The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands
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Reading Group Guide from The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance
1. Between the end of The Drawing of the Three
and the beginning of The Waste Lands,
the relationships among Roland, Susannah, and Eddie shift. Describe these changes. What causes them? Does Eddie now trust Roland? Does Susannah?
2. What is the gunslinger litany? What worldview does it imply—from what a gunslinger should honor to how he/she should attack his/her enemies?
3. In what ways are Roland’s new friends much like his deadly old friends? What happened to those old friends? Do you think the same fate awaits Roland’s new friends?
4. What is ka-tet
? How do the forces of ka-tet
bind individuals together, and how do they ultimately bind a society together?
5. Describe the metaphysical map that Roland draws at the beginning of the novel. What is its linchpin? What sits upon its circumference? What forces hold the world together? What part did the Great Old Ones play in the devising of this map? Do you think that the forces described there predate them? Why or why not? Does this map describe the actual origins of the world or of the linked worlds? What role did North Central Positronics play in the making of this world, or in the remaking of it?
6. What are the Drawers? Are they objective places—places that you could find on a map—or is their existence more subjective? Have you encountered any such places in your life? If so, what are they? Do you have a special term for such places?
7. What paradox tears Roland’s mind apart at the outset of the novel? What causes it? What eases his suffering? Why is this significant?
8. What voices does Jake hear in the Vacant Lot, just before he sees the Rose? What happens to him when he actually sees this flower? How does Jake’s vision of the Rose differ from Eddie’s vision of the Tower amid its sea of roses?
9. What is the White?
10. While contemplating the rose, Jake sees that it grows out of alien purple grass. Roland sees the same purple grass during his vision in the golgotha, at the end of The Gunslinger.
Why does King seem to want us to compare these otherwise dissimilar visions? What is he telling us about the nature of the Rose?
11. What is the difference between Jake’s door, labeled The Boy,
and the beach doors?
12. The scene in which Roland and his new ka-tet
cross the bridge into Lud eerily echoes the passage in The Gunslinger
where Jake falls to his death. Compare these two scenes. What do they tell us about the changes happening within Roland?
13. The third book of the Dark Tower series takes its title from T. S. Eliot’s long poem “The Waste Land.” Two themes that thread through Eliot’s poem are fragmentation and alienation—the fragmentation of modern culture and its inevitable loss of meaning, and the sense of alienation that individuals experience in reaction to this. (It must be remembered that “The Waste Land” was written in the aftermath of World War I, when Europe was still in shock over the death and destruction caused by modern weaponry.) How does King’s novel reflect these themes? How does this fragmentation extend to the psyches of the characters themselves, and even to the computerized personalities of machines?
14. In his notes on “The Waste Land,” T. S. Eliot stated that he was extremely influenced by the Grail legend. What is the legend of the Grail? Do you think it influenced Stephen King when he wrote The Waste Lands
15. Eleven dimensions, worlds made out of vibrating strings, parallel universes that contain alternative versions of you . . . sounds like another Dark Tower book? It’s not, but it does seem as though the scientific community is finally taking Jake Chambers seriously. There are
other worlds than these. For a fascinating description of string theory (and as a way to begin discussing the similarities between contemporary physics and the multiple worlds of the Dark Tower series), visit the following Web sites: www.pbs.org/nova/elegant (a terrific introduction), www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2001/parallelunitrans.shtml (another great introduction), http://superstringtheory.com (for brave folks who are used to technical language), www.scientificamerican.com (in the “search” section, type Parallel Universes