The Dark Tower (Series) | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Dark Tower (Series) | Song of Susannah | Summary

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About the Title

Song of Susannah places the focus on Susannah as she and the parasitic persona Mia prepare to give birth in New York. The plotlines of the two other duos—Eddie and Roland, Jake and Father Callahan—follow their efforts to find Susannah. The novel is structured around staves of the "Commala" song, a harvest song in the Calla repurposed to reflect Susannah's story. Each volume in the series also includes a page within the front matter that shows a single word that serves as a subtitle. For Song of Susannah this word is "Reproduction," which is a clear reference to the impending birth of Susannah and Mia's child, Mordred. Reproduction also refers to Roland and Eddie's discovery of the many duplicate worlds, or reproductions, that make up the universe.

Summary

Parting Ways

Eddie wants to follow his wife through the Doorway Cave right away and is frustrated that they must wait until morning for the Manni—members of a religious sect versed in todash states and doors between worlds—to come from a nearby village because the Manni will not approach the Doorway Cave at night. In the meantime the ka-tet determines they have two missions. The first is to find Susannah and save her from Mia and whatever she is about to birth. The second is to find Calvin Tower, who has fled to Maine, and get him to sell them the vacant lot in New York. When the Manni open the door, Roland and Eddie step through first, thinking it will follow Susannah and Mia since they were the last to go through. Jake, Oy, and Father Callahan expect to land in Maine.

Susannah and Mia in New York and Fedic

In New York Susannah learns the child she and Mia carry is genetically hers and Roland's because the male demon she encountered in the stone circle is also the Oracle Roland had sex with to save Jake in The Gunslinger. The demon kept Roland's seed and used it to impregnate Susannah. Mia is a demonlike elemental whose sole impetus in life is to have a child. The Crimson King, via Walter, grants Mia a mortal life so she can carry the child in her body in Mid-World, which is why Susannah doesn't look pregnant. Mia is promised she can raise the child for the first seven years of its life.

They drop into New York at 1:19 p.m. on June 1, 1999, at the corner of Second Avenue and Forty-Sixth Street, the site of the vacant lot now occupied by a dark glass skyscraper. Susannah cooperates with Mia because her body instinctively wants the baby to survive. Susannah uses a scrimshaw turtle she previously found in the vacant lot to hypnotize a Swedish diplomat into getting them a room at the Plaza-Park Hyatt Hotel.

In room 1919 Susannah and Mia have an intense conversation in which Mia explains how the Old Ones' machines are decaying in Mid-World. The Crimson King wants to hasten the decay so he can create a new world and rule over it, and he has employed Breakers to destroy the remaining Beams and make the Tower fall. The child is destined to "stop the breath of the last warrior" and break the remaining Beams in one go. Mia shows Susannah the town of Fedic and nearby Castle Discordia, the Crimson King's stronghold in Thunderclap. It is the also headquarters for Sombra Corporation's North Central Positronics division. This is where the Wolves brought the children of Calla and drained their psychic energy to feed the Beam Breakers, and it is where Mia was made mortal. Susannah believes the Crimson King and his men have lied to Mia about her role in the child's life, but Mia dismisses her.

With their labor close, Susannah and Mia leave the hotel room—and a box containing Black Thirteen—behind. Outside Susannah sends a psychic message about her destination to a street preacher named Earl Harrigan before Mia takes her to the Dixie Pig bar, headquarters for the Crimson King's men. Susannah drops the scrimshaw turtle on the sidewalk out front while Mia is distracted by a busker. In the Dixie Pig Susannah and Mia see vampires drinking blood and mutant men eating cooked human flesh. Mia asks Susannah to help her and the baby escape from the Crimson King's men if she can, and to kill her and the baby if they can't escape.

Richard Sayre takes Mia and Susannah through a door from the Dixie Pig's basement to Fedic. Susannah arrives in a ward in the castle where Mia's body lies. The low men connect the two women with a telepathic helmet device to transfer the baby from Susannah to Mia. Mordred is born.

