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Discussion in 'The Long Walk' started by Res Wright, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. Res Wright

    Res Wright Member

    The Long Walk was the first thing I read by King. I was a kid and I loved it. It was in the junior high library and at that time nobody knew Bachman was a pseudonym for King. It remains my favorite of his long works, with the exception of the first half of the first Gunslinger book, and I've read it more times than I can count.

    Only one thing about it has ever bothered me.

    The Walkers are ordered alphabetically. Ewing is 9. Garraty is 47, which is 38 higher even though there's not a lot of space between names beginning with 'Ew' and 'Ga' and there's only two or three names called out in the book that would fall alphabetically between those two names. it's statistically improbable, to put it mildly.

    So why was 47 the number he gave to Garraty?

    Was it just personally significant? Did he like how it read? Did he see some athlete with that jersey playing in high school sports and it just stuck? The way I understand it, he wrote The Long Walk before he got into the period of his life he doesn't remember well, but even if he had written it with a head full of boonk and whiskey something tells me he would have noticed the anomaly.

    And if that's what it ends up being -- an oversight -- I can live with that. I'm not one of those folks who subscribe to the intentional fallacy and think that what the writer intended to write is what defines canon. You write and it reads how it reads. The Long Walk created a world for me when I read it, and it was a powerful enough one that all these years later I still wonder about 47, even though I'm not one to usually dwell on minutiae. And even these years later I'm still prone to account for anomalies in a way that reflects suspension of disbelief, rather than suspicion of oversight, which kind of says everything there is to say about how much I still love the book.

    If there's a deeper significance that underlies the choice, but as an author King's response is 'yeah there is and that's something I'm not interested in chatting about' that, too, is acceptable. Also acceptable: "I left that in as a bit of a mystery. The significance is whatever you make of it, because I never decided why that was his number." It could even be 'wait, what? oh, I never thought of that" -- even though that would surprise me in some ways, in other ways I know that's how it sometimes happens. Basically any answer is acceptable I'm just curious.

    Hypotheses are welcome.
    Neesy, GNTLGNT and doowopgirl like this.
  2. Dana Jean

    Dana Jean Dirty Pirate Hooker Moderator

    Welcome Res!
  3. doowopgirl

    doowopgirl very avid fan

    Welcome. Personally I rarely even notice these things, or worry about them.
    Res Wright, Neesy and GNTLGNT like this.

    GNTLGNT The idiot is IN

    ....he was essentially a kid(freshman in college), when he wrote that....so I don't think there was any deep meaning or symbolism ascribed to that number.....and one "of his long works"?....oh Res, he has written many, many tales that make that look like a pamphlet.....btw, welcome to Kingworld!.....
    Res Wright and Neesy like this.
  5. Neesy

    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side


    47 FAQs

    Welcome to SKMB

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  6. Res Wright

    Res Wright Member

    The 47 Society appears to be a straight lift from the Illuminatus trilogy, except Wilson used 23 as the numerical pole star instead in his work. Part of the Law of Fives. It's an intentional tour de force in selection bias, giving up the game at the very end with the statement that if humans had one more finger we would have come up with the Law of Sixes instead.

    Of course, for all I know, the 47 Society is where Wilson got the idea in the first place.

    It's as good an explanation as any other so far.
    Neesy and GNTLGNT like this.
  7. Res Wright

    Res Wright Member

    Appreciating the responses :)

    I'm ok if the ultimate answer is that 47 wasn't chosen with any sort of significance in mind. I'm ok if it's "yeah, homeboy noticed that about halfway through typing the story and wasn't going to go back and change Ewing's number because piss on that noise, he was a freshman in college, and had priorities." After all, I don't think I picked up the oddity of the choice until a few reads through. It's not usually the sort of thing I need to know about in terms of back story, I guess is a fair way to characterize it.

    The reasons why I've been thus far hesitant to subscribe to the idea that there was no deeper significance to the choice of number for Garraty, despite these and other factors --

    1) The Walker numbers aren't peripheral to the story. They constantly come back up; they wear the numbers on their chests, the soldiers charged with ticketing Walkers refer to them solely by their number, Garraty sees Walkers die without ever learning their name, only their number. It's not quite "The Prisoner" but it's still there.

    2) The way numbers were assigned by alphabetical order is something that keeps coming up in the text. 100 boys in order from A to Z.

    3) Numbers are thematic in other ways. Route 1. 4 MPH. 3 warnings. Mile markers and highway signs. Betting odds.

    4) As an author, King is very self aware. Although TLW wasn't an example of it, his voice as an author is very present in his narrative prose. Perhaps less narrator and more storyteller, really for some stories in particular. And while little things like a relationship between numbers doesn't have to be a part of the experience when you read his work, authors approach writing differently than readers approach reading, and so do editors, who make writers look normal in fact.

