The Dark Tower (Series) | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Dark Tower (Series) | Wizard and Glass | Summary


About the Title

Wizard and Glass refers to two wizards and two kinds of glass. The first wizard is Maerlyn, creator of the Wizard's Rainbow, a collection of glass orbs with tremendous magical power. One of these orbs becomes the root of Roland's trouble when he is sent to Mejis as a young man. The second wizard is Walter, in the guise of Randall Flagg, who plays at being the Wizard of Oz in the glass palace the ka-tet encounters outside Topeka. Each volume in the series also includes a page within the front matter that shows a single word that serves as a subtitle. For Wizard and Glass this word is "Regard," which refers to the way Roland regards his past history and the ways that history has shaped the man he has become.


Next Stop, Topeka

The members of the ka-tet take turns riddling Blaine the Mono with no success, even using Jake's book of riddles. Blaine mocks Eddie for his stupidity, which reminds Eddie of his brother Henry's bullying when they were kids. Eddie draws on these memories and fries Blaine's circuits with a series of nonsensical jokes, such as "Why did the dead baby cross the road?"

The ka-tet arrives in a version of Topeka, Kansas, where they see newspaper headlines talking about a "superflu" that has decimated the world population. Eddie deduces from the date on the newspapers that they are in yet another alternate version of America. They follow the Beam, which now resembles an apocalyptic version of Interstate 70, dotted with graffiti reading, "All Hail the Crimson King." The group approaches the edge of a "thinny," a place where the divisions between different worlds thin, and Susannah suspects Blaine passed through it coming into Topeka.

Young Roland

Roland remembers a previous experience with a thinny when he was a young man. Roland's father, Steven, sends Roland and his friends Cuthbert and Alain to the coastal Barony of Mejis to keep them away from Walter. There, Roland meets 16-year-old Susan Delgado, a young woman whose Aunt Cordelia has promised Susan to become mistress to Mayor Hart Thorin of Hambry in exchange for money to keep their ranch.

Although she is promised to the mayor when harvest time—the Reaping—comes, Susan falls in love with Roland, and the two commence an affair that lasts through the summer, much to the chagrin of Alain and Cuthbert who think Roland is shirking his duties. The three of them run afoul of three of the mayor's henchmen, Eldred Jonas, Roy Depape, and Clay Reynolds, known as the Big Coffin Hunters. The boys intervene when these men assault a mentally challenged bar assistant named Sheemie. The three young gunslingers discover these three men along with much of the ruling class of the town—including the sheriff and the mayor—are engaged in a plot to draw oil from the disused fields outside town and sell it to Steven Deschain's political rival, John Farson.

Complicating matters, Rhea of the Cöos, a witch who is jealous of Susan, has been using a pink glass orb known as Maerlyn's Grapefruit to spy on Susan and Roland. Aunt Cordelia also suspects the affair, eventually driving Susan from home. By the end of summer Susan is pregnant with Roland's child and plans to return with him to Gilead.

When the mayor and his advisor are found murdered just before the Reaping, Roland and his friends are arrested. Sheemie and Susan help the young gunslingers escape from jail. Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain destroy the oil field and battle with the Big Coffin Hunters and their men to keep the oil from Farson. Despite the odds against them, the young gunslingers kill most of the traitors and maneuver the rest into a thinny outside town, where they disappear. Roland also obtains Maerlyn's Grapefruit from Jonas, who has taken it from Rhea because it belongs to John Farson.

During this battle Rhea and Aunt Cordelia find Susan and lead a crowd that captures her and burns her alive as a harvest sacrifice for her collusion with Roland. Roland sees this happen in Maerlyn's Grapefruit but he chooses the quest for the Tower. Roland gets lost in the orb until his friends intervene.

Back in Gilead, Gabrielle takes the orb from Roland's father, and Roland finds it in her room. It compels him to kill his mother, whom he thinks is Rhea the Cöos in the moment. He faints afterward and does not know what happens to the orb.

The Emerald City

By the time Roland finishes his story, the ka-tet approaches a green glass palace that stretches across the Interstate and resembles the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz. They find four pairs and one quartet of rhinestone-studded red shoes placed on the highway, one pair for each human member of the ka-tet and four for Oy. They see an eye on the flags flying from the palace and find a newspaper declaring they are in Oz.

Inside the palace the ka-tet finds the Tick-Tock Man. Oy attacks the Tick-Tock Man when he grabs a gun, and the Tick-Tock Man dies. Marten Broadcloak then emerges, and Eddie gives Roland his gun. Marten says his name is Flagg and urges Roland to give up the quest. Roland tries to shoot him, but Marten disappears in a cloud of smoke.

The pink orb is left behind, and the ka-tet looks into it. They see Marten, back at the castle in Gilead, beckoning Roland to see Gabrielle in Marten's bed. Later Roland sees Rhea the Cöos behind a curtain in Gabrielle's room and shoots her before realizing it's actually Gabrielle hiding in shame. Then Rhea appears and asks the ka-tet if they want to go the same way as Gabrielle.

When they return from the orb the ka-tet is outside, west of the glass palace and back on the Path of the Beam. Their shoes are dull, but they find backpacks filled with sandwiches and Keebler cookies and a final warning from Randall Flagg. Roland offers to release the ka-tet from the quest, but they refuse and continue along the Beam.


