Students' Reactions To Charlie Decker

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NightShifter

Well-Known Member
Nov 8, 2013
63
343
Mansfield, Massachusetts
#1
I thought the book was an interesting read, and I was a bit curious to get my hands on it after learning the novel has the distinction of being the only book King allowed to go out of print. The one thing that really bothered me was how the students reacted to Decker. They actually seemed to like him and even took part in some violence themselves. I felt this was unrealistic.

I also think it's important to keep in mind this was a pre-Columbine novel and unfortunately this piece of fiction is haunted by the numerous school shootings that have actually happened. It's impossible to read the book and not see it through the lens of reality.
 

Walter Oobleck

keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going
Mar 6, 2013
11,749
34,773
#2
Yeah...seemed unlikely cold & heartless that the students would dismiss death so easily. What's your take on their hostility to the one student who seemed to want to take a stand against Charlie? As I recall, that student, whose name I've forgotten...was alone...or was there one or two students who seemed like they were about to side with him...but in the end I thought the students reaction to that student seemed realistic. Strange, hey, that while it is hard to buy that they'd dismiss death while believing they'd turn against the one among them who tried to make a stand?
 

NightShifter

Well-Known Member
Nov 8, 2013
63
343
Mansfield, Massachusetts
#3
What's your take on their hostility to the one student who seemed to want to take a stand against Charlie? As I recall, that student, whose name I've forgotten...was alone...or was there one or two students who seemed like they were about to side with him...but in the end I thought the students reaction to that student seemed realistic. Strange, hey, that while it is hard to buy that they'd dismiss death while believing they'd turn against the one among them who tried to make a stand?
The one student who tried to escape, and really viewed Charlie as a threat, was a jock named Ted Jones. I never got the feeling that the other students actually felt in danger; only Ted. Charlie sort of created an environment where kids could unload their troubles without the pressures of adults, such as teachers and parents. When Ted attempted to escape I think the kids felt a violation of this sacred space Charlie created, and therefore beat him down.

I actually felt the stories that came from Charlie's past and the other kids' confessions were the heart of the book and was what I found most interesting.
 

ghost19

"Have I run too far to get home?"
Sep 25, 2011
8,145
49,740
45
Arkansas
#4
The one student who tried to escape, and really viewed Charlie as a threat, was a jock named Ted Jones. I never got the feeling that the other students actually felt in danger; only Ted. Charlie sort of created an environment where kids could unload their troubles without the pressures of adults, such as teachers and parents. When Ted attempted to escape I think the kids felt a violation of this sacred space Charlie created, and therefore beat him down.

I actually felt the stories that came from Charlie's past and the other kids' confessions were the heart of the book and was what I found most interesting.
I agree with you completely. The side stories Decker told in class about he and his father, the party in college, all of those made the story all the better.
 

Walter Oobleck

keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going
Mar 6, 2013
11,749
34,773
#5
I enjoyed the story for the manner of the telling...simple, straight-forward, descriptive when necessary. There's a line in Rage about chucking it in the wastebasket and going to Florida...and I posted a question on another site to-do w/that...and offered Duma Key as one answer of four. As I recall, a large number picked Duma Key as the answer. I don't recall stories from Charlie's past nor the other kids' confessions.
 

AnnaMarie

Well-Known Member
Feb 16, 2012
6,974
28,795
Other
#6
Yeah...seemed unlikely cold & heartless that the students would dismiss death so easily. What's your take on their hostility to the one student who seemed to want to take a stand against Charlie? As I recall, that student, whose name I've forgotten...was alone...or was there one or two students who seemed like they were about to side with him...but in the end I thought the students reaction to that student seemed realistic. Strange, hey, that while it is hard to buy that they'd dismiss death while believing they'd turn against the one among them who tried to make a stand?
Really? Teens dismiss death easily all the time, even before they started playing video games.

