Salem's Lot

Book by Stephen King

Summary

Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot' is a story of a central character who comes to a small town with the purpose of converting its inhabitants into vampires. The setting for the work is Jerusalem's Lot, Maine. King begins the work by introducing the character Ben Mears, who is a writer. King adds suspense to the introduction when he references the attitudes of the townspeople concerning the Marsten House. The background on the house includes a story about a man killing his wife and subsequently committing suicide. When Ben comes to town, he develops a relationship with another character, Susan. King shifts the narrative by using flashbacks. Another character bought the house and started experiencing strange things such as a dead dog hanging from the spikes and mysterious illnesses. By the end of the work, the reader learns the reason for the many occurrences which are attributable to one of characters, who is a vampire. King ends 'Salem's Lot' with Ben killing the head vampire and setting the town on fire.

Characters

Ben Mears

Ben is the main character. He is tall, black-haired, lanky, and agile-looking, with what the author describes as "finely-drawn features." He is a fairly popular and well-recognized writer, and he is used to giving out his autograph to his fans. He lives with his Aunt Cindy in 'Salem's Lot for four years as a child after his father dies and his mother has a nervous breakdown. While he is in 'Salem's Lot, a group of boys talks him into going into the Marsten House as part of his initiation into their group. Once inside the house, he encounters the ghost of Hubert Marsten, and this memory haunts him for many years. As a young adult, he is something of an activist and participates in peace marches and protests.


Kurt Barlow

In the original novel, Barlow comes to the town of Jerusalem's Lot in a box shipped overseas by his assistant, Richard Straker. The two then take residence in the Marsten House, an abandoned house considered haunted by the townsfolk. Posing as an antique dealer, Straker kidnaps a local boy, Ralphie Glick, and makes a human sacrifice of the child in an appeasement ritual. Ralphie's brother, Danny, becomes a vampire and begins to infect others, including his mother, Marjorie Glick. Late at night Barlow comes upon unhappy and frustrated Dud Rogers, a hunchbacked dump custodian, laughed at by the young woman he craves, Ruthie Crockett, daughter of businessman and real estate broker Larry Crockett, who signed the real estate contracts with Straker to purchase the Marsten House and the site which will become the antique store front used by Straker. Barlow also comes upon Corey Bryant, a young telephone worker who has been tortured and ordered to leave town by Reggie Sawyer, the man Bryant was cuckolding. Knowing everything that happened Barlow lures Bryant under his hypnotic spell, promising them the spoils, i.e. Ruthie Crockett and Bonnie Sawyer, and drains both men of their blood on the spot.

Literary Elements

Theme

One of the re-occurring themes in Stephen King’s Salem Lot is the idea that belief can save you. In the novel the ones that believe in Vampires and take caution are more likely the ones that live. I think this is King’s way at hinting that one should have something to believe in if not God. The vampires are a symbol of corruption and Evil and when they are believed in, they are also feared. This holds true with religious beliefs saying one should believe in a heaven and a hell and strive to make it to heaven. This novel is portraying the vampires as the devil and hell and when one believes, they are spared and sent to heave. In this case, they are not bitten by the vampires.


Characterization

Contrast these characters to the vast majority of the town's populace. Sandy McDougall and baby, Dud Rogers of the town dump, Lawrence Crockett, the local real estate agent, Bonnie Sawyer and husband and lover, the Norton's, the Petries, Mike Ryerson, the grave-digger, Mabel Werts and her binoculars... The list goes on and on, that isn't even a good start to it. These are the townspeople that are Jerusalem's Lot. They are by no means necessarily stupid or mean or without self-awareness, but they are generally caught up in their own affairs, or those of the Lot, and care more for their wife's indiscretions or their own repressed sexuality or the kids on their bus or their money or gossip or whatever than for evil or literary allusions. And they are mostly hurtful, simply because that's the way it is. Perhaps the defining moment for this group comes from Parkins Gillespie, town Constable, in his talk with Ben about leaving town. "['salem's Lot] ain't alive. That's why he came here. It's dead, like him... They prob'ly like bein' vampires". The Fearless Vampire Killers are written with wisdom and intelligence and a remarkable eye for detail. The indifferent are written with that and more, a stark gut-feeling of truth that makes the novel such a masterful achievement. This is one of King's own favourites, and it's not hard to see why.