Mon
Oct 3 2011 11:00am

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Drawing of the Three, The Lady of Shadows: Chapter 2

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower readthrough on Tor.comThree. This is the number of your fate.

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here.

When we last saw Roland in the first chapter of the section of The Drawing of the Three called “The Lady of Shadows,” he and Eddie were watching through the door on the beach as Detta helped herself to some trinkets from Macy’s costume jewelry counter.

This week, we’ll look at “Ringing the Changes,” the second chapter of “The Lady of Shadows.”

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 1

We flash back to August 1959, in the emergency bay of Sisters of Mercy Hospital, where Julio, the ambulance driver, is talking to George Shavers, the intern who’d ridden in with Odetta after the subway accident. We learn that George is one of eight interns at the hospital assigned to ride with the ambulance in a new program. George knows that if Odetta’s life could be saved, he’d done it.

What Constant Reader Learns: We go into a lengthy memory with George of when a plane crashed at Idlewild four weeks earlier and sixty-five people had been killed. Three (yes) of the remaining five passengers were in bad shape. We get lots of nice SK gore — an eyeball resting atop a charred Samsonite suitcase, for example — but is any of this relevant to the story at hand? Not sure. All it really seems to do is show us that George went through that and still wanted to be a doctor — but maybe what happened with Odetta freaked him out more.

Trivia: Idlewild Airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in December 1963, a month after JFK was assassinated and two months before Roland and Eddie show up in Detta’s head at Macy’s.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 2

Julio has hung around because he wants to talk to George about Odetta — not so much how she’s doing, but what happened during the ambulance ride. George is relieved because he wants to talk about it too, although he wouldn’t have brought it up for fear of looking like a stupid intern. Then he’s ashamed because Julio, who basically has no future beyond driving an ambulance, has more guts than George with his bright future.

What happened was this: Odetta, described as “a pretty young black woman in jeans and a khaki shirt,” was waiting for the A train, and someone pushed her off the platform in front of the train. She’d crawled far enough off the tracks that the train cut off both legs from just above the knee on down. A white kid called the cops. An elderly black woman jumped down and used the do-rag on her head as a tourniquet for one leg and some guy’s belt for the other. And everyone else stood around doing nothing. Once the ambulance arrived, George got down on the tracks and tied off as many veins and arteries as he could. When they were on the way to the hospital, Odetta woke up and then the weirdness began.

What Constant Reader Learns: I wonder why Julio the driver, who would have been less directly involved with Odetta than the two EMTs, who’ve already gone off to hit the bars, is the one to stay. One of the EMTs would have been a more obvious choice. There’s probably nothing significant about it; just struck me as odd. George wonders if they’re not really out chasing women but, instead, have quit because they were freaked out, too.

The young black woman’s last words before passing out had been “Who was that mahfah? I gone hunt him down and kill his ass.” Which eloquence makes me think that Detta had made an appearance, and I wonder how this racial stereotyping is going to read here in 2011.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 3

George gave Odetta/Detta a shot of Demerol when they got her in the ambulance, enough to keep her out till they got to the hospital — or so he thought. She wakes up about six blocks before they get there. Odetta asks what happened to her, then closes her eyes. Detta opens her eyes and sputters some profanity and asks “Dis d’amblance? Dey get dat honkey mahfah?” She closes her eyes again, then Odetta asks what sort of accident it was — she only remembers coming out of a coffeehouse and going to the platform. She asks if she lost her legs, and when George says yes, she closes her eyes and it’s Detta again, screaming “You ain’t nuthin but a buncha honky sonsa bitches.” And on she goes, “talking like a cartoon black woman,” George thinks.

The paramedics have backed away, and they urge George to shoot her up with more Demerol. By the time George looks back at her, Odetta has returned, asking in her “tea room voice” if she’s going to live. And George realizes that Odetta is unaware of Detta, and vice-versa. Finally, the woman passes out.

What Constant Reader Learns: Brilliant scene. It was like watching a tennis tournament. Detta-Odetta-Detta-Odetta. I cannot wait to see how Roland’s going to handle this one. I suspect Eddie Dean and his drug mob are gonna look like a cakewalk.

