The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Summary

Stephen King

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

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The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Summary

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The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger is the first in a series of novels written by Stephen King and published in 1982. It has since gone through extensive revisions and is now the beginning of a series of eight books. It tells the story of the gunslinger Roland, and his quest to stop the man in black from toppling the Dark Tower.

The story takes place in an Old West setting, but in an alternate futuristic timeline. Roland travels across the desert in search of Walter, the man in black. He finds Zoltan, a farmer, and his black crow. Roland spends the night there, but the man in black was there before him and has set a trap. He meets the leader of a local church who reveals that the man in black impregnated her with a demon. To escape, he kills everyone in the town.

He arrives at an abandoned way station and finds Jake Chambers, a young boy. When Roland collapses, Jake brings him water. Jake does not know how long he has been at the way station; Roland hypnotizes him to find out how he died. He was pushed in front of a car while walking to school. They search for food in the cellar, but encounter a demon, master it, and take a jawbone from the hole where it first spoke.

They leave the desert; Jake is attacked by a succubus. Roland saves him and tells him to hold on to the succubus to protect him. Roland has sex with the succubus because she is also an oracle, and he wants to learn more about his fate and the dark tower. There is a flashback, and we learn that Roland is the son of another famous gunslinger whose brutal training made Roland the man he is today. Marten, his father’s wizard, tricked Roland into declaring his manhood much earlier than any other apprentice. He succeeded. After this, Roland and Jake see the man in black on the mountain; he tells them that he will see one of them on the other side. Jake has been afraid for a while that Roland will leave him or let him die; this only exacerbates his fears.

They head into the mountain in an old rail car but are attacked by Slow Mutants, monsters that live underground. The track begins to fall apart, and Roland lets Jake fall into the abyss so he can continue on his quest.

He makes his way down the mountain and speaks to Walter, the man in black. He reads his fate from a deck of cards. He reveals that he was Marten, and asks him to renounce his quest, taking him on a journey through the universe to try to scare him with his insignificance. Roland refuses, and the man in black sends him to sleep as he tells him to go west.

He wakens ten years later with a skeleton beside him whom he assumes is Walter. Roland removes the jawbone and takes it with him as he sets off towards the Western Sea.

The story is the ultimate battle between good and evil. In this alternate universe, the lone gunslinger stands alone as the last vestige of good in a world haunted by the man in black and his boss. He is the anti-hero, allowing others to die so that he can complete his mission for the good of the universe where he exists. The man in black is the definition of evil, wishing to tear apart the fabric of the universe as he heads towards the Dark Tower.

Roland embarks on this journey not being able to trust any of his senses. Anything he experiences could be a trick of the man in black trying to kill Roland or at least throw him off his quest. Reality is never what it seems in this universe, and Roland has to use his wits to stay after the man in black and ahead of his tricks.

Perhaps one of the man in black’s biggest tricks is revealing to Roland his insignificance in the vastness of the universe. He is counting on what most humans believe about their place in the universe. We can’t possibly understand everything, though we may know enough about our immediate environment, but the man in black banks on the idea that Roland’s lack of knowledge about his quest will be his downfall. In the end, this proves not to be the case.

King uses several different types of story telling to bring his universe to life, including the western and science fiction. The story is dark, and the ending must be answered in the next few novels, but overall, Roland’s journey mimics that of many heroes’ journeys. He endures sacrifices, makes impossible decisions, and never strays from his one objective, to reach the man in black.