It's been a very long time since I read this book, so I may be off a bit, but, it seems very much a bullying book. As many of king's books are. IMO the jock felt threatened because he's accustomed to being the one who everyone follows and looks up to(even if only in his own mind). His world has been flipped on it's side. The other students, followers by nature, are doing what they always do....following. They are the ones that traditionally stood in a circle around some poor schmuck getting beat up in the schoolyard hollering "beef beef beef", just being thankful it wasn't them getting the beating, and feeling a part of it by circling and hollering. The bully-wannabees?

what was the reason they always yelled beef?
 

rudiroo

Well-Known Member
May 20, 2008
467
1,857
London, England
#8
Weird.
I couldn't feel anything for the other students beyond tagging them as bullies/bullies-in-waiting/bullies-to-be - Charlie Decker is so absorbing & consuming.
He's burning himself up and everyone else along with him, including this Constant Reader.

It's about 20 years since I read this first -then, I was still eyeballing my adolescence like someone who narrowly avoided falling off a cliff.
30-something me was still dogged by 15-year-old me.
Now, 50-something me wonders whether Lionel Shriver had read this before she wrote We Need To Talk About Kevin (no disrespect intended to Ms. Shriver).
Yep. I'm a virtual parent, wondering how you get to end up with a child like Charlie.
Brrrrrrr. . .anyone else feel the temperature drop?
 

notebookgirl

Well-Known Member
Oct 8, 2013
845
4,818
Somewhere over the Rainbow
#9
I was also interested in reading this story since I found out he took it off the shelves. As someone who lives close to an area that had a school shooting and as a journalist who covered the aftermath of that same one, the opening scene affected me. As I have been getting deeper in the story, it does get interesting to hear the other kids' troubles, which could be just a way of dealing with the situation. They are keeping Charlie focused on other stuff. It's a really strange read. I really don't feel sorry for Charlie though.
 

Walter Oobleck

keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going
Mar 6, 2013
11,749
34,773
#11
Every time we've watched on out-of-breath reporter at a school scene, everyone...everyone...is running like hell trying to save their lives. For some to take part in the sort of violence they've witnessed is unrealistic. The students' reaction to death lying on the floor...don't tell me there wasn't blood...their casual reaction to that is unrealistic...the reality is that everyone runs like hell. To sit down and discuss Charlie's navel isn't likely.
 

HollyGolightly

Well-Known Member
Sep 6, 2013
9,065
68,611
48
Heart of the South
#13
Weird.
I couldn't feel anything for the other students beyond tagging them as bullies/bullies-in-waiting/bullies-to-be - Charlie Decker is so absorbing & consuming.
He's burning himself up and everyone else along with him, including this Constant Reader.

It's about 20 years since I read this first -then, I was still eyeballing my adolescence like someone who narrowly avoided falling off a cliff.
30-something me was still dogged by 15-year-old me.
Now, 50-something me wonders whether Lionel Shriver had read this before she wrote We Need To Talk About Kevin (no disrespect intended to Ms. Shriver).
Yep. I'm a virtual parent, wondering how you get to end up with a child like Charlie.
Brrrrrrr. . .anyone else feel the temperature drop?
Oh that book (We Need To Talk About Kevin) disturbed me in so many ways, never related it to Rage, but hmmm..... interesting thought.
 

The Space Cowboy

play my music in the sun
Apr 21, 2014
310
771
#15
Obviously the fact that the students were experiencing Stockholm Syndrome wasn't unrealistic or surprising, but the time that it took to set in was definitely a bit suspect. It seems that as soon as Mrs. Underwood fell from her desk and to the floor, the kids were right on Charlie's side. Apart from Ted and that one girl (I think it may have been Irma) who screamed. I half expected it to be explained away by King making a statement on how the students were so quick to submit to Charlie because they'd already been broken down by their overbearing teachers. Y'know, a case of something coming back and biting the antagonists in the ass, so to speak. If there was such a statement in the book, it definitely needed to be expanded upon.
 

skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
15,668
91,910
USA
#16
I think Mr. King once described high school as 'a pit of man and woman eating vipers', and that hasn't changed much. If anything, kids are more callous now than the were a few decades ago. Rage rang pretty true to me, and to my kids (20, 17, 15). My girls call Carrie the closest thing to a real H.S. they've read, as well. Scary, sad, and very realistic, unfortunately.
 

