Mon
Nov 5 2012 11:00am

A Read of The Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Wizard and Glass, All God’s Chillun Got Shoes, Chapters 4 and 5: “The Glass” and “The Path of the Beam”

A Readthrough of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series on Tor.com

“Cast your nets, wanderers! Try me with your questions, and let the contest begin.”

—Blaine the Mono, to Roland and the Ka-Tet, at the end of The Waste Lands

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 sections, join me by commenting here.

Last week, our ka-tet had a strange encounter with Flagg-Marten playing the real wizard, with the Tick-Tock Man as Oz. There was much posturing but not a lot of danger, it seemed, but at the end, Roland realized that in order for them to truly be one, he had to finish his story and tell the others about the last time he looked in the Wizard’s Glass.

 

Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 4, The Glass

The section begins with this: “Jake of New York stands in an upper corridor of the Great Hall of Gilead…” Eddie and Susannah are nearby, and Susannah has her legs back. Jake realizes it’s not a dream, however—they (and Oy) are in the glass, or in the world contained within the glass. And Roland isn’t with them.

He realizes they are going to see the “sad comedy” and “its sad and preordained course in front of their eyes.” Jake thinks he’s too young to see what’s coming, but then realizes Roland in this story is only three years older than himself.

Initially, Jake thinks he’ll see Roland as he realized Marten and his mother were having an affair, but then he understands it’s what happened after Roland returned from Mejis. The young Roland walks past, wearing the pistols with the sandlewood grips, a serape…and the red cowboy boots. He&rsquos unaware of their presence.

The 14-year-old Roland goes down the hall and knocks on a door, and the ka-tet follows him, although Jake doesn’t want to. They all know this is going to be bad, and keep calling out advice even knowing he can’t hear them. Roland’s mother doesn’t answer, so he tries her door and finds it unlocked. Standing behind Roland, Eddie spots a pair of shoes—someone hiding behind the curtain.

Roland calls to his mother, but no one answers, so he walks down the hall to her bedroom. Now, Jake can see the woman who’d been hiding behind the drapes is standing in the hallway, watching. Jake realizes Roland had seen his mother in the wizard’s glass and had seen that she planned to kill Steven Deschain in this very bed, using a knife laced with poison. Roland hadn’t come here to kill her, but to give her a last chance to stand and be true, “one last chance to repent of Marten Broadcloak.” Finally, Jake realizes, Roland plans to give her an ultimatum if she won’t change her mind—he’ll help her escape or he’ll turn her over to the authorities.

As Roland looks further around the room, the woman comes up behind him with something that has “a snaky look” in her hands. Jake realizes the Wizard’s Glass is on the dressing table, and that Roland’s mother had stolen it to take to Marten. When Susannah screams, the wizard’s glass fills the room with pink light, Roland turns, and sees not his mother but the witch Rhea—or so the glass makes it seem. And Roland fires his fast guns before realizing it really is his mother, and what she holds isn’t a snake but a belt she made for him.

Jake turns and sees Rhea’s face—or, an Ozlike green-faced woman in a pointed black witch’s hat, the Wicked Witch of the Oz story—in the glass. Then she turns to the ka-tet and urges them to “cry it off! Renounce the Tower…Ye see what a monster he is!..He never had a friend he didn’t kill, never had a lover who’s not dust in the wind.”

Jake, Eddie, and Susannah are resolute however, and as Jake reaches to take the Wizard’s Glass and break it, they’re thrown back into the present.

What Constant Reader Learns: If this were Harry Potter, the ka-tet would be in the pensieve.

I hadn’t thought about Roland’s age in this story in relation to Jake before, but he was only three years older when the events of this book took place. Makes him seem even younger.

We were told back in the first book that Roland committed matricide but I can’t think of any way the others would have found that out. I guess they’re just aware that if Roland avoided telling this part after telling all the rest, it must be really awful.

Hopefully, we’re leaving Oz.

 

Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 4, The Path of the Beam, Section 1

Eddie comes back to his senses lying in a small clearing near a grove of trees—the grass and tree leaves are albino-white. Susannah’s wheelchair is sitting nearby with mud on its tires. He realizes that “time has slipped again… Roland’s world was like a transmission with its gear-teeth all but stripped away; you never knew when time was going to pop into neutral or race you away in overdrive.”

But is this Roland’s world? The others are laid out nearby, Susannah snoring. Eddie turns and looks around and finally sees the Green Palace about thirty miles behind them. Susannah’s wheelchair tracks stretch back through the mud.

“Where’s the turnpike?” Jake asks, and when he says, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” he isn’t making a Wizard of Oz joke. He means it literally. They’re back on the Path of the Beam.

What Constant Reader Learns: The “sudden” thirty-mile distance is pretty cool, and the wheelchair tracks a nice touch. So I assume we’re back in Roland’s world and out of the world of Randall Flagg again. At least for now.

