Literature Study GuidesItDerry The Second Interlude Summary

It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | Derry: The Second Interlude | Summary

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Summary

In February 1985, Mike documents two more missing children, for which Chief Rademacher offers thin explanations. The police think one of the children was taken by her estranged father during a custody dispute, even though the child in question has not seen her father in three years.

Mike recounts the story of the Black Spot, which Will Hanlon tells his son from his deathbed. The Black Spot is an improvised nightclub for the soldiers of Company E, the black unit at Derry Army Air Corps Base, where Will Hanlon is stationed in 1930. Will joins the Army from his home in Burgaw, North Carolina, to help support his grandmother and younger brother. In Derry, Will endures racist bullying from a Sergeant Wilson, who makes him dig and fill the same hole for a whole day because of a perceived disrespect.

The Black Spot starts as a shack the officers give the Company E men as a place to socialize because the townspeople don't want them mixing with white women in the local bars. Will and his friends assemble a jazz band, and Dick Halloran serves burgers, fries, and soda. White patrons come and bring their own alcohol, and the Black Spot becomes very popular. On a Saturday night members of the Maine Legion of White Decency arrive, their faces covered by hoods, and set the place on fire. The shack goes up quickly, and dozens of people are killed. Will's friend Trev Dawson takes Sergeant Wilson's truck and knocks down one of the shack's walls, saving some lives. Will tells Mike a giant bird at the scene snatched up one of the hooded men in its talons.

Will returns to Derry after leaving the army in 1937, saying the racism in Maine isn't different from the racism in the South. He establishes a farm and a produce stand, angering Butch Bowers, whose farm is nearby. There are some broken windows and minor vandalism at the Hanlon farm, but Bowers kills Will's chickens and pains a swastika on the henhouse. The sheriff arrests Butch and tells him they will send him to Shawshank Prison for the swastika, so he should pay Will $200 for the chickens. Butch sells his car to make the payment, and he swears he will burn down Will's farm. Will says if he sees any fires on his property he will shoot Bowers, and he means it. Subsequently the two men have "an understanding," although Will suspects Butch killed Mike's dog, Mr. Chips.

After writing a story, Mike falls asleep at his desk in the library. He wakes to find footsteps in the snow leading into the library but none leading out. He sees a balloon tied to his desk lamp, sporting a picture of his face with no eyes. When Mike screams, the balloon bursts.

Analysis

Will Hanlon's life story is a testament to the evils of racism. As a teen he is pushed to join the army because of limited economic opportunities for his family in the South. After he enlists, a sergeant bullies him for a minor infraction that would have gone unnoticed were he a white man.

The Black Spot fire illustrates the racism running deep through Derry. After some of the town's leaders complain to the army about Company E's presence, the army issues Company E a shack for socializing. Then the shack's nightclub, the Black Spot, becomes as popular as Derry's other bars, even attracting large numbers of white patrons. The other bars in town start losing money to the Black Spot. Lost profit is never welcome, but the bar owners are also incensed to lose money to an enterprise run by black men. Members of the Maine version of the Ku Klux Klan set fire to the bar. Their faces are hidden by hoods, but as Will suspects, they are the same town leaders who led the army to give Company E the Black Spot.

Will realizes there is no escaping racism in America, so he returns to settle in Derry, perhaps because he wants to be reminded of this fact. For the most part, things go better for him than expected, aside from Butch Bowers's interference on his farm. When the sheriff warns Butch he will be sent to Shawshank because of the swastika on the henhouse, it is a reminder appearances must be maintained and a product of Butch's bad timing. Butch is right: a jury probably wouldn't convict him for killing a black man's chickens. He knows his fellow citizens don't really value black people's property. However, by painting the swastika on the henhouse, he makes the crime overtly racist, and he aligns himself with Nazi Germany. The specific timeline is fuzzy, but Will moves back to Derry in 1937, and Butch kills the chickens shortly after Will establishes his farm, perhaps in 1937 as well, perhaps a year or two later. The swastika aligns Butch with an enemy America is about to be at war with, if it's not at war already. A jury might allow for the racism, but it won't stand for the antipatriotic sentiment.

Years of dealing with people like Butch have made Will tougher than he seems. He knows there is only so much the justice system can and will do for him, so he has no problem taking matters into his own hands. He threatens Butch with a shotgun and makes Butch believe he will use it. This is the effect Derry has on the otherwise mild-mannered Will Hanlon. Over the years, though, Derry works out well for Will and his family. Despite the dangers of 1958, Mike grows up well, gets an education, and assumes a respected position in Derry's community. As head librarian for the town, he is now a town leader himself.

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