Roland and Eddie in Maine

Expecting to land in New York on Susannah's trail, Roland and Eddie land near Chip McAvoy's general store in East Stoneham, Maine, in 1977. They engage in a shootout in the store with Jack Andolini and some of Balazar's other men who have come to Maine looking for Calvin Tower based on a tip from Mia. A man named John Cullum helps Eddie and Roland kill the attackers and escape. He helps them find Calvin, who has not maintained a low profile, and is traveling all over Maine buying rare books.

Calvin doesn't want to sell the vacant lot, but Eddie and Roland, with help from Aaron Deepneau and John Cullum, convince Calvin he isn't safe from Balazar's men as long as he owns the land. Calvin signs over the lot to the Tet Corporation, which Roland and Eddie create on the spot.

Spurred by his connection to Father Callahan, Roland and Eddie ask Cullum for directions to Stephen King's house in a nearby town. There is a thinny near King's house, and the area is prone to "walk-ins," strange people and mutants who show up and cause trouble. King is unaware of the walk-ins but recognizes Roland as a character from one of his unpublished drafts. He is shocked to find Roland and Eddie in his yard. Eddie sees signs of addiction around King and worries because he believes King only exists in this world, which Eddie dubs the Keystone World.

Under hypnosis King reveals he is not a god but a conduit for the story of The Dark Tower that flows from ka and Gan (God). The content and process of writing this book frightens him, so he has put it aside. King recognizes Eddie as a twin to Roland's friend Cuthbert. They saved him as a child from the Crimson King's spiders who would have made him "his pet writer." King believes the Crimson King has tried to kill him many times since, so he also fears for his wife and kids. Roland urges him to keep writing, to resist the forces trying to prevent him from finishing, and promises the ka-tet will try to protect him.

Jake, Father Callahan, and Oy in New York

Jake, Father Callahan, and Oy land in the middle of a street near the Park-Plaza Hyatt in New York. Jake nearly shoots a cab driver who almost hits Oy, but Callahan and Rev. Earl Harrigan calm him. Harrigan directs them to the hotel, where Jake finds a message from Stephen King at the front desk that turns into a keycard for room 1919. They find Black Thirteen there, and Father Callahan uses prayer to put the orb to sleep before it induces him and Jake to kill each other. They take Black Thirteen to a locker under the World Trade Center and use enough change to keep the locker until June 2002. Jake, who has some psychic ability, mentions the building might fall on it. Callahan says it's impossible and if the building did fall, "That'd be one way to take care of the nasty thing, I guess."

Jake, Callahan, and Oy take a cab to the Dixie Pig, certain they will die there. Callahan performs last rites for them both. Jake finds the scrimshaw turtle Susannah left on the sidewalk for them. He and Callahan feel slightly better about their chances in the coming fight as they open the door.

Analysis

Motherhood

Mia and Susannah's respective experiences with pregnancy illustrate the powerful draw of motherhood. It blots out every other concern. Susannah feels this pull physically. She knows Mia is trouble, and she knows the child they are carrying is not right—even before she learns the details of its conception and its projected destiny. Susannah also knows she and her other personalities have a good chance of driving Mia out. Detta Walker is especially hostile toward Mia and makes her hostility well known. Yet Susannah lets Mia stay and allows the pregnancy to continue. She goes with Mia to New York because she feels her body wants her to have the baby. It's as if Susannah is now made up of five different entities: Susannah, Odetta, Detta, Mia, and the baby.

Mia's drive to be a mother is even stronger than Susannah's. Her sole reason for existing is to become a mother. As an elemental spirit she has indiscriminate sex without knowing why; she only discovers the reason when she sees an infant in Fedic. She subjects herself to a terrifying ritual in the todash space between worlds to become mortal and capable of carrying a baby. She places her fate in the hands of men she knows in her core to be evil, and she betrays Roland and Eddie to those men to keep them away from Susannah. Mia's backstory is tragic, and Susannah knows—along with the reader—that things are not going to work out as she has planned. Mia does terrible things to the people around her out of her selfish desire, but that desire stems from a warped version of a very basic instinct that most living creatures share: to create new life.

Calvin Tower

As his friend Aaron Deepneau explains, Calvin Tower doesn't want to sell his vacant lot to Roland and Eddie, or anyone else, because he has trouble "letting things go." His bookstore has never been especially profitable because Calvin wants to keep the best editions to himself. He whines about the loss of the valuable editions stashed in the Doorway Cave and the loss of the valued property in New York, but the truth is, losing these items isn't going to inhibit Calvin's standard of living because he wouldn't sell them anyway.

