Study Guide

It Courage

By Stephen King

Courage

His courage faltered... but it was Bev who had asked him. Bev, and he loved her. (22.1.7)

Young love really does conquer all…including the fear of standing up to a huge, nasty, terrifying spider that embodies all of the evil in the world. Wow. Love is powerful stuff.

Summoning all of his courage, summoning up Eddie’s pale, dying face, Ben brought one Desert Driver boot down on the first egg. (22.9.3)

It's not just love that augments courage. You can also level up your courage by thinking of friendship…especially if the friend in question has been killed by your enemy and you're busy trying to kill all of your enemy's demonic spider offspring.

But it’s nice to think so for awhile in the morning’s clean silence, to think that childhood has its own sweet secrets and confirms mortality, and that mortality defines all courage and love. (Epilogue.8.1)

Here's Stephen King putting on his philosopher hat in the second-to-last paragraph of the book. Take it from the King himself: you can't truly be courageous if you don't have a healthy understanding of death.

Now he had to go back to being himself, and that was hard—it got harder to do that every year. It was easier to be brave when you were someone else. (3.2.7)

This quote says oodles about the character of Richie, a guy so consumed with doing his various Voices and disappearing into various characters that he's finding it harder to be himself. He thinks he's braver when he's affecting a Voice…but, of course, we learn that he's actually pretty courageous.

Myra, like his mother, had reached the final, fatal insight into his character: Eddie was all the more delicate because he sometimes suspected he was not delicate at all; Eddie needed to be protected from his own dim intimations of possible bravery. (3.4.30)

Holy psychological insight, Batman. King sums up Eddie's character in a big way here: there's a weird two-sides-of-the-same-coin thing in the way that courage comes from acknowledging bravery. Similarly, vulnerability can come from the understanding that you're capable of massive acts of bravery.

“Girls can be brave, too,” Beverly said gravely, and a moment later they were all laughing. (9.5.15)

Preach, Bev. This is basically Bev's character arc—proving that girls are awesome when it comes to being courageous.

“Poor Stan,” Beverly repeated. She seemed stunned, unable to cope with the news. “But he was so brave back then. So . . . determined.”

“People change,” Eddie said.

“Do they?” Bill asked. “Stan was—” He moved his hands on the tablecloth, trying to catch the right words. “He was an ordered person." […] (10.3.33)

The fact that Stan commits suicide throws a spanner in the works. It also brings up the debate: did Stan kill himself because he was scared of It? Or because It challenged his understanding of the order of the world?

Bill thought: We’re still all together. It didn’t stop us. We can still kill It. We can still kill It . . . if we’re brave. (14.6.45)

This quote cuts to the heart of the whole It kerfuffle. You need to be courageous to kill It…and It is capable of harnessing your own fear against you.

Yeah, they had to; what else was there? Be killed by Henry, Victor, and Belch in the Barrens? Or by something else—maybe something worse—in town? She understood his thought well enough now; there was no stutter in his shrug. Better for them to go to It. Have it out, like the showdown in a Western movie. Cleaner. Braver. (19.12.22)

The Losers aren't immune to the idea of glory. They want to die by the hand of It—the Big Bad, the Final Boss—rather than because some psychotic town bully stabs them.

Be brave, be true, stand. (Epilogue.5.7)

When Bill rides Silver for the last time, in an attempt to rouse his catatonic wife, he repeats the phrase he used for courage when facing off with It. And, no shocker here, it works.

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