The Dark Tower (Series) | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Dark Tower (Series) | The Dark Tower | Summary

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About the Title

As the final novel of the series, The Dark Tower's title reveals that Roland finally reaches his objective. He and the ka-tet complete the final leg of their long journey. Roland learns what the Tower is and why his quest is not yet at an end. Each volume in the series also includes a page within the front matter that shows a single word that serves as a subtitle. For The Dark Tower this page shows four words: "Reproduction," "Revelation," "Redemption," and "Resumption." Some of these words repeat front matter from previous volumes, creating a sense of unity between the seven volumes. Reproduction refers to Mordred's birth. Revelation refers to the discoveries the ka-tet makes about the full extent of the Crimson King's operations in Fedic and the discovery of the nature of the Tower itself. Redemption lies in the sacrifices each member of the ka-tet makes for the good of the quest. Resumption echoes the front word of The Gunslinger, referencing how Roland will be sent from the top of the Tower to resume his quest from the beginning, in the desert near Tull.

Summary

Ka-Tet Reunited

While Susannah and Mia give birth to Mordred in Fedic, Jake, Father Callahan, and Oy battle vampires and low men in the Dixie Pig. They use Susannah's scrimshaw turtle to hypnotize the masses, which doesn't last long but is enough to give Jake and Oy a head start to the door in the basement. Callahan uses his cross and his gun to keep the vampires from Jake a little longer, then shoots himself as they overpower him. In the basement Jake switches minds with Oy to get past a mind trap guarding the door to Fedic.

While Mia nurses the newborn Mordred in Fedic, the baby shapeshifts into spider form and drains all life and moisture from Mia's body. In the chaos Susannah grabs a gun from one of the doctors and kills almost everyone in the room. She shoots off one of Mordred's legs before he scuttles away. She escapes through Castle Discordia and gets to the doors from America just in time to let Jake and Oy through from the Dixie Pig.

In Maine 1977 Roland and Eddie meet John Cullum on Turtleback Lane near East Stoneham. He believes their story and agrees to go to New York, find Odetta Holmes's godfather Moses Carver, and help found the Tet Corporation for real. Aaron Deepneau will draw up articles of incorporation. Cullum also promises to keep an eye on Stephen King. Roland and Eddie use a door behind 19 Turtleback Lane to travel to Fedic and reunite with Jake, Susannah, and Oy.

In Castle Discordia a butler robot named Nigel helps the ka-tet find a door that gives them access to the Devar-Toi—also called Algul Siento—where the Breakers are at work. The ka-tet doesn't know Mordred is forcing Nigel to bring him animals to feed upon. Nigel's circuits are fried when he sees Mordred eat a baby billy-bumbler. Soon after Walter finds Mordred and tries to kill him so he can access the Tower and become "God of All." Mordred eats Walter and begins following the ka-tet.

Ka-Tet Broken

In Algul Siento the ka-tet works with two renegade Breakers with connections to America: Ted Brautigan and Dinky Earnshaw. Roland also reunites with Sheemie from Mejis, who expresses his sorrow at Susan's death. The renegade Breakers and the ka-tet liberate the Breakers' compound by setting fires to create chaos and the illusion of many attackers. In the melee the Breakers' foreman Pimli Prentiss fatally wounds Eddie. Roland shoots Prentiss. Eddie survives for a short time after and warns them to watch out for Dandelo. In his last breath Eddie calls Roland "father." Susannah stays in Fedic to grieve and bury Eddie while Roland and Jake deduce where and when King is going to die. Sheemie uses his powers to teleport Jake, Roland, and Oy to Stoneham, Maine, on June 19, 1999.

Jake and Roland get a woman named Irene Tassenbaum to drive them along Route 7 toward King's home. They arrive just in time to see King out for a walk with Bryan Smith's runaway minivan headed for him. Roland's hip gives way, so Jake jumps out of Irene's car first and pushes King out of the minivan's path. King is badly injured, but Jake is killed. Roland hypnotizes Smith and sends him to get help. He then hypnotizes King and tells him to get back to writing. King tells Roland to finish the job.