Calvin's selfishness and his obsession with ownership are the real source of his evil. He is the man who wants to stand by and do nothing, to hold onto whatever he has without thought for the needs of others. As Roland, Eddie, and John Cullum point out, two women have already died in one day because of Calvin's heedless actions. He has made a spectacle of himself by traveling around Maine, wheeling and dealing for rare editions. Roland and Eddie don't know Mia tipped off Balazar's men, and they don't need to because it is equally plausible Calvin lured them to Maine by making himself an easy target. They tell him the blood of these women, and any others that come after, is on Calvin's hands, but Calvin is barely moved. He knows people will suffer for his actions, but he is only convinced to sign over the vacant lot when he understands he will suffer as well when Balazar's men return.

Destiny in the Making

Even though Mia and Richard Sayre tamper with the doorway to send the stronger duo of Roland and Eddie to 1977 Maine, far from 1999 New York, Roland is also correct when he believes ka has sent him and Eddie, and Father Callahan and Jake, to the places they are supposed to be. Only Roland and Eddie have the skills to successfully overpower Balazar's men at the general store, and even then they need a little help. As difficult as Roland and Eddie find it to convince Calvin Tower to sign over the vacant lot, a former priest and a child would have found the task impossible. It is critical that Roland be the one to meet Stephen King because Roland is the character Stephen King recognizes. In 1977 King has only written a draft of The Gunslinger. It's possible he might recognize Jake from that draft, but it is certain he will recognize Roland, and this recognition allows Roland to do what he must to get King writing again. When King finally recognizes Eddie from the bullying incident during his childhood—more evidence of connections between worlds that even Roland and Eddie can't fathom—he knows he can trust them to help and protect him.

On the other hand, Jake and Father Callahan serve their own destiny in New York. Only Father Callahan has the spiritual faith to put Black Thirteen to sleep and keep it from destroying him and Jake. He also knows where to store the orb undisturbed, although it's possible Eddie would have known where to store the orb as well. The placement of Black Thirteen under the World Trade Center is a particularly interesting development because Jake's question about the building collapsing clearly alludes to the September 11 attack and implies the orb is destroyed on that day. It also raises the question of whether the orb awoke in its locker and created that attack or if ka played a hand in the orb's destruction.

On Writing

Wolves of the Calla introduced an existential crisis—one in which an individual questions the nature of his own existence—when Father Callahan discovered a novel about his life written by a man he'd never met. Combined with the allusions that previously served as evidence of overlap between multiple worlds, these discoveries lead the reader to wonder if all reality is a tale being crafted by someone else. Roland and Eddie's encounter with Stephen King provides an answer: sort of.

King does not claim to be the creator of the story being crafted, only the vessel for writing a story crafted by ka. It's a compelling characterization of the creative process in writing and echoes the characterization King presents in his nonfictional On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. In that text King talks about getting a visit from "the muse," a nebulous force that is different for each writer (King says his muse smokes cigars). The common thread between Stephen-King-as-character's comments under Roland's hypnosis and real-life King writing an instruction manual is that ideas and stories seem to stem from some external force. Even though Stephen-King-as-character is unaware of the thinny near his home, the mutants and strange creatures that come from the space imply that the thinny has influenced the horror novels that have made him famous. The inspiration to create a story comes from somewhere, and it is the writer's job to recognize that inspiration and run with it when it comes.

Stephen-King-as-character's problem is his reluctance to run with that inspiration from the Dark Tower because he fears what might result from unleashing the story, and he fears retribution from the Crimson King. In this respect the Crimson King becomes a metaphor for all the insecurities and fears that prevent anyone from creating fiction, such as fear of disapproval, or fear that the story is "too big," as King says of the Dark Tower.

King's revelation under hypnosis that he is a conduit for the Dark Tower's story and its connection to his other novels once again recasts all the allusions and references present in the series. It raises the possibility that all creative works, all worlds of fiction generated by writers, derive from ka or Gan, so all creative works and all worlds are connected to one another and to the Dark Tower.

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