Literature Study GuidesThe Dark Tower SeriesThe Drawing Of The Three Summary

The Dark Tower (Series) | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Dark Tower (Series) | The Drawing of the Three | Summary

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About the Title

The Drawing of the Three refers to the three people Roland pulls, or draws, from the alternate versions of America in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. He brings each of them to Mid-World, and two of them become his companions, the ka-tet, for the remainder of his quest. 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 Drawing of the Three this word is "Renewal," which refers to the way Roland renews his own energy for the quest by taking on apprentice gunslingers and creating a ka-tet. Renewal also applies to Eddie and Susannah, who take on new and improved lives in Mid-World.

Summary

Three Doors on the Beach

Roland awakens on the beach by the Western Sea to find a horde of crawling, carnivorous creatures washed in on the tide. He calls them "lobstrosities," and one attacks him viciously, taking two of his right fingers and his right big toe. Sickened by the lobstrosities' venom, Roland moves north along the shoreline. He finds three freestanding doors on the beach, each of which takes him to New York City at different points in time.

The Prisoner

Roland steps through the first door, marked "The Prisoner," and is terrified to find himself on an airplane as it lands at John F. Kennedy airport in 1987. Roland quickly discovers he is occupying the body of Eddie Dean, a drug mule for Enrico Balazar, returning from a cocaine run to the Bahamas. To help Eddie clear Customs, Roland must make his presence known, so he speaks to Eddie, telling him exactly what to do to save himself. They hide in the bathroom and take the drugs to Mid-World, returning to the plane just before the pilot kicks in the door. Customs agents search Eddie and find nothing.

Balazar's men take his brother Henry hostage and pick up Eddie outside his apartment. Balazar's men take him to Balazar's bar, the Leaning Tower. Balazar questions him about Customs and the missing drugs. They strip search him, and Balazar allows Jack Andolini to accompany Eddie into the bathroom, where Eddie claims he can get the drugs back.

Eddie fights Andolini in the bathroom and drags him through a door where the lobstrosities wait for him in Mid-World. Roland shoots him on the beach. They return to Balazar's bathroom in separate bodies, and Eddie takes packets of antibiotics from the medicine cabinet for Roland. Eddie overhears Balazar talking to one of his men outside and learns Henry is dead. Eddie and Roland exit the bathroom and fight Balazar and his men, killing them all, even though Roland's missing fingers cause him a few problems during the battle. Afterward Eddie and Roland can hear police gathering outside, and Eddie decides to join Roland's quest because nothing is left for him in New York.

The Lady of Shadows

Back in Mid-World Eddie helps Roland recover from his injuries, giving him antibiotics and lobstrosity meat. When Roland is well enough he goes through the second door, labeled "The Lady of Shadows." Eddie can see New York through Odetta's eyes when the door opens, and he asks Roland to take him along, but Roland refuses believing Eddie only wants a heroin fix. Eddie is furious and threatens to kill Roland.

Roland returns to New York, this time in 1964 in a wheelchair-bound body occupied by two women, currently at Macy's department store. The first woman is a civil rights activist from a wealthy family named Odetta Holmes, recently returned from a Freedom Ride to Alabama and Mississippi. The second woman is Detta Walker, a crafty persona filled with murderous rage at white men. Odetta is unaware of Detta, or that she is shoplifting costume jewelry when Roland arrives. When a store detective sees Detta shoplifting, Roland rolls the wheelchair into a dressing room. Eddie opens the door to Mid-World, and Roland brings Odetta and Detta through it.

Odetta is confused to find herself in Mid-World. Eddie comforts her and tells her what he knows. Roland thinks about the love he lacks in his life. Odetta believes she is in a coma sustained from a beating in Oxford, Mississippi, and she shows Eddie the scar she got when a brick fell on her head during a childhood visit to New York. Eddie tells her about his addiction.

Roland tries to tell Eddie that Odetta has another personality—the one shoplifting from Macy's—and Eddie should be careful of the other woman. During the night Detta Walker comes forward, and Eddie sees Detta firsthand when she tries to kill them. They tie the fighting Detta to the wheelchair. Even restrained she continues to fight them, believing they mean to rape and kill her. Roland's sickness from the lobstrosity bites returns, and he must leave Eddie alone with Odetta and Detta while he goes through the third door.