And Detta does talk like a cartoon black woman.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 4

Julio asks George what he thinks, and the intern says he believes she’s schizophrenic. The driver asks: Who’s going to help her? When George answers that he already has helped her, it’s clear Julio doesn’t think he’s done enough. George feels guilty and walks away.

What Constant Reader Learns: Hm. Not sure I can make much out of this. Unless Julio makes George feel guilty enough to help Odetta out further along in the story? We shall see. George is awfully lacking in self-confidence. Aren’t interns supposed to be brash, or have I seen too many doctor shows on TV?

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 5

We step outside the story for a strange section in which Stephen King-as-narrator tells us that since the accident it’s mostly Odetta who’s been in charge, but that Detta has been showing up more and more. And what Detta likes to do is shoplift.

When Roland enters her head in Macy’s, Detta screams — “because the invading raping presence was a honky.” When she screams, of course, everyone looks at her, and the floorwalker realizes she’s stealing. He yells for Jimmy, one of the security guards, and Jimmy heads for Detta at a run, all the while thinking it’s going to be a “shit bust” because if you bust little kids, cripples or nuns, it’s always the cop who ends up looking bad.

What Constant Reader Learns: It will be interesting to see how Roland gets her out of this mess, since her screaming has pretty much ended any hope of making her slip the jewelry back where she got it. Besides, I’m thinking Detta isn’t going to be talked into doing much she doesn’t want to. The racial buildup continues as Detta screams not because some dude’s in her head, but because it’s a white dude.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 6

Roland is at first horrified “by the snakepit of hate and revulsion in which he found himself” in Detta’s head. But then he sees Jimmy the security guard running toward him and takes control. He recognizes a “strange duality” inside her, but doesn’t have time to worry about it. He turns the wheelchair, losing Detta’s purse in the process, and sees the security guard slip down on the junk from her purse.

What Constant Reader Learns: I really, really want to see this scene in a movie. Serious pratfall material.

Wonder what the repercussions are going to be of Detta losing her purse and her “credentials”?

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 7

Jimmy Halvorsen, the security guard, fumbles for his gun before realizing he can’t shoot a crippled black woman in a wheelchair for shoplifting junk jewelry. Besides, he thinks, where’s she going to go? The aisle she’s racing down leads to nothing but dressing rooms.

He gets to his feet and limps after her, just in time to see her roll into a dressing room and slam the door. He thinks he’s going to give her a good scare, at least, and is flummoxed when he pushes into the dressing room and finds it empty — no woman, no wheelchair. So the floorwalker bursts into the other dressing room and is screamed at by a woman in an A-line skirt and a Playtex Living Bra. Everybody is confused.

What Constant Reader Learns: Wonder how that wheelchair’s gonna roll on the beach, Detta?

Further sign that I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. The Playtex Living Bra made me laugh out loud, and then the woman crossed her arms over her chest, which made me laugh louder because “Cross Your Heart” is a line of Playtex Living Bras.

 

The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 8

We get the scene from Roland’s point of view now. As soon as the dressing room door shuts behind him, he rolls the wheelchair around, looking for the doorway and hoping Eddie didn’t follow through with his threat to shut it and trap Roland in 1963. But the door is open, and Roland “wheeled the Lady of Shadows through it.”

What Constant Reader Learns: I can’t wait to see how this plays out. I haven’t gottten a feel yet for whether or not I’m going to like Odetta/Detta as a character (so far? not so much), but I don’t think she’s going to bore me.


That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll read Chapter 3 of “The Lady of the Shadows,” titled “Odetta on the Other Side.”

33 comments
Kristoff Bergenholm
1. Magentawolf
Huh. I'd forgotten that Roland basically kidnapped Odetta from her side of the doorway here...

