Extrapolation

“In America?”

Children, Violence, and Commodification in Stephen King’s The Institute

Extrapolation (2021), 62, (2), 199–213.

Abstract

Critical evaluation of Stephen King’s work is far from unanimous, with a handful of scholars producing monographs devoted to his fiction, while others dismiss him as a peddler of poorly written popular narratives motivated only by commercial success. King himself acknowledges that he is as much a brand name as an author, and that he might be considered “the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and a large fries from McDonalds.” Anxieties related to the aesthetic value of prolifically produced popular fiction appear to be validated by King’s novel, The Institute (2019), which treads the familiar terrain of the King brand by utilizing the genre of speculative fiction and focusing on a child with paranormal powers. Nevertheless, although The Institute repeats many of King’s abiding concerns and tropes, it represents a significant development in his work. Less a reiteration of King’s earlier speculative fiction depicting children with telekinetic, telepathic, and pyrokinetic powers, The Institute demonstrates significant complexity and nuance in its representation of power, good and evil, and the ethics underpinning American life in the twenty-first century. In addition to critiquing corrupt social structures, The Institute interrogates the assumed powerlessness of children and condemns the commodification of the human subject by late capitalist society and its militarized forms of order. In his novel, King proves his detractors wrong by not simply reproducing his particular brand of fiction but revising its previous representations in order to meaningfully engage with a rapidly changing world.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works Cited

Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Viking, 1963. Google Scholar

Bloom, Harold. “For the World of Letters, It’s a Horror.” Los Angeles Times, 19 Sept. 2003, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-sep-19-oe-bloom19-story.html. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

Brooks, Xan. “The New Review Q&A: Stephen King.” The Guardian, 7 Sept. 2019, www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/07/stephen-king-interview-the-institute. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

“Childhood Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 June 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html. Accessed 1 May 2020. Google Scholar

Clark, Peter Allen. “Stephen King the Best-Selling Novelist on Doctor Sleep, Donald Trump and Why He Often Writes about Children.” Time International, 7 Nov. 2019, time.com/5720751/stephen-king-doctor-sleep-interview/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

Davis, Jonathan P. “The Struggle for Personal Morality in America.” Critical Insights: Stephen King, edited by Gary Hoppenstand, Salem Press, 2011, pp. 168-183. Google Scholar

Huneke, Samuel Clowes. “An End to Totalitarianism.” Boston Review, 16 Apr. 2020, http://bostonreview.net/politics/samuel-clowes-huneke-end-totalitarianism. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

Keller, Julia. “The Great Divide.” Chicago Tribune, 25 Jan. 2004, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2004-01-25-0401250445-story.html. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

King, Stephen. Different Seasons. Viking, 1982. Google Scholar

King, Stephen. The Institute. Hodder and Stoughton, 2019. Google Scholar

Magistrale, Tony. “Crumbling Castles of Sand: The Social Landscape of Stephen King’s Gothic Vision.” The Journal of Popular Literature, vol. 1, 1985, pp. 45-59. Google Scholar

Martín Alegre, Sara. “Nightmares of Childhood: The Child and the Monster in Four Novels by Stephen King.” Atlantis, vol. 23, no. 2, 2001, pp. 105-114. Google Scholar

McBride, James, and Jessica Moss. “The State of U.S. Infrastructure.” Backgrounder, 1 Sept. 2020, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/state-us-infrastructure. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

McRobert, Neil. “With The Institute, Stephen King Channels Political Outrage into Familiar Horror.” Slant, 15 Sept. 2019, www.slantmagazine.com/books/review-with-the-institute-stephen-king-channels-political-outrage-into-familiar-horror/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

Nash, Jesse W. “Postmodern Gothic: Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.” The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 30, no. 4, 1997, pp. 151-160. Google Scholar

Punter, David, and Glennis Byron. The Gothic. Wiley-Blackwell, 2004. Google Scholar

“Underage Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Mar. 2021, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/underage-drinking. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021. Google Scholar

“Youth and Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Dec. 2020, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm. Accessed 25 March 2021. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Mercer, Erin