If you’re familiar with Stephen King and his work, The Body and Stand By Me might seem pretty tame compared to his more, let’s call it, outlandish work. His stories often involve the supernatural or other-worldly. This King entry is not that, and that’s okay. Indeed, the weird and wild is part of his charm, but I find the novella and movie which I mentioned much more remarkable because of their simplicity and basis in reality. I’ll go ahead and say that I’m not a die-hard Steven King fan, and never really have been. I enjoy his fantastical stories, but as I’ve aged, I find myself loving interpersonal stories much more than grand adventures. Of course, I love his stories like The Dark Tower, Carrie, or IT; however, the deep themes of The Body and Stand By Me strike me much more.
I turned 21 a little less than a month ago. I graduate next semester. It’s hit me more than a few times that I’m about to transition to a new stage of life, one that I never really imagined I’d reach. Not this quickly, anyway. I’m in the midst of the bittersweet ending of a book. I’m not entirely sure if this is the whole reasoning behind my thought process, but stories have recently been giving me a lot of perspective about life. I mentioned last week that Breakfast at Tiffany’s had that effect too (you can read that post for further details). The Body and Stand By Me also did that, but with a different theme.
A large emphasis in the story is fleeting friendships. Most experience this in life; those friends you have when you’re younger, and how they’re some of the best you’ll have in your life. Gordie and his friends felt very similar to the ones I had in Boy Scouts in late elementary to early middle school. It does feel like a coming of age story, but unique for that genre, which instantly made it shine for me. I tend to believe that King wrote this based on some of his own experiences.
This journey that Gordie and his friends go through seems simultaneously redundant and life-changing. Even though the events themselves don’t matter, the significance of them does. This is the final time these kids get to be, well, kids. Things will never be the same moving forward. This feels applicable to various stages or landmarks in life. Even though all of them grow apart, except for Chris and Gordie, they will share these memories for the rest of their lives. It shaped them into the people they become. What makes this story even more poignant is that Gordie is a writer, as am I and most likely many of you reading this. I’ve been told by Steven King savants that he likes to make his main characters writers retelling these moments in retrospect as adults. This has become something of a cliche for him, but honestly, for this particular case, it works remarkably well for its message.
I saw a lot of myself in Gordie. His writing about a time long past when he was much smarter and wiser with his own children feels relatable. I could see myself doing the very same in another 20 years. While I don’t 100% agree that the friends you have when you’re 12 are the best friends you’ll ever have, I do believe that at some point in life, you will have completed your time with your best friends on this Earth. It’s impossible to know in the moment, but it will come. As Andy Dwyer says from The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in “the good ole days” before you’ve actually left them.”