Roland buries Jake near the roadside in Maine. Irene tells Roland that Jake's last words were, "Tell my father I love him." Oy decides to go with Roland to live. Irene takes them to New York.

Tet Corporation

Following Eddie's advice to buy technology stocks—among other good investments—the Tet Corporation has thrived and continues to thwart the Crimson King's Sombra Corporation. The glass skyscraper on the former vacant lot houses a shrine to the rose safely ensconced in the lobby. Aaron Deepneau's niece and Moses Carver's daughter run the company, and Roland meets Moses, who gives him a watch engraved with a tower, a rose, and a key, as well as the silver cross from John Cullum, who was killed in a Sombra attack disguised as a mugging in 1989.

Roland and Oy go to the Dixie Pig—now a crime scene guarded by a Tet Corporation employee—where they use the door to return to Fedic and Susannah.

Le Casse Roi Russe and Dandelo

To reach the badlands between Fedic and the Tower, Roland, Susannah, and Oy must travel through the bowels of Castle Discordia. A monster from the todash, the space between worlds, chases them through but they deter it by lighting bones on fire with a can of Sterno Susannah found in Fedic.

The badlands are harsh and cold, but the remains of the ka-tet arrive at Le Casse Roi Russe, the Crimson King's castle. They meet one of the Crimson King's former minsters, Rando Thoughtful, who tells them the Crimson King smashed the orbs of the Wizard's Rainbow he had in his possession after seeing their victory at Algul Siento. He killed all his servants then killed himself with a spoon. He has gone to the Tower as an undead creature, which means he can't be killed. Roland and Susannah leave Rando knowing Mordred is not far behind them. They can hear Rando's screams from the castle when Mordred eats him.

The ka-tet evades Mordred as the landscape becomes slightly more hospitable, and they fashion clothes from deerskins. They find a comedian named Joe Collins living on Odd Lane. He offers them food and entertains them with jokes. Susannah goes to the bathroom to tend to a blemish on her face and finds a note from Stephen King that tips her off. Joe Collins is the Dandelo Eddie warned about, an energy vampire feeding on their emotions. Susannah emerges and kills Dandelo. They find Patrick Danville, a young artist, held prisoner in Dandelo's basement with his tongue cut out, and they bring him along on the last leg of their quest.

The Last Journey

A maintenance robot called Stuttering Bill brings Roland, Susannah, Patrick, and Oy to his shed from Dandelo's house. He feeds them, then the foursome moves on. When Patrick draws a portrait of Susannah, she asks him to erase the blemish on her face. When he does so, the blemish disappears from her real face as well. Haunted by dreams of Eddie and Jake, Susannah decides it is time for her to leave the quest. She asks Patrick to draw her a door. She says a tearful farewell to Roland before stepping through.

Mordred attacks Roland the night before he reaches the tower. Oy wakes Roland with his barking and attacks Mordred. Roland kills Mordred by setting him on fire, but Oy is impaled on a branch during the fight. His final word is "Olan."

Roland and Patrick reach the Tower where the Crimson King is trapped on a balcony outside. He throws sneetches at them, and Roland shoots at him, but neither gains an advantage. Roland convinces Patrick to draw a picture of the Crimson King using the petals from roses growing around the Tower. Roland's blood forms the eyes. Patrick erases the picture and the Crimson King disappears, leaving only his eyes behind. Patrick departs with Roland's watch.

Roland enters the Tower and discovers it isn't made of stone but is the body of Gan. As he ascends to the top he walks through memories from his entire life. At the top he opens a doorway marked with his name. Gan pushes him through the door, and Roland lands in the desert at the start of his quest, pursuing the man in black again. This time Gan has given him Arthur Eld's horn, a promise that if Roland completes the quest one more time he may find peace.

