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Roland Truly A Hero Essay, Research Paper

Corkery 1

Jeremy Corkery

ENG 0A0

Mr. Vaiana

April 25/00

Is Roland a Hero

Throughout history on science fiction and fantasy novels, the hero has always been

portrayed as someone who is more than just your regular human. Someone who has no flaw in their qualities other than compassion, which often causes their downfall. Always, in the end, the hero triumphs over great evil, to the dismay of the villain, and the applause of those he saved. What happens when the hero is superhuman? Is he still a hero? What if he kills the innocent for his own purposes, hunts down those who appear to be good. What then, even if he appears to be doing it for a common good? Is he then considered hero or villain. Roland in Stephen Kings’ books, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, portrays non hero like characteristics, which ultimately makes him not a hero. Roland allows all kinds of terrible things to occur. He allows, and in more than one case he commits the act himself, those that he loves to die. Roland slaughters a whole town in his effort to reach the tower. Everything is in his effort to reach the tower, and at this point we know nothing about it. Roland guns down his best friend. This occurs in both Kings’ works, and Brownings’ poem, Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Roland reaches into our world and draws out to people, as well as killing several other. The killing he does is often senseless, even though he does show mercy at some point, it is only because he believes that the cops he doesn’t kill, are our world version of “Gunslinger’s.”

Corkery 2

Does this however grant him the right to do what he does? Is he exempt from what everyone else does? In our own society even law enforcers are not allowed to be above the law. They may often try to put themselves above the law, but eventually they get smacked back down, and must then stand before the law they thought they were above. Roland does not follow this. This may make his efforts noble, but the fact of the matter is that he is a ruthless killer, who somewhere along the lines, got caught up in the usual misconception that all protagonists are heroes.

We are given signs of Roland not being a hero constantly throughout both novels, however the signs are more apparent to the reader in the first novel. The first act of this is when we see him at the hut with the old man. He immediately gets ready to kill the old man because he thinks he will do him harm:

He looked up, startled. The shaft was about fifteen feet deep: easy enough for Brown to drop a rock on him, break his head, and steal everything on him…When he came trough the hut’s door and walked down the steps, Brown was poking ears of corninto the ember of a tiny fire.(The Gunslinger 21-22)

Roland is always paranoid. I do not know of modern day heroes that are paranoid. This is one of the first indications that we are given.

Later in the novel Roland comes through a town called Tull. While in this town he meets a women that he falls in love with. He then proceeds to kill the whole town, and the love of his life because they now stand between him and the tower. A woman who is with child, has her child taken because it is the Man in Blacks’. Because of this Roland feels he must kill it. “Get out. You’ve killed the child. Get out… No child, he said briefly, no angel, no demon.” (The Gunlsinger 78)

Corkery 3

A reference to the Sabbath day is used in this town. It is on this day of rest, that Roland kills an entire town. They come at him believing he is evil because he is chasing this mysterious sorcerer who they believe is God, because he raised one of their fellow townspeople from death. He could have easily left. He saw holding the woman he loved at the front, in effort to capture him. What did he do? He shot her through the head. Shot her dead before he killed any of them.

He saw that she was held hostage; the distorted, grimacing face of Sheb peered over her shoulder like a witch’s familiar. She was his shield and sacrifice. He saw it all, clear and shadowless in the frozen deathless light of the sterile clam and heard her:

“He’s got me O Jesus don’t shoot don’t shoot don’t don’t don’t—”

But the hands were trained. He was the last of his breed and it was not only his mouth that knew the High Speech. The guns beat their heavy, atonal music into the air. Her mouth flapped and she sagged and the guns fired again. Sheb’s head snapped back. They both fell into the dust.

Once again the question is phrased, what kind of hero would do this. He killed the woman he love, this Allie. Rather than leave to save her and spare the town, he decides to take it upon himself to kill them.

Roland also kills his immediate family. This is not learned until the fourth book but it ties in with this scenario. In first book of the Dark Tower Saga, we learn of the death of Roland’s best friend Cuthbert. He is gunned down by the Gunslinger as well. Nothing else is mentioned about this however. But an interesting comparison between Kings book and Browning’s poem is that in both, Cuthbert dies at Roland’s hands, and also that he is a very untrusting, scared or even lost character as Browning’s poem opens with:

Corkery 4

My first thought was, he lied in every word.

that hoary cripple with malicious eye

askance to watch the working of his lie. (Browning)

We see striking similarities between Kings book and Browning poem. At first you may not see the actual sameness between the two, but after reading both several times, you will see just how deep King read into his works, and how closely he has followed things that Browning implied.