I have to admit, I never did personally warm to her, either.
Lsana
2. Lsana
@1,

Yeah, he did kidnap her. I remember being pretty surprised by that. I had expected that Roland's dealings with Odetta would go more or less like his dealings with Eddie: slip into her mind, get to know her, deal with the loose ends in her life, and eventually persuade her that she wanted to join the quest for the tower. Different in the details, of course, and with the entire thing complicated by Detta Walker, but I was expecting the outline to be pretty much the same. I definitely wasn't expecting, "Hi there! Let me take over. Oh, look, we're in my world now." *slam door*

In retrospect, of course, it makes sense that Roland would go for the most direct solution rather than trying to negotiate with someone like that. It was also probably a good storytelling choice: we've already done the "get-to-know-you-help-you-persuade-you" story with Eddie, it makes sense to do something different here.
Suzanne Johnson
3. Susannah Sandlin
I too was surprised by the suddenness of O/D's "joining" of the quest. But, as you say, we'd been there/done that with Eddie, so it makes sense. Plus, her nature seems very different from Eddie's, both the Odetta side and certainly the Detta side. Plus there's the racial issues. So the "get to know you" tactic used on Eddie wouldn't work with O/Detta. I kind of like that he just rolled her out the door and--wham.
Lsana
4. StrongDreams
Anyone know if SK is referencing an actual Idlewild plane crash? Do we have a date for when Odetta lost her legs?
Suzanne Johnson
5. Susannah Sandlin
@StrongDreams...Good question (I don't know the answer). Odetta lost her legs in August 1959 and the plane crash was four weeks earlier--so July 1959, with multiple fatalities.
Hello There
6. praxisproces
Odetta/Detta is one of the consistently unsatisfying parts of the saga for me, and that dissatisfaction starts here; this whole sequence is, as all above note, rendered so oddly and with a really uncharacteristic awkwardness. You just can't develop a relationship with her, which leaves the outcome hollow, somehow; it just doesn't matter whether Roland is successful or not the way it almost immediately mattered with Eddie.
Lsana
7. StrongDreams
Ah, looks like he made it up, then. (Wikipedia is not a perfect source -- at least not for anything that happened before 2000 -- but a crash that killed 65 would be hard to ignore.) But of course, Odetta's version of 1964 is not quite the same as our version.
Suzanne Johnson
8. Susannah Sandlin
@Connor...Yes, I liked and cared about Eddie almost immediately, and O/Detta? Not so much, at least not yet. Still early to make much of a judgment for me, though.

@StrongDreams...Not sure what the point of that whole plane-crash story was, except to give the intern some point of reference for horror and make the point that O/Detta was more horrific than that. Oh, and the chance to use the eyeball-on-Samsonite image :-)
Steven Halter
9. stevenhalter
The feeling I get on the "cartoonishness" of Detta is that the Detta personality is mostly a manufactured one from the Odetta personality. Odetta grew up mostly as a well off person and Detta is just Odetta kind of "imagining" what a very low class person would be like. Of course, it appears that Detta reinforces this mental model when she is in control. An interesting feedback loop for development of Detta.
I wonder when King conceived of Odetta/Detta? The Gunslinger was written in the late 70's/early 80's and this volume came out in 1987. I wonder at how early Detta was imagined as Sybil came out in 1974 and multiple personalities were quite the rage in the later 70's.
Eigor Maldonado
10. e-mann
Your credentials remark made me laugh. Where the “Lady of Shadows” is going there won’t be much need for credentials.
On a side note, I always wondered if Odetta/Detta counted as one person or two. It makes me wonder about the title of the book and having to “Draw Three”. Once you get to the end of the book, you will understand more of what I mean.
Suzanne Johnson
11. Susannah Sandlin
Hmmm...very interesting on the Odetta/Detta being one character or two.... When I got all worried about her credentials, of course, I didn't yet know Roland was just going to hijack her wheelchair and roll her right onto the beach. So, yeah, that old photo I.D. probably doesn't matter too much :-)

@shalter...Detta and Odetta are two parts of the same persona, and both of them are a certain stereotype. Maybe Detta is Odetta's imagining what it might be like to be in a different class, or maybe (I'm going all English major now) Detta is her guilt--Odetta's been playing at being a civil rights activist but she knows her wealth has provided a buffer from the type of life she might have had otherwise. Yet she doesn't really know what such a life would be like, so Detta has the street language but she lives in an artsy area and shoplifts cheap jewelry from Macy's--a type of petty crime often associated with rich, bored women.
Lsana
12. JimG67
Just found this read and am enjoying your take. This is my favorite series of books ever. I've read through from start to finish 3 times and still find things I missed previously. I'm not nearly as analytical when reading but find that I enjoy reading the discussions of those of you who are.

