Stephen King’s depiction of The Outsider as an entity tells of the loss of childhood innocence and disbelief, themes similar to ones used by Stephen King in ‘It.’
The Outsider Themes
The Loss of Disbelief
The loss of disbelief is an integral part of ‘The Outsider‘ story as it shows how people lost their sense of not believing in the supernatural. In the story, detective Ralph Anderson was a skeptic who always disbelieved in anything supernatural as he attributed everything to be systemic. However, Ralph discovered that the supernatural was real and that his disbelief in it caused an innocent man his life. Disbelief proved to be a powerful weapon for The Outsider because he utilized the lack of acknowledgment of supernatural forces by the law to commit his crimes.
What happens when your personality gets stolen from you? This question forms the base of ‘The Outsider’ story. Terry faced a foe that used a weapon not even he knew of; that foe was an entity that stole his identity. Individual identity is a theme that provokes one to question the existentialism of supernatural entities, and The Outsider answers a part of that question by stealing a crucial part of his victims, their identity.
Fear is a crucial weapon used by The Outsider to manipulate others into doing his bidding, and an example of this was Jack, who became an antagonist as a result of the fear instilled in him by The Outsider.
Triumph of Good Over Evil
Synonymous to his book ‘It,’ Stephen King showed how good wins over evil and how the innocent always has the last laugh. ‘The Outsider’ shows dedication and the will to do what is right. The story defines how evil can always be defeated when people come together to fight even amid overwhelming odds.
Preserving Childhood Innocence
Also synonymous with themes from ‘It,’ preserving childhood innocence is a theme that resonates time and time again in ‘The Outsider.’ Childhood innocence is portrayed as beliefs one has as a child, including the supernatural, and the story of ‘The Outsider’ perfectly represents that. An example of childhood innocence portrayed in the novel involves Ralph narrating how he discovered worms in a perfectly healthy-looking Cantaloupe. Ralph knew that such an event was nothing short of abnormal and that something supernatural had to be involved. Ralph discarded the idea and only later admitted to it after discovering evil entities as The Outsider existed.
Analysis of Key Moments in The Outsider
- Ralph interrogates a group of witnesses after the body of an 11-year-old red-haired boy, Frankie, is discovered. With his interrogation of witnesses, Ralph’s suspected that the man responsible for the rape and mutilation of Frankie was Terry Maitland, the coach of the boy’s little league.
- Ralph publicly arrests Terry and notices the clear annoyance on Terry’s face. Terry tells Ralph he is innocent, and his lawyer, Howie, backs it up with an alibi of Terry being in Cap city the same time Frankie died.
- Frankie’s mother dies of a heart attack, and Ralph is left in confusion over the entire issue of Terry when another bombshell of Terry being in Cap city on camera shows up.
- Ollie, Frankie’s brother, shoots Terry on the day of his arraignment, killing him.
- Grace gets a visit from an entity with a play-doh face and straw for eyes.
- Though on administrative leave, Ralph keeps investigating Terry’s case. He discovers that Terry was in Dayton the same time the van used to abduct Frankie was abandoned by a 12-year-old.
- Jack Hoskins, Ralph’s colleague, returns from vacation and goes to the barn where a figure touches him giving him burns on his neck.
- Grace dreams of the entity and this time sees a face and inscription on his hands with the word CAN’T and MUST.
- Alec, Howie’s private investigator, hires Holly Gibson to investigate Dayton, and she discovers it is all supernatural.
- Holly travels to meet a group comprising Marcy, Terry’s wife, Jeanie, Ralph’s wife, Howie, Alec, Sablo, and Ralph to tell them everything. Meanwhile, The Outsider orders Jack to obey him with the promise of healing his cancer.
- The group, excluding Jeanie and Marcy, travels to Texas after discovering the next victim was Claude Bolton. The Outsider orders Jack to travel and wait in advance to kill them.
- Jack ambushes the group and kills Howie and Alec, leaving Sablo injured.
- Ralph kills Jack.
- Holly kills The Outsider.
- Terry is exonerated and Bill Samuels resigns.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language
As with his previous novels, Stephen King adopted the epistolary form of writing to ‘The Outsider,’ bringing the best of every world to his writing. Utilizing the third-person omniscient perspective, Stephen King gave an excellent description of events, making characters and their interactions as realistic as possible.
The tone for ‘The Outsider’ is that of horror and thriller. Using gut-wrenching descriptions and immersive writing style, ‘The Outsider’ makes the reader feel on edge, thrilled, and attracted to the characters in the story. Stephen King’s novel also conjures emotions of hate, sadness, and anger as events in the story unfold in a way that brings out these emotions. The figurative language used in ‘The Outsider’ showed an exquisite use of metaphors, similes, and personifications to portray the narrator’s tone in a way relatable to the reader.
Analysis of Symbols
Though being a personality in the story, The Outsider represents the evil that exists in every society. The close resemblance of The Outsider to antagonists from other Stephen King’s novels like ‘It’ shows that The Outsider represents the injustice that arises from evil when there is disbelief.
Ralph continually remembered the story of the cantaloupe filled with maggots when he was a child. The cantaloupe represents the supernatural and childhood. Ralph knew that the cantaloupe could not just be filled with maggots and look perfectly healthy on the outside, he knew there had to be something that made such an anomaly occur, but he shunned the thought.
Bill Samuel’s Cowlick
Samuel’s cowlick represents the lack of maturity. Though Bill Samuel was a well-established lawyer, he still had a sense of immaturity and a lack of taking things seriously. Bill Samuel’s immaturity led him to try cutting himself off from Terry’s case when he discovered it was going to be rocky for him.
Channel 81 tape
The channel 81 tape stands as a symbol of confusion in the story because it brought evidence that proved Terry’s innocence even though there was also incriminating evidence against Terry. The tape also stood as a pivotal point of belief in the supernatural as it made Ralph ponder the possibility of the supernatural.
What are the themes in The Outsider?
The Themes inculcated in ‘The Outsider’ are ‘preserving childhood innocence,’ ‘fear,’ ‘the victory of good over evil,’ ‘individual identity,’ and ‘the loss of disbelief.’
Does Terry Die in The Outsider?
Terry suffers a fatal gunshot and dies on the day of his arraignment.
Is The Outsider a horror novel?
Yes, ‘The Outsider’ is a horror and crime fiction story.
Does Ralph die in The Outsider?
No, Ralph does not die in ‘The Outsider’ as he and Holly are the ones who put an end to the evil entity.
Why was the third-person writing perspective used in The Outsider?
For the story, the third-person perspective gives the reader a better chance to understand the entire scenario from the perspective of each character.