The Pusher

Roland returns to New York through the third door, this time in 1977 and in the body of a serial killer named Jack Mort. Sometimes Mort doesn't kill, only maims. For example, Mort only maimed the five-year-old Odetta Holmes when he dropped a brick on her head, which created her second personality, Detta Walker. And he only maimed the adult Odetta when he pushed her in front of a subway train that took her legs. Jack Mort has no idea he has attacked the same person twice.

When Roland enters Jack Mort's body, Jack is stalking Jake Chambers, who is walking to school. At first Roland fears he has entered Walter's body, and Walter is going to make Roland push Jake into traffic. Roland learns he is in Jack Mort's body, but Jake is still in danger. He steps forward and prevents Jack from pushing Jake in front of the car, saving his life. He does not see Walter on the street anywhere nearby. Roland figures out Jack's connection to Odetta when he sees Jack's memories, and he devises a plan to help Odetta and Detta.

Jack is aware of Roland's presence, but because Jack is "a monster," Roland simply takes over his body. He stocks up on guns and ammunition for himself, Eddie, and Odetta and buys more antibiotics with Jack's Rolex. He prepares to return to Mid-World and takes Jack's body to the Christopher Street train station where Odetta lost her legs three years earlier. He sends out a mental message to Odetta in Mid-World, urging her to look through the door at that moment. When Roland sees her face he jumps at the door, carrying the ammunition and medicine, leaving Jack on the subway tracks. Odetta and Detta see the train hit Jack. The trauma fuses the two women into a new, dominant personality, Susannah.

Susannah joins Roland and Eddie in ka-tet, which translates to "one made from many" and "sharing the same destiny." The shared destiny is the Tower. Eddie and Susannah are in love. Roland plans to train them as gunslingers and says he loves them both, but he can't promise they won't die in the process. He only assures Eddie there are larger forces in the world than they.

Analysis

Adjustments

Roland interprets everything he sees and hears in his first moments through the lens of his own world, which makes him an innocent in a strange land, an unusual position for Roland. He is terrified when he looks out the airplane window and sees he is in the sky. He thinks clearing customs upon arrival is a kind of religious ceremony and calls it the "Clearing of Customs." He expects to meet priests. He believes the flight attendants are "army women." When Roland sees the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the sign at Balazar's bar, he thinks he has reached the Tower and grows excited. His second time through the door, Roland recognizes New York as Eddie's world, but he is confounded by the "lady things" he sees in Macy's. By Roland's third trip through the door he has more or less gotten the hang of this strange alternate world, but in Jack Mort's body he thinks of an elevator as a "falling coffin." He also needs Jack's knowledge to navigate ordinary transactions such as taking a cab and making retail purchases.

These misunderstandings provide essential comic relief to a narrative suffused with death and high stakes.

Roland's reactions to New York are funny, but they also demonstrate a somewhat limited ability to work outside his comfort zone. In Mid-World he wields the power of his gun, and he understands how everything works. In New York his readjustment doesn't hinder his mission, but he adapts a bit more slowly to New York than Eddie and Susannah do to Mid-World because Mid-World is far less complex than New York. Eddie accepts Roland's story remarkably quickly. While Odetta thinks she may be in a coma, she also demonstrates remarkable calm. Even though Detta is murderous, she has fewer questions about the world around her than she has about the white men surrounding her. These contrasting reactions show how much easier it is for a human to adjust to life in its more primitive and natural state—even one as dangerous as the lobstrosity-infested shore in Mid-World—than it is to adjust to the complex surroundings of technology-infused modern life.

Addictions

Each main character in The Drawing of the Three is addicted to something. Eddie's addiction to heroin is the most obvious one. He is experiencing withdrawal when Roland enters his mind, and the promise of the Tower quest does not magically cure his addiction. When he sees New York through Odetta Holmes's eyes, he wants to go with Roland to the city, not to serve the quest but to get more heroin. Roland knows this and refuses the request. At this moment the reader sees the full extent of Eddie's addiction. He threatens to kill Roland in numerous creative ways while Roland is away through the second doorway: dragging his helpless body to the surf for the lobstrosities, shooting him with his own gun, and cutting his throat. Roland has helped Eddie escape killer thugs and the police, but Eddie's drive for a fix is stronger than his gratitude. It is stronger than his desire to survive since killing Roland would undoubtedly strand him in the unfamiliar and dangerous Mid-World forever. The addiction momentarily turns Eddie—a good man—into a potential murderer.

