It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



In fall 1957 the body of five-year-old Georgie Denbrough is found by a storm drain in a street near his home in Derry, Maine. His arm has been ripped off, and the death is officially ruled an accident; officials say Georgie's arm was caught in a strong current caused by recent flooding. In reality Georgie is the victim of a creature his brother Bill and his friends come to call It, a malevolent and ancient creature that feeds on Derry's children. The last thing Georgie sees is It in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, standing in the storm drain and offering him a paper boat and a balloon. Through the winter and spring of 1957 and 1958, It takes other children, some of whose bodies are never found.

Eleven-year-old Bill Denbrough, Georgie's older brother, is driven to solve the mystery of the dead and missing children because he feels responsible for Georgie's death. He made Georgie the paper boat the boy was playing with when It caught and killed him. Bill's friends Eddie Kaspbrak and Stan Uris tell him they've both had a near-miss experience with the creature. Eddie encountered It as a leper in an abandoned house he explored, and Stan encountered It as drowned bodies in the Derry Standpipe, the town's water tank. Bill's friend Richie Tozier does not tell Bill about his experience with It—in which a giant Paul Bunyan statue tried to attack him—only because he is convinced the episode is a dream. In summer 1958 Bill makes new friends who also have terrifying encounters with It. Beverly Marsh sees a geyser of blood shoot from her bathroom sink. Ben Hanscom sees It as a mummy crawling out of the canal running through the center of town. Mike Hanlon meets a giant bird in the ruins of the Kitchener Ironworks, site of a devastating 1906 explosion. The kids also see It frequently in the form of a clown calling himself Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Even when It appears in the form of other monsters, It often retains the clown's suit and balloons. These stories convince the children It is not a human but something else.

The group of friends grows closer, calling themselves the Losers' Club and playing in a vacant wilderness outside town called the Barrens. In addition to their friendship, Ben has a deep crush on Beverly, and Beverly and Bill develop strong crushes on each other. This triangle causes no conflict within the group, however. Instead, all the Losers feel they have been brought together for a purpose: to kill It and save themselves and other kids like them.

The Losers also contend with ordinary evils that summer. Beverly's father is abusive and terrifying. Bill's parents neglect him because they are unable to contend with their grief about Georgie. Eddie's mother convinces him he is sick with severe asthma, although he is physically fine. Worse still the Losers are stalked by a bully named Henry Bowers and his toadies, Victor Criss, Patrick Hockstetter, and Belch Huggins, whose assaults on each of the Losers become increasingly violent. Henry has a special hatred for Mike Hanlon because Mike is black and because the two boys' fathers have a history of conflict.

These supernatural and worldly evils collide in early August 1958, when Henry and his gang chase the Losers into the sewer tunnels under Derry. The creature kills Victor and Belch in the sewers, but the Losers find their way to its lair, where It assumes the form of a giant spider with an equally giant web. Bill engages It in a supernatural ritual in a different metaphysical dimension. It attempts to fling Bill past the borders of the known universe, but Bill uses his imagination and belief in good things to injure the creature. The collapsing web drives the Losers out of the lair before they can confirm It is dead. The group gets lost and begins bickering as they try to find their way out of the sewers. Beverly has the idea of having sex with each of the boys to reaffirm their love for one another and reunite the group. Her gamble works: the group's bond is restored, and they find their way out. After they emerge in the Barrens, the Losers swear a blood oath to return to Derry if It starts killing kids again. When Henry Bowers emerges from the sewers disoriented and insane from seeing his friends die, he confesses to the creature's crimes and is sent to an asylum. Eventually all the Losers except Mike Hanlon move away from Derry and forget the events of 1958. Only Mike remembers everything.

A History of Violence

As Mike Hanlon grows to adulthood in Derry and becomes the town librarian, he reads histories and interviews older residents of the town who remember strange events dating back to the early 1900s. The written histories tell of strange events dating back to Derry's founding, when the entire first group of settlers in Derry Township disappear without a trace in 1741. Other frightening episodes include a lumberjack murdering several men in a bar while the other patrons ignore the bloodshed, the massive explosion at the ironworks that kills more than 100 people, the men of Derry organizing the massacre of a mobster on main street, and a devastating fire at a bar called the Black Spot. Old-timers mention seeing Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the periphery of most of these events, which are spaced roughly 27 to 28 years apart. Mike discovers Derry always has had a disproportionately high crime rate for a city of its size and relatively isolated location, and murders and disappearances account for an unusually high percentage of the crimes. These murders and disappearances appear to spike still higher every 27 or 28 years. Based on this pattern Mike determines It follows cycles of activity and dormancy. When the murders and disappearances ramp up again in 1985, he knows It has awakened and he must call the other Losers home.