Roland lets his adopted son, who he comes to love, plummet to his death in order to continue his quest by meeting the Man in Black. The Man in Black gives him an option. Renounce the tower or kill the boy. He must make a decision. At this point Roland no longer refers to the boy as Jake. He no longer accepts him and he is just the boy, another pawn to be used in order to get to the tower.

The boy’s face took on wonder. “You’re going to kill me. He killed me the first time and you are going to kill me now.”

The Gunslinger felt the lie on his lips. He spoke it: “You’ll be alright.” And a greater lie. “I’ll take care.”

The Gunslinger knew that the boy Jake needed to be killed. He knew this and brought his son along with him in order to sacrifice him to be able to meet with the Man in Black. In the end he does sacrifice the boy. He lets him fall to his death, the boy accepting his role in the scheme of this and the Gunslinger moves on, much like the world he lives in. (The world has moved on is a term used in the novel to signify the coming of a new age in the world. However what it really meant, was that the world was dying.)

Roland’s universe is the nexus of all space and time itself. The tower, is the nexus of

Corkery 5

Roland’s world. He strives to reach it. All other Gunslinger’s of his kind have perished trying to attain it. He is the last of his kind and he will stop at nothing to get it even if it meant killing everyone he holds dear. This sounds a lot like a villain. He hunts down someone regarded as a God for doing good deeds. Kill his family and the women he loves. He allows his son to die in order for him to capture the Man in Black who has done absolutely nothing to him. Roland isn’t the hero that people have mistaken him for. He is ruthless, and almost demonic in his cause. He is so dedicated to his cause that it is admirable. What Roland does, he considers to be the right thing. He does not consider consequences or what might happen to others. He only thinks of the tower. He points out that it is almost romantic in the non sexual sense, love, not like the love between a man and a women, but the love between a man and a fine Cuban cigar. While Roland’s intentions are good and he hopes that he will do something by finding the tower, he doesn’t know what it is, how to find it, or what to do when he does find it. Roland is the protagonist of the story. However he is not the hero. His actions, while noble and true in his mind, are not heroic. He does not deserve that stature of being called a hero.

Corkery 1

Jeremy Corkery

ENG 0A0

Mr. Vaiana

April 25/00

Is Roland a Hero

Throughout history on science fiction and fantasy novels, the hero has always been

portrayed as someone who is more than just your regular human. Someone who has no flaw in their qualities other than compassion, which often causes their downfall. Always, in the end, the hero triumphs over great evil, to the dismay of the villain, and the applause of those he saved. What happens when the hero is superhuman? Is he still a hero? What if he kills the innocent for his own purposes, hunts down those who appear to be good. What then, even if he appears to be doing it for a common good? Is he then considered hero or villain. Roland in Stephen Kings’ books, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, portrays non hero like characteristics, which ultimately makes him not a hero. Roland allows all kinds of terrible things to occur. He allows, and in more than one case he commits the act himself, those that he loves to die. Roland slaughters a whole town in his effort to reach the tower. Everything is in his effort to reach the tower, and at this point we know nothing about it. Roland guns down his best friend. This occurs in both Kings’ works, and Brownings’ poem, Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Roland reaches into our world and draws out to people, as well as killing several other. The killing he does is often senseless, even though he does show mercy at some point, it is only because he believes that the cops he doesn’t kill, are our world version of “Gunslinger’s.”

Corkery 2

Does this however grant him the right to do what he does? Is he exempt from what everyone else does? In our own society even law enforcers are not allowed to be above the law. They may often try to put themselves above the law, but eventually they get smacked back down, and must then stand before the law they thought they were above. Roland does not follow this. This may make his efforts noble, but the fact of the matter is that he is a ruthless killer, who somewhere along the lines, got caught up in the usual misconception that all protagonists are heroes.

We are given signs of Roland not being a hero constantly throughout both novels, however the signs are more apparent to the reader in the first novel. The first act of this is when we see him at the hut with the old man. He immediately gets ready to kill the old man because he thinks he will do him harm:

He looked up, startled. The shaft was about fifteen feet deep: easy enough for Brown to drop a rock on him, break his head, and steal everything on him…When he came trough the hut’s door and walked down the steps, Brown was poking ears of corninto the ember of a tiny fire.(The Gunslinger 21-22)

Roland is always paranoid. I do not know of modern day heroes that are paranoid. This is one of the first indications that we are given.

