Stephen King has chosen winter as the main setting for various stories, and here’s every one of them and why he has chosen this specific season. After writing short stories, Stephen King became widely known when Carrie was published in 1974, introducing readers to his narrative style and the horror and social themes he likes to address. Since then, King has terrorized generations of readers with his novels and short stories, allowing them to safely explore different fears and places, and meet a variety of monsters, both human and supernatural.
Many of Stephen King’s stories and characters have now become part of pop culture, such as IT and Pennywise, Misery and Annie Wilkes, and The Shining and Jack Torrance. As more and more stories by King are published, readers point out similarities and links between them, including that some of them are set during winter. The season of cold and snow has witnessed some of King’s most notable and terrifying stories, and here are seven of them and why Stephen King seems to love winter as a setting for his stories.
1 The Shining
In 1977, Stephen King’s third novel, The Shining, was published, and it has since become one of his most popular and praised works. The Shining follows Jack Torrance, an alcoholic writer going through writer’s block who takes a job as the off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Jack takes his family – his wife, Wendy, and their son, Danny – with him in hopes to reconnect with them and improve their relationship, which has been damaged by his alcoholism, but once at the hotel, Danny’s psychic abilities get stronger and the Torrances get a glimpse at the hotel’s horrific nature – and to make it all worse, they are trapped inside the hotel due to a winter storm. The Shining was famously adapted into a film in 1980 by Stanley Kubrick, into a TV miniseries in 1997 (written by King), and into an opera in 2016.
2 One For The Road
“One For The Road” is a short story first published in the March/April 1997 issue of Maine and later in the 1978 collection Night Shift, and it serves as a sequel to the novel Salem’s Lot. Set three years after the events of Salem’s Lot, with vampires still prowling the remains of Jerusalem’s Lot, “One For The Road” follows Booth and Herb “Tookey” Tooklander as they try to rescue the wife and daughter of a motorist as their vehicle is stranded in a blizzard.
3 The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone is a sci-fi novel published in 1979 and the first to be set in Castle Rock, Maine. It follows Johnny Smith, who after waking up from a five-year coma, now has clairvoyant and precognitive visions triggered by touch. When information is blocked from his perception, he refers to it as being in “the dead zone” part of his brain. A big part of The Dead Zone is set during the winter, though the season doesn’t play a big role in the story like in other King novels. The Dead Zone has been adapted into a 1983 movie by David Cronenberg and a TV series in 2002.
4 The Breathing Method
The Breathing Method is a novella published in the 1982 collection Different Seasons, in the section “A Winter’s Tale”. Through a narrator named David, readers meet Dr. Emlyn McCarron, who tells the story of a patient of his, Sandra Stansfield, who was going to give birth to her illegitimate child back in the 1930s. However, when Sandra went into labor and on her way to the hospital on an icy winter night, her taxi crashed and she was decapitated, but she was somehow still alive, allowing Dr. McCarron to help her give birth.
5 The Reach
“The Reach” is a short story first published in Yankee in 1981 and later collected in Skeleton Crew in 1985. “The Reach” follows Stella Flanders, a 95-year-old woman and the oldest resident of Goat Island, who after she starts seeing the deceased residents of Goat Island, decides to cross the body of water between the island and the mainland as she realizes that the cancer she has is now in its final stages. Stella heads across the frozen reach toward the mainland and it starts to snow, making it difficult for her to find her way.
Misery was published in 1987, and it’s one of King’s most personal works, with the main antagonist, Annie Wilkes, being a stand-in for cocaine. Misery follows best-selling novelist Paul Sheldon, who after crashing his car during a blizzard in a small town in Colorado, is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a local former nurse and a big fan of Sheldon’s book series Misery. Wilkes turns out to be a psychopath who forces him to write a new Misery novel as she didn’t like what Sheldon did to the protagonist in his latest novel. The heavy snow adds to Misery’s claustrophobic feeling and Sheldon’s desperation as he couldn’t escape, but just as winter passed, Sheldon got better and stronger. Misery was adapted into a movie in 1990, widely regarded as one of the best Stephen King adaptations.
Dreamcatcher was published in 2001, and like many other King’s stories, it’s set in the town of Derry, Maine. Dreamcatcher is the story of four friends – Gary “Jonesy” Jones, Pete Moore, Joe “Beaver” Clarendon and Henry Devlin – who saved Douglas “Duddits” Cavell from a group of sadistic bullies when they were teenagers. Thanks to their new friendship with Duddits, Jonesy, Beaver, Pete, and Henry share Duddits’ powers, such as telepathy, shared dreaming, and seeing a psychic trace left by the movement of human beings they referred to as “the line”. Years later, while on a hunting trip in the woods, they are overtaken by a blizzard, and they become caught between an alien invasion and an insane US Army Colonel. Dreamcatcher was adapted into a movie in 2003, but it was a critical and commercial failure.
8 Why Various Stephen King Stories Are Set During The Winter
Although Stephen King hasn’t explained why he has chosen winter as the setting or background for some of his stories, it might have something to do with how this season allows creating a claustrophobic and isolating environment, with the characters facing obstacles that are completely out of their control, and it also serves as a way of symbolizing the changes and growth of the characters as the seasons change. Winter has played a role in some of the above stories by Stephen King, while in others it has simply been the background setting, but in both cases, it adds to the horrors and unsettling vibes of each story.
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