The Gunslinger Journal #2

I'm not overly fond of the Gunslinger in the first volume of the Dark Tower series.  I think the character becomes much stronger in The Drawing Of The Three.

What's wrong with the gunslinger?  As a character it comes down to likability   There is no denying there are people like Roland -- the question is, do you really identify with them?

We like the strong stoic type.  Roland makes a good cowboy.  King is consistent in presenting Roland as a very human hero; but as the story evolves, he becomes more enjoyable.

Here's Roland's primary character flaw: The Dark Tower is his god.  He is therefore willing to sacrifice anything for The Tower.  We are left wondering, in this  novel, if he is capable of love.  Deep, committed, sacrificial love.  He makes love, but then shoots his lover dead at the battle of Tull -- without much struggle or afterthought.

The boy is the problem, isn't he?  I think there is a hint of Abraham and Isaac here (Genesis 22).  God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Isaac went as a willing sacrifice, even carrying the wood.  But in the end, God would not allow or accept human sacrifice.  I am not sure the analogy holds up with Roland and Jake.  Jake goes willingly, because his only other option is to be left behind.

King uses a lot of irony in the rewrite.  I like those little touches.  Only, with Jake it becomes almost painful how often King makes us aware that Jake will not make it to the end of the novel.

King's strength is his characters.  Sometimes real strength is redeeming unlikable characters.  I think throughout the series, King allows Roland to grow.  Later Roland will make better, wiser -- more personally sacrificial decisions.  Some of Roland's immaturity is directly related to King's own age when he began writing the novel.  Roland is what King wants him to be -- a stern, driven seeker of the Dark Tower.  He has few needs in this novel, he is just a shell of a man chasing a tower.  But over time King will quickly decide to fill in that shell.

1 comment:

  1. The whole point of Roland in the first book is that he is the complete outlaw in way. The Man Who Answers to No One to borrow from a similar title.

    He's intentionally isolated himself because of the nature of Mid-World itself, an entire alternate world as its own worst case scenario. Read Robin Furth's two prefaces in the complete DT concordance for a better idea of Roland and his one great sin, if you will.

    It's this sin that colors his entire quest for the Tower. I don't think I would call the Tower God, much less even A god, though Roland might treat it like one. Good grief, it's his bloody precious idol.

    To me, the Tower is just a symbol, and what it represents is not God, but purpose, rational purpose and meaning in a world chaos. Granted, this could also fall under the heading of God, however this is purpose as distinct from God, so to speak in a way at least. Its meaning or purpose Roland is looking for and he thinks the Tower has his answers. He wants to get answers from the Tower for the sake of his own piece of mind. With that secure…well, who knows.

    The problem with this goal is the self-conceit, or selfishness obsession involved. I’ve often wondered if that’s not all Ka really is when you get down to it. In way, Roland is sort of like St. Augustine a little bit when you think about it, except he had the mercy of grace and conversion on his side. Roland never seems to make it that far. To be fair, Mid-world has made Roland what he is as much as anything else. In a way, the DT world kind of reminds me of the barbarism of Rome and the deserts of the Mid-East before monotheism stepped in with civilization.