Later in the novel Roland comes through a town called Tull. While in this town he meets a women that he falls in love with. He then proceeds to kill the whole town, and the love of his life because they now stand between him and the tower. A woman who is with child, has her child taken because it is the Man in Blacks’. Because of this Roland feels he must kill it. “Get out. You’ve killed the child. Get out… No child, he said briefly, no angel, no demon.” (The Gunlsinger 78)

Corkery 3

A reference to the Sabbath day is used in this town. It is on this day of rest, that Roland kills an entire town. They come at him believing he is evil because he is chasing this mysterious sorcerer who they believe is God, because he raised one of their fellow townspeople from death. He could have easily left. He saw holding the woman he loved at the front, in effort to capture him. What did he do? He shot her through the head. Shot her dead before he killed any of them.

He saw that she was held hostage; the distorted, grimacing face of Sheb peered over her shoulder like a witch’s familiar. She was his shield and sacrifice. He saw it all, clear and shadowless in the frozen deathless light of the sterile clam and heard her:

“He’s got me O Jesus don’t shoot don’t shoot don’t don’t don’t—”

But the hands were trained. He was the last of his breed and it was not only his mouth that knew the High Speech. The guns beat their heavy, atonal music into the air. Her mouth flapped and she sagged and the guns fired again. Sheb’s head snapped back. They both fell into the dust.

Once again the question is phrased, what kind of hero would do this. He killed the woman he love, this Allie. Rather than leave to save her and spare the town, he decides to take it upon himself to kill them.

Roland also kills his immediate family. This is not learned until the fourth book but it ties in with this scenario. In first book of the Dark Tower Saga, we learn of the death of Roland’s best friend Cuthbert. He is gunned down by the Gunslinger as well. Nothing else is mentioned about this however. But an interesting comparison between Kings book and Browning’s poem is that in both, Cuthbert dies at Roland’s hands, and also that he is a very untrusting, scared or even lost character as Browning’s poem opens with:

Corkery 4

My first thought was, he lied in every word.

that hoary cripple with malicious eye

askance to watch the working of his lie. (Browning)

We see striking similarities between Kings book and Browning poem. At first you may not see the actual sameness between the two, but after reading both several times, you will see just how deep King read into his works, and how closely he has followed things that Browning implied.

Roland lets his adopted son, who he comes to love, plummet to his death in order to continue his quest by meeting the Man in Black. The Man in Black gives him an option. Renounce the tower or kill the boy. He must make a decision. At this point Roland no longer refers to the boy as Jake. He no longer accepts him and he is just the boy, another pawn to be used in order to get to the tower.

The boy’s face took on wonder. “You’re going to kill me. He killed me the first time and you are going to kill me now.”

The Gunslinger felt the lie on his lips. He spoke it: “You’ll be alright.” And a greater lie. “I’ll take care.”

The Gunslinger knew that the boy Jake needed to be killed. He knew this and brought his son along with him in order to sacrifice him to be able to meet with the Man in Black. In the end he does sacrifice the boy. He lets him fall to his death, the boy accepting his role in the scheme of this and the Gunslinger moves on, much like the world he lives in. (The world has moved on is a term used in the novel to signify the coming of a new age in the world. However what it really meant, was that the world was dying.)

Roland’s universe is the nexus of all space and time itself. The tower, is the nexus of

Corkery 5

Roland’s world. He strives to reach it. All other Gunslinger’s of his kind have perished trying to attain it. He is the last of his kind and he will stop at nothing to get it even if it meant killing everyone he holds dear. This sounds a lot like a villain. He hunts down someone regarded as a God for doing good deeds. Kill his family and the women he loves. He allows his son to die in order for him to capture the Man in Black who has done absolutely nothing to him. Roland isn’t the hero that people have mistaken him for. He is ruthless, and almost demonic in his cause. He is so dedicated to his cause that it is admirable. What Roland does, he considers to be the right thing. He does not consider consequences or what might happen to others. He only thinks of the tower. He points out that it is almost romantic in the non sexual sense, love, not like the love between a man and a women, but the love between a man and a fine Cuban cigar. While Roland’s intentions are good and he hopes that he will do something by finding the tower, he doesn’t know what it is, how to find it, or what to do when he does find it. Roland is the protagonist of the story. However he is not the hero. His actions, while noble and true in his mind, are not heroic. He does not deserve that stature of being called a hero.


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