the Call: Dale Barbara is in the midst of this as the story opens but the woman who's about to give him a ride out of town changes her mind and drives on at the last second. From then on, whenever he's in trouble he thinks of the woman and wonders what would have happened had she stopped for him.
  • Remembered Too Late: Getting body armor for raiding a meth lab.
  • Screaming Warrior: Chef. "SELAH, MOTHERFUCKERS!"
  • Self-Deprecation: Carolyn Sturges thinks about what her career future would have been and she dismissed novelist as too risky. Why? "What if you wrote a thousand-pager, and it sucked?" Guess how many pages Under the Dome is.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The entire winding saga of the VADER file.
  • Shout-Out - Cox mentions a couple of times that one of the female police officers comes highly recommended by Jack Reacher.
    • One of the conspiracy theories mentioned about the cause of the dome is that it is a government experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, exactly like in the movie The Mist.
  • Strawman Political - Big Jim Rennie is powerfully conservative in many ways, and also the main villain.
  • Take That - Georgia Roux snarks on Sammy for being an avid reader of Nora Roberts and Stephenie Meyer (authors that King really hates) and says that Harry Potter rules (King loves the series). However, this is halfway to Take That Me, because Georgia Roux is clearly not a nice person.
  • Teens Are Monsters - Most of the teenage (or close-to-teenage) characters in the book are sociopaths. The worst ones are Frankie DeLesseps, Melvin Searles, Carter Thibodeau, Junior Rennie, and Georgia Roux. Junior kills Angie McCain and Dodee Sanders, and makes the corpses his "girlfriends". Frankie, Melvin, and Carter take turns having their way with Sammy Bushey, and Georgia is essentially their rape cheerleader. Carter also molests Linda Everett late in the book, and threatens to rape her in front of her daughters.
  • Too Dumb to Live - Carter Thibodeau, at the very end of the book, when he decides to kill Big Jim Rennie so the air in the fallout shelter will last longer, gives Big Jim a chance to pray before he dies. Jim asks Carter to turn the lights off while he prays; Carter actually does it and realizes immediately afterwards that letting Big Jim out of his sight was a big mistake.
    • Also the multitude of people who underestimate Big Jim, over and over.
  • Totally Radical: Subverted. A early scene shows a teenager using some bizarre slang, at one point even saying "totally rad". The adult in the scene tries to reciprocate. The scene's end shows that the teen was mocking the adult's attempts to imitate him, and the teens speak normally for the book's remainder.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Big Jim Rennie.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong? - one of the cops think so about their attack on the radio station. Naturally it went horribly wrong.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Little Walter Bushey, named after a blues musician. Yes, "Little" is officially the part of his name. Ginny Tomlinson (a nurse in the town's hospital) attributes this to his parents being potheads.