    None of this means -- well, frankly, none of it means anything diagnostic about how 47 ended up the number on the page. Some of the best elements of fiction ever written have been unintentional. Surely the same is true for numerical relationships between plot elements in a novel. And this isn't a best element or even a big element, it's nerdily inconsequential in fact, occupying a part of the spectrum of geekitude where one usually spots arguments about Klingon poetry or tropes in cable entertainment.

    And I suppose my occasional musings upon it ever since I noticed it have changed over time, just as I suppose I have. I remember thinking at first "wow, there had to be a ton of people with names starting in F and Ga, it's weird how he doesn't name them tho....." With collegiate arrogance it was more 'well, that's an irritating mistake' followed by 'maybe, maybe not...' I remember one read through of TLW after I'd heard of the concept of Gematria and wondered 'wait, is it that? Homeboy was in college, that stuff's like catnip to cats when you're in college' but on review, it didn't seem to apply either. Neither did cultural reference - the KJV Psalm 47 came credibly close to being a reference about authoritarianism, but going so far as to craft such a clever allusion, and then sticking the label on Garraty instead of somehow associating it with the obvious choice of The Major... just seems like getting everything ready for the world's best hot fudge sundae and then inadvisably attempting to make a salad with it. Doesn't seem Kingly, if you follow me. One time it was "Remember that he typed this in college, it was on paper, it wasn't on word processing software, maybe he did notice and was like 'what sort of nutbag is gonna notice that? I'm leaving it." :) I don't even know if they had white-out back then.

    It's the sort of mistake that some authors might make, but the fact that we're having this discussion in a website addressed http://www.stephenking.com is something I'm going to take as license to presuppose that people here don't think of this author in quite such generic terms. If I'm mistaken, I've no doubt I'll be so advised, politely, in short order. :) Yet I find his qualities as an author mostly lie several standard deviations away from what might be called the norm, even accounting for the influence he had on that norm as an author of popular fiction. It's not to say I think he's beyond having unintended and unexplained incongruities in one of his first written works, especially such a piece of trivia as this ... but that it would be 47 in TLW, that doesn't ring true to me. Even though I freely admit I've arrived at that conclusion from a distance, and I have no real justification as to why, other than what I cited above. Since finding out I'm wrong would de facto include learning more about it, that's all win as far as I'm concerned.

    The next time I reread it, which I've a feeling will be soon even it'd be jumping the line, so to speak, I'll probably feel differently about it. That's how readers interact with fiction and I wouldn't feel cheated to hear that all these idle musings have been just that -- idle. the sort of way people fill in their own blanks, like doodles on the margins of a page. That's what happens when you succeed so strongly with a piece of writing that people own the suspension of disbelief and run with it. That's what makes great fiction great.
  8. Neesy

    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side

    I had never heard of it, actually - it just came up in Google;

    So I have a story for you re The Long Walk - I ran across an original copy of The Long Walk in the summer of 2015 - it was only 4 bucks. I passed it over - had it in my pile of books to buy for a summer vacation read, then I put it back;

    I later found out it is a very rare book and hard to find :facepalm::facepalm:

    Wish I had known at that time - I would have bought it for sure! :dejection:
    Res Wright and GNTLGNT like this.
  9. Res Wright

    Res Wright Member

    I have it. At least, the version you included in your post. It's the copy from the school library, in fact. I'd been the only one to check it out and I'd done so several times and the librarian, who was renewing stock, let me have it. I don't think she was supposed to. So I have that paperback except it's all stamped up as library books are, and it's had the cover hardened for school library use with some sort of indestructible textured plastic. It sits on a shelf in my boyhood home, which now that I think about it is its own metaphor. :)
  10. prufrock21

    prufrock21 Well-Known Member

    47 is a significant number. It's sums 11, to which you can add 8, which makes 19. In which case you have the numbers 847 or 478. I have played the lottery with these numbers or their combinations. Alas, I haven't won yet.
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  11. Res Wright

    Res Wright Member

    "Ever wonder why so many of us have names that begin with F?" Harkness was looking at his notepad with a frown, the Baggie rustling in his grip.

    "No," said Baker lazily as he thumbed open a tube of food concentrate. Garraty couldn't see what it was. It smelled like beans.

    "The same reason so many of 'em get Squadded." Parker said from somewhere behind Garraty's left shoulder. He hawked and spat. "The Major hates 'em."

    Garraty considered this, thoughtfully, seeing the Major's smiling mustachioed face in his mind. He thought about what it would be like to have a name that began with F.

    "Glad my name doesn't begin with F," he said, eventually.

    "Me, too," added McVries, his sweaty face split into a wide grin. "Otherwise the Major might have me killed."

    This got Abraham laughing so hard he drew a warning.
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