Odetta and Detta are addicted to their anger. While they present as separate characters in one body, it is notable that Detta emerges from Odetta's personality after she is hit in the head with a brick. Detta could, therefore, be the result of neurological damage, but such an assault wreaks clear psychological damage on a fragile five-year-old. Odetta is disturbingly calm, even after she has been taken to a strange world by strange men. Even when she thinks she is in a coma, hypothetically induced by a beating from police in Oxford, Mississippi, during a civil rights protest, she remains collected and quiet. She makes no mention of the racial injustice she was in Mississippi to resist or the injustice of the violence she suspects was visited upon her body. Detta is the expression of all the rage Odetta suppresses—rage at the white man who dropped a brick on her, rage at the white men who would violate her still. Odetta is only able to let go of her anger—and Detta—to become Susannah when she sees the man who has disfigured her body meet his own gruesome end. The rage finds a cathartic outlet in this event, allowing Odetta to overcome her addiction to anger and to Detta and start a new life with a new identity.

While Eddie is in desperate need of a fix when he sees New York through Odetta's eyes, Roland forces him to swear he will leave drugs alone "until after the Tower, at least ... After that I don't care." Eddie tells Roland there's no "after the Tower" for any of them, saying, "you look as ... wasted as Henry did at his worst." Eddie's addiction allows him to call Roland's quest what it is, and his assessment is correct. So far Roland has sacrificed his first love, Susan, the potential love of Alice in Tull, and the young boy Jake. He has killed at least one town full of people in service of the quest. Roland recognizes how far he is from having love in his life as he watches Eddie fall in love with Odetta and then have that love requited in Susannah. Roland has given up everything for the Tower, and he knows he will continue to do so. He can't promise not to sacrifice his new friends if a situation arises that demands it. Unlike Eddie and Susannah, Roland can't leave his addiction behind; it has consumed his life, and if he continues to live only for the quest the addiction will destroy him.

Connections

In The Drawing of the Three the reader sees how the worlds connect for the first time. Doorways may not be the only means of connection, but connection between the many worlds is possible. Suddenly a piano player in a bar in the middle of the desert in another reality drumming out "Hey Jude" becomes explicable.

Jack Mort's connection to both Odetta and Jake in New York also emphasizes how events and people connect under the influence of ka. Roland feels certain Jack's connection goes beyond mere coincidence. Roland understands that he is meant to meet Odetta and bring her into his ka-tet. He sees that he is meant to know Jake, although he feels less certain that he is meant to save his life. Roland stops Jack from pushing Jake in front of an oncoming car out of an instinctual response, out of love for Jake, and out of residual guilt for letting the boy fall to his death in Mid-World. Still Roland recognizes that even his decision to save Jake is connected to events he cannot see yet. He knows he may have upset the order of things in a destructive way that he may pay for later. Again he is correct. Saving Jake creates a paradox that will drive Roland and Jake to near madness in The Waste Lands. It is a significant moment that reveals Roland is not entirely lost to his belief in destiny and the quest. He follows his heart in the moment, possibly risking the fate of his quest, to ensure Jake's safety.

Jack goes through the world creating violence and chaos, killing and maiming the innocent out of monstrous malice but also to feel a sense of power. He believes he is "sculpt[ing] the cosmos" with his actions. On the surface these thoughts are the ravings of a homicidal madman, but they also happen to be correct. His actions bring Odetta into Roland and Eddie's orbit. They allow her to join a quest of literally cosmic significance and take part in saving existence.

Starting at the end of Wolves of the Calla, when Father Callahan discovers he is a character in a novel by Stephen King, the series takes a turn toward connecting the real-world creation of Stephen King the writer by introducing Stephen-King-as-character. The Dark Tower quest's connection to Stephen King becomes explicit in the last two volumes of the series. When Eddie looks through Odetta Holmes's eyes he compares them to panning shots from movies he has seen—The Shining, Halloween, and Star Wars. At this point these references read as pop culture references characteristic of King's work, but they also hint at this connection to King that will become explicit later. The Shining is Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation of King's novel of the same name. Eddie later compares his first meeting of the dual personalities of Odetta and Detta to a scene from The Shining when the little boy sees dead twins in a hallway. Eddie's awareness of King's work, if only through film, is the first glimpse the reader sees of King's role in the larger story. To underscore this point Eddie also remembers The Purple Rose of Cairo, Woody Allen's 1985 film in which a character from the film walks out of the screen and into real life, just as King will walk out of real life and onto the pages of his own novel in Song of Susannah.

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