“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends…all I need is my buddies…”
In case you couldn’t tell, I just got done reading The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. And there is a prevailing theme in this book (to me at least).
And that theme is friendship. Yes, I think that a book about a lone gunslinger who has been chasing a man in black across a desert in a post apocalyptic world that is kind of like our world but not really has a message about friendship. Roland Deschain, you see, is not entirely a cold blooded killing machine who can take out an entire town and eat a hamburger afterwards. Roland is actually a human…gasp! Oh, the humanity! And he has feelings…apparently letting a boy fall to his death got to him, at least a little. And since Roland is human being, and most human beings need interaction with other human beings (so social scientists would have us believe, at any rate), Roland needs other humans around. Friends, in other words. We know from The Gunslinger that Roland had a group of friends at one point, but that everyone he knew has died. But whatever force is controlling Roland’s quest has deemed that now is the time for Roland to have a new group of friends. And Roland finds that group. That is the main theme of The Drawing of the Three: finding other people that will put up with your craziness and who will get drawn into your crazy quest, even if they think that this quest really isn’t for them.
The Drawing of the Three begins where The Gunslinger left off, with Roland Deschain on a beach. Roland has awakened from a 10 year sleep due to a spell placed on him by the man in black. Roland is contemplating his next step, but trouble quickly arrives. Lobster like creatures swarm the beach and attack Roland. Roland quickly dubs these creatures “lobstrosities” and for good reason: the creatures attack him and he loses a couple of fingers in the attack. Even worse, these fingers are from his right hand, which is the hand Roland shoots with. Worse still, Roland contracts blood poisoning from the attack on his hand and becomes very ill. But he trudges forward, continuing on his quest.
Roland then encounters the first of the three doors that were previously shown to him in his palaver with the man in black. This is the door of The Prisoner. It leads Roland into New York City in the summer of 1987. Roland leaves his physical body on the beach, and enters the mind of a young man named Eddie Dean. Eddie Dean is also in trouble, as he is attempting to smuggle heroin from the Bahamas back to the States. Eddie is also a heroin addict, along with his older brother Henry. Roland quickly lets Eddie know of his presence, as Eddie is about to have a run in with law enforcement. Roland is able to transport the heroin back to his world, saving Eddie from being arrested. However, he and Eddie must still deal with the mob bosses who employed Eddie to smuggle the heroin. And Roland does indeed deal with those men, and in truly epic fashion. Roland and Eddie take part in a gun battle and dispatch of the mobsters in gruesome fashion. One mobster is dragged back to Roland’s world and torn apart by the lobstrosities. Eddie even fights the mobsters when he is naked, proving to Roland that he may make a fine gunslinger once he kicks his heroin addiction. Eddie’s brother Henry is also a casualty, as he dies of an accidental heroin overdose while he is being held hostage by the mobsters. A grieving Eddie is then dragged back into Roland’s world and becomes instantly sober, although he still deals with cravings for the drug.
Eddie treats Roland’s blood poisoning with some antibiotics he transported from his world. He also becomes an unwilling partner to Roland in his quest, and must deal with his heroin addiction and the death of his brother Henry, with whom Eddie’s relationship was complicated. Eddie’s self esteem was damaged by his brother, which led to his addiction. Slowly, Eddie becomes to recover as he and Roland trudge along on the path to the second door. Roland and Eddie then encounter the second door, titled Lady of the Shadows. Roland then makes his way through the door, ignoring Eddie’s threats to kill him, as Eddie is still experiencing withdrawals from his abrupt crash course in sobriety.
Roland is thrust in 1960’s New York City, this time in the body of a young African American woman calling herself Detta Susannah Walker. Detta is stealing costume jewelry from a department store when she encounters the gunslinger for the first time. Detta is a vicious, nasty woman and is not happy when her body is taken over. Roland therefore immediately transports her back to his world, Detta fights him the entire way. Eddie then learns how nasty Detta is as well. It is also revealed that another personality inhabits the body of Detta Walker. This personality is a gentle, eloquent woman by the name of Odetta Susannah Holmes. We learn that Odetta Holmes is from a wealthy family and is also a civil rights activist. We also learn that Odetta was hit by a falling brick as a child, and then, as a young woman, was pushed in front of a subway, which resulted in the loss of both of her legs. These accidents also caused brain trauma, which was responsible for the multiple personality syndrome she suffers from. Neither personality is aware of the other, and Roland realizes that this must be resolved, although he is not sure how. Eddie and Odetta draw together, and Eddie begins to fall in love with Odetta, while being terrified of Detta.
Roland, Eddie and Odetta soon encounter the third Door, which reads Death. Roland’s infection has returned, and he realizes that he must find more antibiotics or death will be dealt to him this time. Roland then escapes through the third door. In the meantime, Eddie must fight off the Detta Walker personality, for she has returned with a vengeance.
Roland takes the body of a man named Jack Mort (the last name is basically Latin for death) who is also called The Pusher. Roland learns that Mort is responsible for both of Odetta’s “accidents.” Mort was also the man who pushed Jake Chambers in front of the moving vehicle. This was responsible for Jake’s “death” as well. Roland uses the body of Mort to purchase ammunition for his guns. Roland also robs a pharmacy while controlling Mort’s body, so that he may obtain the antibiotics that he needs to live. When Jack Mort has served Roland’s purpose, he throws Mort’s body in front of a moving subway, killing Jack Mort and saving the life of Jake Chambers. Roland returns to his world just in time, as Detta has captured Eddie, and Eddie faces certain death at the hands of the lobstrosities. Roland uses the door to merge Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes, as the door forces the two to acknowledge each other for the first time. This results in a new woman who is whole for the first time in her life: Susannah Dean.
