Literature Study GuidesItPart 1 Chapter 1 Summary

It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | Part 1, Chapter 1 : The Shadow Before (After the Flood) | Summary

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Summary

After several days of rain that nearly floods Derry, Maine, five-year-old Georgie Denbrough goes outside to play. He brings with him a paper boat his older brother, Bill, made for him while sick in bed. Georgie helps with the boat by retrieving a box of paraffin from the shelves by the cellar stairs, even though the power is out and Georgie imagines a monster lives in the cellar. Bill melts the paraffin in a bowl, and the boys laugh and joke together while they smear the paraffin over the folded newspaper boat to waterproof it. Before Georgie goes out to play, he kisses Bill's cheek, and Bill tells Georgie to be careful.

Even though the rains have slackened, the gutters run with water. In his yellow hat and slicker, Georgie follows his boat as it sails along Witcham Street, wishing Bill could be with him to see it go because Georgie is not as good as Bill at telling stories about what he sees. A current takes the boat into a storm drain, and Georgie peeks inside to look for it.

In the drain Georgie sees a pair of yellow eyes. Scared, he begins to back away, but a voice speaks to him. Georgie looks back and sees a clown; the clown introduces himself as "Mr. Bob Gray, also known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown." Georgie at first thought the drain smelled like his scary cellar at home, but now he can smell a carnival. Pennywise has Georgie's boat in one hand and a balloon in the other; he offers Georgie both. When Georgie reaches forward, Pennywise grabs Georgie's arm and rips it off. Georgie dies immediately. Dave Gardner, arriving "only 45 seconds after the first scream," finds Georgie's body.

The sheriff tells reporters Georgie must have got his arm stuck in a fast current in the storm drain. Mrs. Denbrough is sedated in the local emergency room; Bill remains sick in bed, listening to his father weep in another room. The paper boat continues through the sewers to the Penobscot River and out to sea as the rain clouds break overhead.

Analysis

Georgie Denbrough, playing with his boat in his yellow slicker after a storm has passed, is a picture of childhood innocence and joy. His love for his brother overwhelms him, and he imagines the paper boat as a warship as he scampers along the street. This image of Georgie in the final moments of his short life encapsulates everything good about being a kid.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown, standing in the muck of a drainpipe, luring Georgie with carnival smells and gifts, represents a perversion of the wholesome innocence of childhood. Georgie's life is not completely carefree; like everyone he has fears, and he often frets about a monster snatching him in the cellar of his own home. The yellow eyes and musty smell he first notices in the storm drain hint at the possibility that It is in the cellar when Georgie goes to get the paraffin, waiting for a better moment and location to attack him, one more easily dismissed by authorities with a logical explanation. The eyes and odor in the storm drain also indicate the creature understands Georgie's fear of whatever he imagines living in his cellar. It adopts the clown guise the moment Georgie considers running away, to keep him at the mouth of the drain and draw his tiny arm forward. The 45-second gap between the scream and Dave Gardener finding the body indicates how quickly the creature moves on its prey and how fragile life is.

After Georgie is killed, it seems nothing will be innocent or carefree for Georgie's family or the children of Derry ever again. Bill is physically separated from his parents in the hours after Georgie is killed. He remains in his bed. The boys' mother is so distraught she needs sedation, and Bill's father does not come to Bill's room to talk to him or offer comfort. The wound is fresh, but it's possible father and son could console each other. Bill finds his father's tears frightening as he hears them from another room. This isolation from one another will mark the Denbrough family's relationships for the rest of Bill's childhood. This isolation will only magnify Bill's guilt about Georgie's death. Bill made the paper boat. He encouraged Georgie to go out to play. He couldn't possibly suspect what was lurking in the storm drain, but he feels responsible all the same. Bill's isolation from his parents makes him feel the guilt more intensely; they must blame him too.

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