Literature Study GuidesItPart 5 Chapter 21 Summary

It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | Part 5, Chapter 21 : The Ritual of Chüd (Under the City) | Summary



In the creature's lair under Derry, It reflects on its life on Earth and how the meat is rich with fear. The creature has shaped Derry in its own image and made it into a "killing pen" for feeding. It plans to cast the Losers into "the deadlights" where it lives and speculates the Turtle is stupid, useless, and probably dead. Tom Rogan died when he saw It, and the deadlights have rendered Audra a catatonic captive. It eagerly awaits revenge on the kids who almost killed It in 1958, believing It will prevail because they are adults now and lack the imagination to kill It.


When the Losers enter the sewers for the first time, in August 1958, Henry, Victor and Belch pursue them, but the Losers and the bullies soon get separated. The bullies encounter a Frankenstein's monster that kills Victor and Belch as Henry runs away. Eddie, with his flawless internal compass, guides the Losers toward the canal and downtown. The Losers stumble past the remains of Patrick Hockstetter and are attacked by Richie's great fear, a movie monster called the Crawling Eye. Eddie weakens the Eye by claiming his aspirator is full of battery acid and shooting the fluid at the Eye. Then Richie dispatches it with a weak punch. The giant bird—based on a normal bird that attacked an infant Mike Hanlon—appears next. Stan lists all the birds he believes in and says, "But I don't believe in you, so get the fuck out of here!" The bird disappears.

The Losers come to a blank wall with a small door marked with a symbol that looks different to each Loser. Bill sees a paper boat. Richie sees eyes behind glasses. Stan sees a bird, possibly a phoenix, rising. Beverly sees a fist. Ben sees a pile of wrappings. Eddie sees the leper. They open the door and enter the creature's lair.


With Eddie again guiding them, the Losers follow the same path they took in 1958, remembering the obstacles they encountered then. Bill panics and thinks Audra is dead, but Richie grabs him and reminds him of their mission and how much they need Bill's leadership. Bill manages to remain calm even when he finds Audra's wedding ring farther along the tunnel.

As the Losers approach the tiny door, Georgie approaches the group, blaming Bill for his lost boat and his lost life. Richie, Beverly, Eddie, and Ben tell Bill to fight It. "That's not your brother! Kill It while It's small!" Eddie yells. Bill shouts, "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts," a speech exercise he learned to help his stutter. It-as-Georgie disappears, but Bill is overcome with grief for his real brother. The others comfort him.

More than an hour later, Bill senses something is wrong with Mike. He instructs the Losers to join hands and "send him our power." In his hospital, a nurse named Mark Lamonica approaches Mike with a shot. Mike can tell Lamonica is possessed by It and is frozen with fear. Mike feels a surge of power and bashes Mark with a water glass. The nurses who ignored Mike's call bell rush to his aid now. Back in the tunnels, Bill can tell Mike is safe.

The Losers arrive at the tiny door to the creature's lair and see different images again. Eddie sees a symbol for poison. Beverly sees Tom. Bill sees Audra's severed head. Richie sees Paul Bunyan. Ben sees Henry Bowers. Inside they see dead Tom. Audra's condition is unknown as she hangs in the spider's web high above. They see It as a giant spider. Ben knows there is "some final shape" they can't see, but the spider is the nearest they can get in this world. Ben also sees the spider's egg sac and realizes Stan knew It was a pregnant female.

Aboveground, a massive storm gathers over Derry, and the bell in the Grace Baptist Church steeple fails to chime the hour for the first time since the day of the 1906 Kitchener Ironworks explosion. Dave Gardener sees the clouds and thinks, "We're in danger. All of us. Derry."


Tom Rogan's life, and his role in the narrative, ends in an anticlimactic way. Once he has served his purpose for It, It disposes of him. The real prize is Audra, who gives It leverage over Bill Denbrough. King does not describe the creature's true form, leaving it to readers' imagination. Readers see only what the creature has done and must wonder what kind of creature could kill a grown man and render a woman catatonic with a single look.

Despite musings about its power, the loss of the Turtle, and the weakness of the Losers as adults—now missing two of their number—the creature shows the confidence It claims to have isn't real. Since the Losers returned to Derry, It has been focused on scaring them into leaving. It develops a backup plan in Henry Bowers. And it develops a backup of that backup in Tom Rogan.


It places a series of obstacles in the path of the Losers, but Henry remains the greater danger in the sewers because he is real and can't be stopped with magic or imagination. Eddie, who is physically weaker than his friends, performs heroically by using his extraordinary sense of direction to guide the Losers and by shooting the Crawling Eye with his aspirator. He calls the aspirator fluid battery acid; thus it becomes battery acid. Richie's weak punch finishes off the eye because it is Richie's personal fear. All Richie must do is stand up to it. Stan, whose resolve is weaker, also performs heroically by using his logic and reason to declare his nonbelief in the giant bird. For both Stan and Eddie, weaknesses become strengths in the sewers. Eddie's asthma gives him a tool to save the Losers, and Stan's logical absence of faith allows him to denounce and defeat the bird.

When the Losers reach the tiny door to the creature's lair, all except Stan see the mark on the door as something that scares them. Stan sees a bird, possibly a phoenix. Thus the door symbol may not reflect fear; it may reflect whatever observers have on their mind at the moment they see it. The other Losers see objects associated with their fears because they are afraid. Stan sees a bird because he is fresh off the triumph of defeating the giant bird; he has proved he has no fear of it. If the bird is a phoenix—the mythical bird that dies in fire and is reborn—Stan may be seeing his own renewal of faith and commitment to fighting It.


To ensure their success, it is important for the Losers to follow the same path they took in 1958. This time Richie is the unexpected hero. Bill is nearly hysterical about what has happened to Audra, and Richie doesn't know Bill's guilt is intensified by Bill's recent encounter with Beverly. Richie drops his good-time demeanor and speaks sharply to Bill, bringing him back to reality and reminding him why they have come here. Whatever has happened to Audra, Bill can't do anything for her without confronting It, and they all need Bill to finish the mission.

Georgie's appearance is the creature's last-ditch effort to assault Bill's morale, and the gambit almost works. Bill believes It is Georgie, shouting at him every guilty thought and feeling Bill has ever had about Georgie's death. The others must remind him this Georgie is an illusion, although Georgie's presence, like the voices of the other missing kids echoing through the pipes, raises the question of whether they have truly passed on. Does It imitate the voices of the dead to scare people, or is It somehow holding their souls hostage and using them to terrorize Derry?

The incident in Mike Hanlon's hospital room and the approaching storm illustrate how deeply everything is connected to It in Derry. Mark Lamonica's sister is one of the creature's 1958 victims, and in Chapter 9 her voice in the bathroom drain scares Beverly because Beverly knows Cheryl Lamonica. Now Mark is possessed by It to kill Mike. The storm gathering outside also reflects the danger the Losers pose to It. As the Losers get closer to the lair, the storm grows stronger, and the threat to It and to Derry grows greater.

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