It | Study Guide

Stephen King

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It | Symbols



Bill Denbrough's bicycle, Silver, is the most prominent example of the bicycle as a symbol of childhood innocence and imagination in It. Silver is young Bill's prized possession; he cares for the bike meticulously. Like many kids his age, he clips playing cards to the spokes to create a clicking sound meant to make the bike sound like a motorcycle. The placement of these playing cards is an act of childhood imagination and innocence. Bill's name for the bike also underscores the purity of his imagination. Silver is the name of the Lone Ranger's horse, and the Lone Ranger is the television cowboy hero of millions of kids who grew up in the 1950s. Silver's association with purity and imagination doesn't end with Bill's childhood. When he returns to Derry as an adult, Bill finds his old bike in a junk store window. This fortuitous reunion may be a sign of destiny, but Bill is unable to leave "him" in the window, even though Bill has no immediate plans to ride the bike again. Bill can't stand to see the bike in bad shape; in his imagination Silver is not an object but an old friend who deserves respect and good maintenance. Bill's belief in Silver's power leads him to take Audra for a ride on Silver in a last-ditch effort to break her catatonia. It works, which reinforces how the magic of imagination and connection with childhood innocence can literally be lifesaving.

Silver literally saves lives on other occasions as well, as do the other kids' bikes. In this respect the bikes represent freedom of movement and independence as well as safety and escape. Bill uses Silver to retrieve Eddie's asthma medicine when he has an attack in the Barrens. The bike allows Bill to operate independently, without adult intervention, and save Eddie. Later Silver allows Richie and Bill the freedom of movement to explore the house on Neibolt Street and the ability to escape when the Teenage Werewolf attacks them there. Mike's bicycle takes him on expeditions around town, including the ruins of the Kitchener Ironworks. Likewise, it allows him to escape from the giant bird that attacks him there. Eddie also uses his bike to escape from Neibolt Street when the hobo and, later, the leper come after him from the abandoned house. This episode also shows how the bike allows Eddie rare, if dangerous, escape from his mother's domineering presence.

Silver Dollars

A set of silver dollars from his father represents Ben Hanscom's last, tenuous connection to his departed parent. The silver dollars also come to represent protection. The Losers melt one of them to make silver slugs to use as ammunition against It; they're convinced the silver slugs can kill It because the slugs have "the weight of what [seems] like a thousand horror movies on their side." The silver slugs symbolize the protective power of imagination and belief; the slugs' power comes from imagination and belief. It's possible the silver slugs injure the werewolf form of It because the lore is correct: silver works against werewolves. But it is equally likely the slugs injure It because the Losers believe the slugs can injure It.

Ben carries this belief in the silver dollars' protective power into adulthood. After Mike Hanlon calls him back to Derry, Ben visits his local bar and drinks heavily in preparation for the task ahead. He has his father's remaining silver dollars in his pocket and vaguely remembers Beverly or Bill saved his life with one when they were kids. Ben gives the silver dollars to the bartender, Ricky Lee, to give to his own children. Ben's vague memory indicates he believes the silver dollars were special and protective, and he wants to pass this magical protection to his only friend's children.

Paper Boat

Georgie is killed while playing with a paper boat in the rain-swollen streets of Derry after a storm. The boat is a symbol of Georgie's pure, childish innocence. He imagines this boat made of paper as a warship as it sails along Witcham Street. Georgie is absorbed in play, and the boat has given him freedom after several days of being cooped up in his house for the storm. When the boat floats into a storm drain, Pennywise takes it away from Georgie, just as he takes Georgie's childhood and the rest of his life. The boat then floats away to sea, where it "passes out of this tale forever." In the same way, the innocence of Georgie and all of Derry's children is lost forever when the creature becomes active again and begins its killing spree. They are bound by fear, curfews, and cautions from their parents. They may play freely in the parks and the Barrens, but they must always look over their shoulders; they can't trust the grown-ups around them to offer protection. They can't ever be sure they are safe.

The fear and loss of innocence the boat represents for Georgie and Derry's children is magnified for Bill Denbrough, for whom the boat is a symbol of his connection to his brother as well has his guilt about Georgie's death. Bill helps Georgie build the boat. He folds the paper; the boys enjoy jokes and bond together as they waterproof the paper with melted paraffin. Before Georgie goes out to play he kisses Bill's cheek, and Bill tells Georgie to be careful. The boat is a physical manifestation of the affection the brothers feel for one another. After Georgie is killed, the memory of the boat creates guilt for Bill for the same reasons it once inspired affection. Bill built the boat for Georgie, and he believes if he had not, his brother would still be alive. Even though the boat has passed through Maine's waterways and out to sea, the memory of it brings Bill anguish.


Eddie Kaspbrak uses an aspirator to control his asthma. The label on the side of the aspirator instructs Eddie to "Use as needed." About halfway through the summer of 1958, Mr. Keene the pharmacist tells Eddie his aspirator contains only water with a little camphor added to create a medicinal taste. Eddie's obsessively overprotective mother is convinced her son is "delicate" and asthmatic, so she has convinced Eddie he is sick and needs the aspirator. Eddie does have asthma attacks, usually stress-induced; the aspirator controls them, but this is a placebo effect—psychological rather than physical. From this perspective the aspirator represents the control Sonia Kaspbrak exercises over Eddie as well as her betrayal of his trust. Because she is so terrified something, anything, might happen to Eddie, she allows nothing to happen to him. On some level she knows his physical ailments are a lie, but honesty is less important to her than control.

Even when Eddie knows the truth, he hangs onto his aspirator throughout his life. He's aware it is a placebo, but he makes peace with the fact it works for him, and in this respect his weakness becomes a strength. In the first battle against It, he calls the fluid in the aspirator battery acid, and the power of his imagination makes it so. In the second confrontation with It, he sprays the aspirator at the giant spider without giving the fluid a specific name but using "all his childhood belief in ... the medicine that could solve anything." He sprays the aspirator down the creature's throat, which weakens It sufficiently to save Bill and Richie's lives. The aspirator, like many other objects in It, represents the power of memory, belief, and imagination. The aspirator transforms from a symbol of Sonia Kaspbrak's betrayal of her son's trust into a symbol of Eddie's power.


The canal running through Derry's center is really a concrete enclosure for the Kenduskeag Stream, which becomes essential to the town's prosperity during the lumber boom years of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The canal literally puts Derry on the map because it allows logs to travel to lumber mills in the town, floating downstream from forests further north. The canal symbolizes progress and wealth for Derry, transforming it from a village to a small city. To recognize the canal's importance to Derry's success and growth, the citizens hold a Canal Days festival to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

The canal also represents the discord between appearance and reality that is the basis of Derry's existence. The canal is pretty and scenic, with its adjacent park and its covered Kissing Bridge, but a monster lives in those waters and uses it to access many of its young victims, whom It drags into the canal without a trace. In the same way, Derry appears prosperous and safe, but there are monsters throughout the town. It has infected the adult residents of Derry and created a high rate of crime, ranging from child abuse to assault and murder. Even the more outwardly respectable residents of Derry engage in prejudice and racism, and they turn a blind eye to the crimes and violent actions of their fellow citizens. The canal runs through Derry just as the streak of evil and indifference runs through the populace. The literal It lives in the Canal, and the spirit of It lives in the people of Derry.

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