Susannah emerges from her doorway in a wintry Central Park. She meets Eddie and Jake, who are brothers in this world. They have vague memories of Susannah, and Eddie loves her right away. The narrator promises they will soon meet a strange-looking dog named Oy.

Analysis

Ka-Tet United

Even when they are separated from each other across worlds and years, members of the ka-tet have a strong psychic connection to one another. The narrative demonstrates this connection by showing Mordred's birth and Jake and Father Callahan's fight in the Dixie Pig from multiple viewpoints. Even though they are in another state and over two decades away from Jake and Father Callahan, they can see the melee unfolding and offer assistance. When it becomes clear Father Callahan will have to die so Jake can live, Roland enters Callahan's body and shouts at Jake to go. When Jake hesitates, Eddie uses Callahan's body to warn Jake, "They'll kill Oy first." Eddie's words get Jake moving, which also shows how well Eddie understands what motivates the boy.

Even more amazing is Roland and Eddie's ability to witness Susannah and Mia giving birth to Mordred. Susannah can see Roland and Eddie as well, and they are all reassured by seeing one another alive. This connection takes place across the different timelines and the unknown space between Keystone World and Mid-World. Although the narrative does point out these two worlds are close, there is no way of knowing how close. They have all traversed this distance before using the doorways, of course, but here they do it solely through the strength of their ka-tet community.

For the Greater Good

Each member of the ka-tet must make a supreme sacrifice to serve the cause of the quest in The Dark Tower. At this point they are all as committed to the quest as Roland has been from the beginning. In fact Roland has become less obsessively committed than the others. When he and Jake arrive in Maine to save Stephen King, Roland is the one prepared to leap in front of the van to save King. Only the pain in his hip, a pain he feels because of his connection to King who will soon sustain the hip injury, keeps Roland from leaping into the van's path. Roland is prepared to die so King won't have to. More importantly Roland is prepared to die so Jake won't have to. Jake's devotion to the quest propels him in front of the runaway minivan. He understands the stakes of saving King and acts heroically, without thinking, like a gunslinger.

Eddie and Susannah's sacrifices are less intentional. Eddie doesn't expect to be shot while liberating the Breakers. He has survived many other dangerous confrontations. He goes into the fray anyway because that's what has to be done. Susannah loses the love of her life, and she makes a more intentional sacrifice by choosing to go on with Roland. She stays with him until she is sure her part is done, signaled by the dreams she has of Eddie and Jake, but her heart isn't in it. When she is ready to leave the quest she can only hope and suspect she might find Eddie and Jake in another world, but she is willing to step into the unknown in exchange for that possibility.

The Power of Creation

When they decide to save Stephen King, it is because the ka-tet has determined that many of the items that have been most helpful to them—such as the keys and the scrimshaw turtle on the vacant lot—have been dropped into the story by the writer, and they need him to keep helping them. King returns the favor with one last bit of assistance in the form of the note at Dandelo's house.

King's accident is set on Maine Route 7, and is closely based on the real accident that almost killed the author in June 1999. King preserves most of the details of his accident. While driving a minivan, Bryan Smith was distracted by his dogs and hit King on a stretch of highway near King's home in Lovell in western Maine. Smith left King by the roadside while he went to the nearest town to find help. The only change of details—besides Roland's and Jake's presence—is that the King's real-life accident took place on Maine Route 5 near Lovell (Maine Route 7 is located several hundred miles east of the accident scene). This change is likely intentional, a subtle means of differentiating between the real world and the world of The Dark Tower, separating the creator from his creation. It may also serve as an indication that, despite the ka-tet's belief that King only exists in the Keystone World, he may exist in other worlds as well.

When Jake saves King's life and Roland speaks to the injured author in the ditch, the two men are frustrated with one another, which reveals the interdependence writers and their creations have on one another. Roland demands King finish writing the story so they can finish the quest, but King counters angrily. In his introduction to The Gunslinger, King mentions that he doesn't know what is going to happen until he writes it. As a vessel for the story flowing through him, King needs Roland to finish the job so King can do his part. Even though Roland knows better, he thinks of King as the god and creator of his story, not the conduit.