It's cycle of activity resumes in July 1984 with the killing of a young gay man named Adrian Mellon. He is attacked by a group of homophobic teenagers who beat him severely and throw him into the Derry Canal at the end of a festival celebrating the canal's anniversary. Pennywise the Dancing Clown awaits in the canal and kills Adrian, who might have survived the beating otherwise. The teenagers are tried and convicted for the murder but remain free awaiting appeal.

Nine children are killed or go missing in the months following Adrian's murder, and the chief of police offers thin rationalizations for each one. When a boy's mutilated body is found near the Barrens with the message "Come home, come home, come home" scrawled in blood on a nearby wall, Mike Hanlon makes the phone calls he has been dreading, asking the Losers to come back to town.

All the Losers return to Derry except Stan Uris. After Mike's call, Stan—who has become a successful accountant and entrepreneur—is distraught about confronting It again and commits suicide in his bathtub. The other Losers who left Derry also have achieved success in their respective fields. Bill is a best-selling author. Ben is an internationally renowned architect. Beverly is a fashion designer. Richie is one of America's most popular radio personalities. Eddie runs a lucrative limo service in New York. Only Mike, who has kept watch in Derry, retains a modest lifestyle and income.

Until they get Mike's call, the Losers have forgotten their childhood almost completely. As they make their way back to Derry and reunite, memories of 1958 trickle back to them. After a meeting in the library the night after their return, the scars from their 1958 blood oath open. They join hands, and their memories are fully restored. They know what they must do.

In the meantime It plots revenge on the Losers for the damage they inflicted in 1958. The creature helps Henry Bowers escape from the asylum and leads Beverly's abusive husband, Tom, to Derry. Henry attacks Mike in the library after the Losers' Club nighttime meeting and almost kills him. When Henry goes after Eddie in Eddie's hotel room, Eddie kills Henry. He calls Bill and Beverly—who have indulged their childhood crush with a one-night stand—to help him. Tom kidnaps Bill's wife, Audra, who followed Bill because she was worried about him; Tom takes her to the creature's lair. After these attacks the Losers, minus Mike, go into the sewers in the middle of the night to confront It for the last time. They find Tom's dead body and see Audra hanging catatonic in the creature's massive spiderweb. They also discover—to their horror—It is pregnant.

The Losers repeat the ritual of 1958, but this time Richie joins Bill in the metaphysical plane, and together they wound It. Eddie dies when he attacks It to save Bill and Richie, but he helps return them to the physical world. This time Bill and Richie give chase and kill It by smashing the creature's heart. In the meantime Ben destroys the eggs It has laid before. After the creature dies the lair begins to crumble; the Losers barely escape in time, bringing Audra's catatonic body with them. When the Losers emerge from the sewers, they discover a massive storm destroyed much of Derry while they were killing the creature.

Mike recovers from his wounds in the hospital, and the remaining Losers return to their lives. Ben, who has loved Beverly since childhood, begins a relationship with her. Richie goes back to California. Each Loser is again forgetting what happened with It, but this time Mike is forgetting too, which may mean It really is dead. Bill takes Audra for a ride on his childhood bicycle, Silver, which brings her out of her catatonic state.

It Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 It kills Georgie Denbrough in 1957 and then kills many more.

Rising Action

2 The Losers' Club forms under Bill Denbrough's leadership.

3 The Losers confront and injure It in its underground lair.

4 Most of the Losers leave Derry and forget their childhood.

5 The Losers return to Derry when It resumes killing in 1985.

6 The Losers regain their memories and confront It again.


7 Bill Denbrough kills It after a magic ritual.

Falling Action

8 A violent storm destroys most of downtown Derry.


9 The surviving Losers resume their lives and forget the past.

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