At any rate I wouldn't get too hung up on inconsistencies of fact in descriptions of event date's (or physical locations for that mater) of Eddie and O/D's "where and when's". Sorry, that makes more sense in my mind than it does in print, but you will understand eventually.
Ian B
13. Greyfalconway
Perhaps some special mod white-out for e-manns second paragraph?

Loving the read-through, I read these years ago and couldn't remember well enough to stand the cliffhangers you're leaving us with so I just finished re-reading the gunslinger and this book in one sitting lol.
Beth Kee
14. Beaker719
The whole scene with the EMTs and Paramedics confused me since the first paramedic program didn't start until the 70s.
Suzanne Johnson
15. Susannah Sandlin
@JimG67--glad you're joining us! Yeah, I should know by now not to get too hung up on anything to do with time. But I keep trying...

@Greyfalconway--the cliffhangers are killers, but I'm trying not to read ahead more than a week...so you can wait till next Monday's post to find out what I just had a meltdown over. Grrrr.

@Beaker719--interesting! I didn't realize that...it's one of the things the copyeditor should have caught, I guess.
Tricia Irish
16. Tektonica
As for Ro just wheeling O/D onto the beach so abruptly.....I seem to remember that when he met Eddie, he was on an airplane. I suppose he could've just taken him throught the door in the john, but Ro found out about captive brother Henry from being in Eddie's head. Ro can certainly be ruthless, but he isn't totally without morality....albeit, his own brand. Once he learns Henry is dead, he just takes Eddie. Doesn't he? I also think if he'd just taken Eddie, without resolving the Henry business, Eddie would have gone ballistic. He could sense Eddie's volitility.

Now why he couldn't sense the craziness in O/D....well, I don't know.
Katie McNeal
17. Katiya
I think it's very interesting that a lot of commenters, and our fearless leader herself, are kind of...ambivalent?...about Odetta/Detta from her very first introduction. Some of you that have read the series completely have expressed your less than warm feelings for her as well, which led me to a weird revelation.

We've already talked about how Detta is a construction of what Odetta believes about "Negroes", as she prefers to be known, outside of her unorthodox lifestyle. Nice analysis there, Suzanne! But in the last post, some people were also talking about how Odetta is also sort of empty, a construction of a diffterent type. It seems that our reader reactions are perfectly elicited, because how can you relate to someone that isn't actually a person, but basically two ridiculous cardboard cutouts? Seeing other people comment on her reinforces King's presentation of her through Roland's eyes: an alien creature, basically, that has no resemblance to a person.

Nothing important, really...I just thought it was neat, and admire SK's ability to evoke a response that echoes that of his characters.

I would say more about these same perceptions for those that have read the entire series, but I don't want to spoil anything!
Risha Jorgensen
18. RishaBree
Besides, I’m thinking Detta isn’t going to be talked into doing much she doesn’t want to.

Truer words...

Less than warm feelings or not (and I admit to being in the not), you always have to give Odetta/Detta props for being interesting, even if it's only as a concept - just look at all of the discussion she's elicited during two chapters where not all that much has really happened, plotwise.

@Katiya - furthering the effect, I think, is that we very rarely see Detta's thoughts (and when we do, they're as alien as King can make them). I don't think that we ever see Odetta's at all, do we? And we rarely even get Roland or Eddie's views of her in these early chapters. Most of her backstory is told from the perspective of minor characters we don't know, don't care about, and never hear from again - the intern, her driver, the security guard, etc.
Suzanne Johnson
19. Susannah Sandlin
Really good points--and I agree that O/D is never boring, and her unpredictable/dual nature adds some (artificial?) tension to the whole scenario. And I hadn't really thought about it because it SEEMS like something has happened...but, actually, it hasn't.