After King drops his note, Patrick Danville takes his place. Patrick possesses the creative quality even King lacks. King is a vessel for a story that already exists, but with his sketchpad and pencils, Patrick can reshape the reality of the story. Perhaps Patrick is really the last bit of assistance King sends to the ka-tet.

Last Words

When Eddie, Jake, and Oy die, their last words are all about Roland. Jake and Eddie call him father, which reveals how the ka-tet is more than a group of gunslingers fighting for a common cause. They have become a family. Roland has shed the aloof exterior that marked his early days of the quest and bonded with his ka-tet as well. He finally has the love whose absence he felt so keenly on the beach in The Drawing of the Three as he watched Eddie with Susannah. Even Oy, always closely associated with Jake, has bonded to Roland. He chooses to come with Roland from Maine after Jake dies and takes on a giant spider to protect his master. His last word is Roland's name in billy-bumbler speech.

Endings—Happy and Otherwise

According to prophecy Mordred is destined to "stop the breath of the last warrior." Everyone presumes this refers to Roland, as he is the last gunslinger. Of course, Mordred doesn't kill Roland, but he does kill Walter. This ending could reflect the unreliability on prophecies in the face of unstoppable ka. It could also reflect how prophecies are prone to misinterpretation. Walter is a kind of warrior for the Crimson King, and at the point he is killed he is the last of his kind. More accurately he is the only one of his kind. The Crimson King has many henchmen, many who live after Walter is dead, but only Walter is a wizard who uses his magic as a weapon. Warriors can appear in many forms.

Patrick Danville's time in the quest is very short, but he plays one of the most important roles in the narrative. He is the one who has the power to defeat the Crimson King, by now an undead creature impervious to conventional combat. Patrick's power with his art is nearly godlike; he can erase a being as powerful as the Crimson King from existence. The Crimson King's demise is somewhat anticlimactic after all the chaos and fear he has caused throughout the series. His comparatively mundane end shows how relatively fragile evil is, and how it can be wiped out by a simple act of good intent. It also shows that the things that inspire the greatest fear in life may not be worth the energy of that fear. Given Patrick's pivotal role in the quest, it is disheartening that his fate is uncertain after he walks away from the Tower, alone in an unfamiliar land, but the power of his pencil and eraser provide hope for him.

Walter predicts the ending of Roland's quest when he reads the tarot cards in The Gunslinger. Roland receives neither death nor life, finding himself in a loop he has been through an unknown number of times before. Even the message of hope Gan delivers with Arthur Eld's horn is shaded in uncertainty. Roland is meant to blow the horn from the Tower when he reaches the top, so it is possible he has been caught in this loop because he doesn't have the horn and can't complete the quest properly. Gan doesn't tell Roland he will be free when he completes the quest one more time, only that he might be free, he might know peace. The possibility exists that even if Roland makes it to the Tower again, he will be placed back in the loop. The possibility also exists that Roland will complete his quest, blow the horn, and unleash a new set of obstacles and enemies to face.

Susannah, Eddie, and Jake receive the happy ending their efforts and sacrifices have earned them. They do not land in Keystone World or any version of America previously seen. In some ways this difference may make their reunion seem less authentic because it is a slightly different Eddie and Jake who encounter Susannah. They will meet a slightly different Oy in the near future. They don't share the memories of their time before. In some ways this new beginning in this new America is better. Eddie and Jake are brothers, which means Eddie didn't grow up with the bullying Henry and Jake didn't grow up alone. Without Henry, Eddie hasn't had a drug problem. They live in suburban White Plains, which means they are a step removed from the frenzied pace and progress of New York. They don't remember the events of their time in Mid-World, which means they don't remember the violence and trauma they have experienced. All they remember is the love they all have for one another.

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