Thank You, Stephen King
This is my mess of a post about soul characters and how I found mine in Eddie Kaspbrak!
“No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.” (KING, STEPHEN. IT. SCRIBNER, 2019.)
Did you know fictional characters could do that too? Build their houses in your heart? Connect to you in a way that’s so special and personal that it’s hard to describe? I’ve been sitting and staring at this blank word document for a long time, trying to think of a way to explain my point for this essay. How we as people can just stumble upon books, movies or more with characters written by a complete stranger that touch our souls and give us someone to identify with. It’s truly amazing to think about how a writer somewhere far away from us (or even close!) could just make-up a purely fictional person for us to read about and inadvertently give someone the chance to feel connected to them with such strong emotion that it almost feels personal. They share the same traits as you do. They feel things the way you do. They make you feel validated. They are your soul character.
This 'essay' is probably going to be one of my more personal pieces and won’t be taking itself too seriously (in the case of formatting). My idea for this essay was not for it to be a very put-together piece of work, rather, what I wanted to do was to share a little story with readers that I feel is worthwhile in a more personal way. This requires some background about myself and how I came to read my favorite book of all time, IT by Stephen King. I want to explain what it meant to me and what it leads me to. This and to spark conversation about your own soul character.
My love for the book, which has never ended and never will-began, so far as I know or can tell, with a thick book and an old TV mini-series. The summer of 2015 has always been a favorite summer of mine because it was the first time I read IT. I was between the sophomore and junior years of high school and had decided to finally read some King. I had grown up watching many of the movie/TV adaptations and my brother begged me for a long time to actually get to reading the source material. So nearly every day during that summer I would walk to the library, get a snack and read the book for a majority of the day. I sometimes wish I could go back and read it for the first time again, just to experience all those feelings of new love again! So many things happened after I finished the novel, notably my Tumblr blog (@Grownups-are-the-real-monsters) was created June 29th, 2015 as a way for me to pour out my love and create content for it. Though back then, I was the only IT centered blog and it was very lonely! But the best thing had to be my realization that I now had someone to identify with.
Eddie Kaspbrak is a character who is constantly plagued with fear of the world around him. He got to be this way from his overbearing mother who played upon the incident of losing Eddie’s father to cancer as a manipulation tool to keep him close to her. He grew up on false beliefs of extreme dependency to her and to the many health issues she credited to him, most notably his asthma inhaler that is merely a placebo. The way Eddie was raised caused him to be a very anxious child whose constantly thought of the health repercussions to just about everything he did. Eddie Kaspbrak was a Hypochondriac.
I was always an anxious person growing up and I am still that way now. A recurring issue that I’ve experienced is the way I just latch onto sickness. What I mean by this, is that a lot of the time when I get a cold, stomach bug, headache etc, I just won’t let it go. I will make myself believe that it’s still there long after it’s actually gone which leads me to think it’s more serious and I will proceed to freak out about that. I’ll end up riding it out in an exaggerated period of time and if I recall correctly, the first time I read IT I was having painful stomach-aches that I’m now pretty sure were pent-up anxiety. It’s gotten to the point that when I’m having an anxiety attack, I subconsciously start to make myself feel sick and nauseous because of this intense fear I have of throwing up and being sick. I have this hyperfixation on my health and I can’t really pinpoint where it began because I don’t have a clear source like Eddie does with his mother.
A lot of the time when I’m feeling anxious, I pull out my copy of IT and flip to my favorite Eddie moments just to get my mind somewhere else. That was a method I started using almost as soon as I finished the book for the first time. It’s a great way to escape yet feel comforted by the fact that you’re reading about someone (albeit, fictional) who has the same experiences. Because for the longest time I felt lonely. Not only is it comforting to know that what I experience is known enough by another person that they could write about it in a book but it’s also nice to have this character who's a hero and can stand up to his problems, inspire you. Whenever I’m dealing with a health issue that I know isall in my head, (I can step out & look at myself, realize that I’m just being extremely paranoid yet for some reason I just can’t stop it) well it may sound silly but I like to remind myself of how brave Eddie was and how he overcame his fear multiple times. It helps, it truly does because there’s a really special connection there.
“Eddie was screaming deliriously. He triggered his aspirator again and felt IT draw back. The tentacles which had settled on him now dropped away.” (King, pg. 984). The part in the novel where Eddie uses his inhaler against the creature holds close to my heart. He overcame his dependency and used it against the monster. It was a scene that really made me feel like I could do the same for myself.“This is battery acid you slime!” (IT. 18 Nov. 1990) (you can’t forget the mini-series, that was my first experience with IT!) In fact, this past year I finally stopped carrying around this nasal spray that I’d been taking with me everywhere I went because I’ve been deathly afraid of nosebleeds ever since I had a... bloody experience in high-school. I credit part of my ability to finally stop using it to finding myself in Eddie’s character once again. I mean, I heavily depended on that nasal spray for at least two years. I remember re-reading IT after that nosebleed & thinking; ‘Oh my god, I carry around that nasal spray like Eddie & his aspirator.’ I knew that I truly didn’t need it but it really felt like I did.
What it all comes down to is the fact that Eddie’s character inspires me and comforts me. There is a character like that out there for everyone. I think we as people might search for these characters for a validation that what we feel is a shared experience. I find that it’s very therapeutic sometimes to see yourself reflected in a book, movie, or anything else in pop culture. Which is why it’s extremely important to have diversity in media. It’s important to give everyone the chance to find their soul character so they can have that comfort and joy, the ‘Hey! That’s me! That’s how I feel!’ feeling. I know that just by having read about Eddie, it inspired me to fight back and lead me to the realization that my anxieties don’t have the power to control me. So I would love to know what finding your soul character has done for others!
I remember sitting in the back of the car once on a family trip and hearing my family quoting some movie or whatever but I was too young to know it or care. How fun it was to connect the dots of the ‘Derry-air’ quote to the mini-series when I actually watched it. I grew up on that mini-series, I’ve read IT a total of four times now and you can bet that I cried when the first trailer for IT (2017) dropped. I want to personally thank Stephen King for creating the story and Eddie Kasprbak’s character because it has changed my life in the best of ways. I also want to thank Adam Faraizl and Dennis Christopher for being my first experience with Eddie’s character and playing him unbelievably well! Another thanks is in order for Jack Grazer for doing a wonderful job in the updated film (and in the near future, James Ransone who I am sure is going to nail it too!) I know this essay is all over the place and not my best work but it’s been something I’ve wanted to talk about in full for a long time. I love Eddie so much because I’ve never really related to a character that much. Every time I read the book or watch either adaptation, I feel even stronger about it. So I wanted to share this with you and hopefully hear back on who your soul characters are and how they’ve helped you!