Also hadn't thought about the fact that we aren't getting much of O/D from Eddie or Roland's thoughts (oh well, except a thing I read in next week's chapter that made me blow a gasket), but instead, from flashbacks. I think whereas Eddie felt like a real character from the outset, O/D does not to me, not yet anyway. She feels like an archetype for something, not sure what.
Lsana
20. Kadere
Hmmmm.... O/Detta was pushed in front of a train.... I think I remember someone else got pushed in front of something... Push.
Risha Jorgensen
21. RishaBree
Agh! Need an "un-accidentally flag" button!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
22. tnh
Thank you, Risha. I was wondering what the problem was with that comment.
Lsana
23. Lsana
@16,

After the shootout and Henry's death, Roland convinced Eddie that there was nothing left for him in New York and convinced him to come. You can argue that he manipulated Eddie or tricked him, and you can certainly suspect that if Eddie hadn't come willingly, Roland would have dragged him, but Roland did in fact explain to Eddie what was going on and make an argument about why he should join the quest for the Tower. It wasn't remotely similar to what happened to O/D.

@17,

That's a fair point, but . At any rate, we can talk more about that later.
Lsana
24. atlantisflygirl
This is the facepalming I had referred to a while back. I know Detta's a character but it's so racially insensitive that it embarrasses me every time I read it!

Personally, I liked the O/Detta drama, but I remember thinking that if I had to read much more of it I was going to go postal. It's as untenable for the reader as it is for Roland and Eddie to live it!

It'll be interesting to see what you think about the resolution. In some ways I found it satisfying, but in others I had some feelings of, "Oh, come on!"
Suzanne Johnson
25. Susannah Sandlin
@atlantisflygirl...Have to agree, some of the dialogue is cringe-inducing. Which makes me pretty sure SK is doing it intentionally. Although the next chapter has me using some four-letter words of my own :-)
Lsana
26. Improbable Joe
Well... like I mentioned last week, Odetta/Detta aren't real, either one of them. Detta is a cartoon angry black woman, but Odetta is a cartoon genteel semi-Southern Lady. Detta is all wild-eyed crazy all the time. Odetta isn't obviously crazy, but she also rubs the reader the wrong way... doesn't she? The comments seem to confirm that there's a sense of wrongness about the whole situation, not just the Detta-bits. It isn't like she shifts from Detta to Odetta and you feel any sense of real relief or resolution.

VERY mild spoiler here: there's a resolution, and it is satisfying, and the lady in the wheelchair becomes one of King's best female characters.
Suzanne Johnson
27. Susannah Sandlin
@Joe...LOL. I won't consider that a mild spoiler--I consider it a promise!
Candiss C.
28. Candiss
Odetta/Detta is one of my favorite King characters. I don't know that I really like her, exactly...but I definitely respect her. She is a true force to be reckoned with, and she's both smart and tough as nails. Her dual nature is often as much a strength on the quest as it is a detriment. Without being spoilery, I'll say O/D's path takes her to some very, very strange places later on in the series, and she's absolutely integral to the resolution of the overall plot.
aaron thompson
29. trench
What I think intrigues me the most about O/D is that she is a complete challenge. Detta is impossible to like. She is not just a racist, she is racism. Racism is such an ugly thing, it turns what would normally be a good person and destroys them.

I have met people who I have like and gotten along with very well, and then they say something that is so racist and so ugly that my entire opinion of them changes. Unfortunately this has happened a lot. When it happens I always think of Detta and Odetta. One side is this nice tea room person who according to the author is someone you can instantly love. Then she changes into Detta, she becomes racism and hate. Detta is so vile, but you know somewhere inside is someone your capable of loving and respecting. For me Detta is a challenge, she forces the reader to look at something that is despicable, and confront it. It doesn't make for easy reading but reading her always makes me think about hatred in all its forms.
Risha Jorgensen
30. RishaBree
No new chapter this week? :(

Or hopefully just delayed by the holiday?
Lsana
31. Andrewr05
Awesome writeups Suzanne, it is so interesting reading thish 'through' you.
Now that I'm caught up, this will be the highlight of the beginning of my week being able to read your articles. :)


Keep up the good work!
Lsana
33. TrickyFreak
@trench is right—well said!—Detta is indeed something ugly which S.King thrusts under our noses; we've no choice but to examine it.

Nice discussions, really. Loving this. :) Thanks, Suzanne, for creating a rendezvous of followers of the Dark Tower.

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