Angelo Bottigliero

Well-Known Member
Sep 6, 2013
764
3,100
Rotterdam
#17
I actually did find it believable. Because they KNOW Charlie. He's weird, yes, but one of them nevertheless. He poses no threat to anybody and does not threaten their lives. It's a small town, and this is a bit of excitement in their day: An unexpected bonus. And like mentioned above, he does create that 'us (youth) against them (society)' kind of vibe. They WANT him to humiliate the school psychiatrist, they cheer him on even. In the end, it's like the class controls Charlie, not the other way around. Then, the whole Ted Jones thing: I think most of them were already tired of his arrogant bs and welcomed the chance to kick his ass.

*EDIT* I read this when I was in my countries equivalent of High School myself. It was very relatable*
 
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Neesy

#1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side
May 24, 2012
56,659
206,940
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
#18
I think Mr. King once described high school as 'a pit of man and woman eating vipers', and that hasn't changed much. If anything, kids are more callous now than the were a few decades ago. Rage rang pretty true to me, and to my kids (20, 17, 15). My girls call Carrie the closest thing to a real H.S. they've read, as well. Scary, sad, and very realistic, unfortunately.
This is why I sent my (special needs i.e. cognitively challenged) son to a Catholic school with uniforms and tuition every year. Even then he was still vulnerable.

He had a great bunch of kids to go to school with from grades 9 to 12 and then when it was time to graduate they decided to hold him back one year and he ended up graduating with a bunch of kids he did not really know.

I am so glad that he finally graduated (with the aid of Teachers Aide). He was the first cognitively challenged kid to go to that school as it focuses mostly on academics.
 
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skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
15,668
91,910
USA
#19
This is why I sent my (special needs i.e. cognitively challenged) son to a Catholic school with uniforms and tuition every year. Even then he was still vulnerable.

He had a great bunch of kids to go to school with from grades 9 to 12 and then when it was timed to graduate they decided to hold him back one year and he ended up graduating with a bunch of kids he did not really know.

I am so glad that he finally graduated (with the aid of Teachers Aide). He was the first cognitively challenged kid to go to that school as it focuses mostly on academics.
School size, tolerance for BS, and parent attention can make a big difference. So glad he got through!
 
Dec 10, 2015
38
212
Toronto
#20
Congrats on your son's graduation, Neesy! Mine is having some trouble too. Still being tested. I think they want him on meds so he will relax a bit. Speech Delay is the only diagnosis so far.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the book. I can see how the copycat thing might've happened. It's like The Breakfast Club meets Quentin Tarantino. I LOVE Quentin Tarantino and I enjoyed the book. I was expecting more explanation for what set off Charlie, but I was left thinking that maybe some people are born this way... like Natural Born Killers. :)

Today he would have been diagnosed with some sort of social anxiety disorder and given drugs.

I get that Ted was being a judgmental pr*ck when everyone was trying to let their guard down and be authentic with each other. That nobody liked Ted because he had to put on a show to prove to everyone how great he was, and most everyone knew it was a lie. I've met people like that. I felt really bad for him. I think if he could have turned that side of himself off and connected with his peers, he would have.

I definitely get how the class got swept up in a mob mentality. Being held captive, even by their own piqued interest, with a dead person will mess with a person, and I suppose small town kids must've found it pretty intense, especially in a time when these things just didn't happen.

I guess maybe I was a bit disappointed because I hyped it up so much in my mind. I will probably read it again sometime in the future.
 
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