Childhood and Adolescence

Eddie continues along the path to redemption he began walking in The Waste Lands. In his confrontation with Blaine the Mono, he once again confronts the inner voice of his brother Henry, belittling and bullying him. Unlike before, when Henry's voice bullied him to near submission, this time Eddie is in control. He uses other memories of Henry, of his silly jokes from their childhood, and turns them into weapons against the train that bullies and threatens him now. In doing so Eddie is able to come to peace with his childhood and his brother, another important step toward becoming the hero.

While Roland found some peace and redemption in saving Jake in The Waste Lands, he also realizes some experiences are beyond redemption. That he was a teenage boy, driven by the things that drive all teenage boys in love when he met Susan, makes little difference. He knows he might have saved her life, saved the family they might have had, but he had to make a choice. He chose to serve the greater good by fighting John Farson's men. He chose to follow his ka to the Tower, just like he chose to follow it when he let Jake fall. That mistake has been redeemed, but completing the quest to the Tower is the only way Roland can come close to atoning for what happened to Susan. If he can complete the quest, stop the Crimson King, and preserve existence, then the sacrifices he has made will be somehow worthwhile.


The customs of Hambry reveal that morality and goodness are not synonymous. They aren't even necessarily related. The culture of Hambry in general—and Susan's Aunt Cordelia in particular—believe it is morally acceptable to give a 16-year-old girl to an old man as a mistress, or gilly in their parlance. They believe it is morally acceptable to allow the mayor to keep Susan as his mistress until he impregnates her. They believe it is morally acceptable for these events to transpire even as the mayor's wife is embarrassed by them in public. None of these actions serve any sort of good. A young woman will be physically violated, pushed into an untenable position because her family is poor. An older woman will be emotionally violated, pushed into an untenable position because her husband is powerful. In Hambry wealth and power dictate the morality, even if that morality ultimately serves evil ends.

Aunt Cordelia and Rhea of the Cöos are made evil and ugly by their jealousy of Susan's youth and beauty. They are manipulative and self-serving, but each woman thinks she is righteous. In their eyes Susan is the evil one for losing her virginity that has been promised to Mayor Thorin. Susan doesn't lose her virginity wantonly; she has sex with Roland because they are in love and want to express that love. Although many moral structures in the modern world condemn sex outside of marriage as evil, Susan does hope to marry Roland eventually. Furthermore, even outside of marriage a physical act that expresses love has more inherent good than a physical act that amounts to a monetary transaction orchestrated by other people. By taking control of Susan's body and essentially selling her to the mayor, Aunt Cordelia and Rhea commit an evil act, even if the town's morality allows it. By inciting Susan's death for her immorality because of their own petty jealousies, Aunt Cordelia and Rhea commit an even greater act of evil.

Furthermore, the Big Coffin Hunters and their plot to sell oil to John Farson is something everyone with any power in town seems to know about, and most of them are directly involved. These men have no moral qualms about selling fuel to a man who will use it to power war machines—presumably tanks and the like. They don't seem to care that John Farson wields powerful magic by way of his association with Walter in the guise of Marten Broadcloak. They don't care if that magic has been released on the town in the form of Maerlyn's Grapefruit, placed in the hands of Rhea of the Cöos for safekeeping. They don't consider what she might do with it. These men are not driven by any sense of morality, for good or ill. They only want to make a profit and extend their own power. If they have to kill three teenage boys to do it, they are comfortable with that. If other innocent lives are lost as collateral damage, so be it. Their abuse of power and indifference to goodness makes them evil.

Allusions and Other Worlds

Like all The Dark Tower novels Wizard and Glass includes several allusions to other literary works. The presence of the single eye on the flags at the palace echo the lidless eye of Sauron in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series. The superflu mentioned in the papers and the emergence of Marten Broadcloak who declares his name is Flagg—both of which are alternate identities for Walter, the man in black—references another of King's novels, The Stand. In that novel Randall Flagg assumes control over America after a mysterious disease wipes out most of the population. Susannah rightly assumes Blaine the Mono brought them through a thinny to an alternate America where these events have transpired. This is the ka-tet's first clear evidence that there are more Americas than the one Susannah, Jake, and Eddie come from. In fact Susannah, Jake, and Eddie may all come from different versions of America. There could be an infinite number of Americas, and this realization will become more significant as they learn more about the nature of the many different worlds.

The most prominent allusion present in Wizard and Glass is to the Wizard of Oz. Walter, as Randall Flagg and Marten Broadcloak, deliberately constructs the scene in homage to the famous book and film, which connects Topeka with the version (or versions) of America the ka-tet members recognize. This allusion connects easily with the ka-tet itself. Dorothy and her friends, like the ka-tet, are on a quest. There are four of them and an animal traveling on foot over a long distance to reach a mysterious structure, like the ka-tet. But at its core The Wizard of Oz is a children's story with bright colors and a happy ending. The ka-tet's quest has taken them through a postapocalyptic wasteland toward an ending that is not assured. The use of The Wizard of Oz is Walter's idea of a joke. He mocks the ka-tet's persistence and uses the colorful movie to remind them of their own peril by contrast.

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