Literature Study GuidesItPart 2 Chapter 5 Summary

It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | Part 2, Chapter 5 : June of 1958 (Bill Denbrough Beats the Devil (I)) | Summary



Flying from London, Bill remembers his childhood bicycle, Silver, a giant old clunker capable of incredible speed. "It would beat the devil," Bill says aloud. He has a hazy memory of Silver saving his life as he and Richie flee an abandoned house on Neibolt Street.

Bill has another, clearer memory of riding Silver "to beat the devil." It's the last day of school in 1958. Henry, Belch, and Victor beat up Eddie while he and Bill build a dam in the Barrens. They bloody Eddie's nose, which induces an asthma attack. Then Ben Hanscom, the bullies' real target, emerges from hiding. Bill asks Ben to stay with Eddie so he can go get Eddie's medicine. Bill speeds to the drugstore on Silver, forgetting his stutter, Georgie's murder, and his parents' indifference to him. When his bike slows down, the memories catch up again.

At the drugstore Mr. Keene gives Bill a new aspirator for Eddie, billing it to Mrs. Kaspbrak's account. Neither Bill nor Eddie know the HydrOx Mist in the aspirator is just water with "a dash of camphor."

Bill returns to the Barrens, thinking about Georgie; he thinks Georgie and the other murdered or missing kids were probably killed by the same person. Bill delivers the aspirator, and Eddie's breath eases almost immediately. Bill, Ben, and Eddie chat. Eddie fears his mother will take him to the emergency room when she sees the blood on his shirt. Ben explains why the bullies were after him and apologizes; Bill says the bullies are always after someone. He invites Ben to come back the next day to play. In the dirt Ben sketches a plan for a real dam they can build with boards and rocks. The boys leave together, and Ben suggests Eddie get a chocolate milk and spill it on his shirt to hide the bloodstains.

At home that night Bill goes into Georgie's room and looks through Georgie's photo album. Georgie's school picture is on the last page; it winks at Bill, and Bill throws the album across the room. The album starts bleeding, and Bill runs out and slams the door.


Even though Bill's bike is described as gray rather than shiny silver, he names it Silver after the Lone Ranger's horse. The Lone Ranger is a cowboy hero from a TV show popular in the 1950s, and his horse is fast. Silver the bike makes Bill feel heroic as he shouts the Lone Ranger's catchphrase, "Hi-ho, Silver! Away!" All Bill's trouble and worries disappear when he speeds along on his bike, but they return when he is forced to slow down riding uphill. "Beating the devil" is an archaic figure of speech used to express speed—apparently the devil can move quickly—but in Bill's case it also refers to the way Silver allows him to outrun his personal demons, at least for a short time.

In a small way, Silver does make Bill into a hero. The bike enables him to bring Eddie the medicine he needs. Even though Eddie later discovers his medicine is just a placebo, he needs it now. His asthma attack may be brought on by psychological forces, but the attack is real. The reason for the attack isn't important. What matters is Eddie can't breathe, and Bill is the one who must save him.

Ben feels responsible for what has happened to Eddie because he is the one who leads the bullies into the Barrens, inadvertently placing Eddie and Bill in their path. His guilt and apology are another indicator of Ben's social insecurity. He feels he deserves blame from these boys he hardly knows for the hostile actions of other kids. Bill sees the situation more clearly. He knows Henry and his goons are only interested in hurting other people, and they don't much care who the target is. If it hadn't been Ben, or Eddie and Bill, it would have been someone, because Henry's meanness doesn't have any discernible focus.

Ben is pleasantly surprised to find himself in the company of others, forming the beginnings of real friendship for the first time in his life. He is also happy to have something to offer Bill and Eddie in return for their kindness. His design for a real dam in the Barrens exhibits an instinctive understanding of physical principles well beyond his years and education. Bill asks how Ben knows his design will work, and Ben just knows. His years of building models and reading books have allowed him to absorb useful knowledge, and his intelligence does the rest.

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