Roland then collapses and becomes unconscious. He is cared for by Susannah and Eddie, who now call themselves man and wife. Roland eventually recovers, and the trio make their way off the beach. They continue to travel the path to the Dark Tower, drawing just a little closer to their final destination.
As I stated previously, I did not like The Gunslinger when I first read it (although this has changed). So I almost did read Drawing of the Three. However, I am glad that I did not commit that mistake. I picked up The Drawing of the Three and my opinion was changed. It endeared itself to me, in the same manner a cute kitten would endear itself to me. And I still feel that this book is endearing, even though I have read it several times over the years.
To me, this book is all about Eddie Dean. I know that Roland is a major player in it, and we get introduced to Susannah as well. But this is Eddie’s book, at least to me (and Susannah does have her own book, anyway). King provides us with an intimate look at Eddie. We learn about his addiction, and his relationship with his brother. We also learn how troubled Eddie is, although most of his issues were really caused by Henry and the boys’ mother. Eddie begins the book blaming himself for everything, including Henry’s tour of duty in Vietnam that led to Henry’s heroin addiction, and later Eddie’s. However, we see the shell of addiction stripped away from Eddie over a relatively short period of time. When the shell is stripped away, it is revealed that Eddie is dangerous man who is willing to fight. It is also revealed that Eddie has a soft side, since he is a person who likes to be needed, as evidenced by his growing relationship with Susannah. Eddie also helps Susannah overcome her demons, as she has lived with mental illness for so long and has never had someone to watch out for her. Eddie steps into the role without hesitation, and plays a part in making Susannah a whole person again.
Stephen King is a writer who creates memorable villains. He does not disappoint in The Drawing of the Three with the introduction of Jack Mort. While many of King’s villains (such as Trashcan Man) are somewhat sympathetic, this is not the case for Jack Mort. Jack Mort has absolutely no redeemable qualities. he is a serial killer who pushes people in front of moving vehicles or drops bricks on them. He is pure evil. He is also someone who was clearly placed by the man in black to cause trouble for Roland, as he was responsible for both of Susannah’s accidents and Jake’s first death. So when Roland kills Jack by throwing him in front of a subway, we feel absolutely no sympathy for Jack Mort, and it is one of the most satisfying deaths of a villain in the series.
As I mentioned before, King brings out a little more humanity in Roland in The Drawing of the Three. We see that he is vulnerable when he falls ill after being attacked by the lobstrosity creatures. Normally, someone falling ill is not a good thing. And it is not a good thing when Roland falls ill, but this experience does help build the character of Roland. Roland is actually forced to rely upon Eddie Dean, who himself is a recovering heroin addict. Roland has gone so long with minimal human interaction that did not involve the killing of other humans. So when Roland is hurt, it shows that he is a human after all. Roland also listens to Eddie, as Eddie needs to work out his issues with his brother, and is also experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to his sudden crash course in sobriety. While Roland can be considered a bit of a hard nose when dealing with Eddie and his problems, it is clear that he still feels some sympathy and is ready to offer Eddie some “tough love” so that Eddie may live up to his full potential, something that was not going to happen in his previous life. In other words, the little bits of humanity that begin to show in Roland in this book add another layer to the story, making the reader cheer for Roland and understand his obsession with his quest a little more.
I have had many friends come in and out of my life over the years. Some friendships are brief but others withstand the test of time. Those are they friends I can go years without speaking, but when reunited, it seems there has never been a lull in the conversation. I consider The Drawing of the Three (and the other books in the series) to be one of those friends. Coming back to these books is like meeting an old friend for dinner drinks, and staying and catching up until we close out the restaurant. And knowing that I can always pick up the conversation, and that conversation will will be as natural as ever, without any lulls.
Tune in soon for my review of The Wastelands…same bat time, same bat channel.
Just for fun, here the connections I found to King’s other work in The Drawing of the Three:
-Eddie mentions a movie he has seen. That movie is The Shining. Of course, The Shining is based on the book of the same name and could be argued to be one of King’s best known and best loved works. This may be King’s way of establishing his existence in some form on every level of the Tower.
-Roland states that he has met Thomas and Dennis, who were also pursuing Randall Flagg. Of course, Thomas and Dennis are characters from Eyes of the Dragon, as is Randall Flagg. This confirms that Roland’s world is the same world in Eyes of the Dragon, and also confirms Randall Flagg as an uber villain.
-Jack Mort calls himself a “Do Bee”, meaning that he accomplishes tasks (mainly, murdering people). Craig Toomey in The Langoliers also calls himself a “Do Bee.” Toomey and Mort may be Twinners of some sort, as they are men who care nothing for their fellow human beings and who only want to cause pain and suffering.
-It is also interesting to note that the characters in The Langoliers travel through a portal to another world. This is similar to the doors that Eddie and Susannah use to travel to Midworld.
-When Roland robs the pharmacy for antibiotics, the pharmacist is taking to a woman by the last name of Rathbun. George Rathbun is the name of one of Henry Leyden’s alter egos in Black House. Black House is another novel heavily connected to the Dark Tower series.
-Susannah mentions that her mother’s name is Allie. Allie is the name of Roland’s lover in Tull. This is just one of many “coincidences” woven into the series that is probably not a coincidence at all.