 

Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 4, The Path of the Beam, Section 2

Eddie realizes they’re all still wearing their red shoes (well, Oy has lost one of his), but the shoes are dull and no longer shiny and new. He takes his off and realizes they’re scuffed and muddy—and that, somehow, they’ve walked all this way without being conscious of it.

Roland’s been sitting and staring off into space, but now he begins to sob. Susannah comforts him: “Be easy and let it go. This part is over.” Eddie tries to tell him he was killing Rhea, not his mother, but Roland isn’t ready to let himself off the hook. But Eddie’s not blaming Rhea; he’s blaming ka.

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland cries. I wish we’d experienced this short section from Roland’s point of view rather than Eddie’s, because I think it could have been emotionally powerful. As it is, it’s kind of detached and it feels like an opportunity to wallow in some emotional angst was lost. Then again, that could be an awfully girly observation.

 

Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 4, The Path of the Beam, Section 3

The travelers open their packs and find an odd assortment of food—Keebler cookies, Saran-wrapped sandwiches that look like vending-machine food, and a brand of Cola, Nozz-A-La that tastes like Coke. They eat facing the Green Palace.

Eddie makes a silly toast with his soda but as he’s sitting down, he sees what he’d thought was a white leaf but is really a scrap of paper. Columns of “blah blah blah” fill one side, but the other side holds a message: “Next time I won’t leave. Renounce the Tower. This is your last warning. And have a great day!—R.F.” Smiley faces appear on each side of the text; below it is a drawing of a storm cloud with a bolt of lightning descending from it.

They all look at the paper. Jake wonders how Tick-Tock and Randall Flag got ahead of them, but Eddie thinks he knows: “A Door. Maybe they came through one of those special doors.”

Roland has been quiet till now, but finally tells them the advice on the paper is sound. “I urge you to consider it most seriously. And if you want to go back to your world, I will allow you to go….I did what I did before I learned to know you as friends. Before I learned to love you as I loved Alain and Cuthbert….There was a part of me that hadn’t moved or spoken in a good many years. I thought it was dead. It isn’t. I have learned to love again, and I’m aware that this is probably my last chance to love…I get my friends killed. And I’m not sure I can even risk doing that again…For the first time since I turned around in a dark room and killed my mother, I may have found something more important than the Tower. Leave it at that.”

But Susannah tells him that if they are all being directed by ka, then it means they stay. “As scary as ka might be—the idea of fate with eagle eyes and bloodhound’s nose—I find the idea of no ka even scarier,” she tells him.

Finally, Eddie speaks up: “You’re missing the biggest part of this,” he tells Roland. “You can’t send us back…Even if there was a door, we wouldn’t go through it…We’ve changed.” He struggles to explain himself, then finally can only say, “It’s ka.”

To which Roland says, “Kaka.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Um…I’d be kind of fearful of eating that food, personally, but since all the gunslinger burritos are gone, I guess hunger trumps paranoia.

I keep wondering…if the Power in the Tower is so anxious for them to abandon their quest, and if the power is so all-powerful (and not, in fact, a bumhug), why not just squash them like bugs and be done with it instead of making threat after threat?

Eddie tells Roland he’s as “contrary as a hog on ice-skates,” which made me laugh.

Roland’s speech is really pretty amazing—what he admits is amazing. And then he makes a joke! I have to wonder how liberating getting all his secrets out will be for him.

 

Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 4, The Path of the Beam, Section 4

Susannah has a question about the whole mom-killing scene: why was Roland’s mother hiding behind the curtains? Roland thinks the fact she’d made him a present (the belt) meant she was planning to ask for forgiveness. Eddie thinks maybe Roland is lying to himself about that, but doesn’t say so. Also, Roland says his mother had stolen the Wizard’s Glass from his father—although he isn’t so sure about that..his father knew some things that indicated Steven himself might have looked in the glass. And maybe he saw that Roland would kill his mother and allowed “ka to run its course.” Ro doesn’t want to believe his father would intentionally set it all in motion, basically setting him up to kill his mother…but he isn’t sure, and it appears to haunt him.

Roland tells the others he fainted after he killed his mother. When he came to, he was still alone with her body. He put on the bloody belt—“and how I lost it is a tale for another day…I’ll tell it to you before we have done, for it bears on my quest for the Tower.” But the Wizard’s Glass was gone.

Jake asks Roland about the stormcloud drawing on the note, and he thinks it’s the “sigul” of a place called Thunderclap. “I think that’s where we’ll meet this man—this thing—named Flagg again…The Kansas we came through was his Kansas, and the plague that emptied out that land was his plague.”

But the plague could travel, they realize—to their world, or any world. Except, as Eddie thinks, Roland’s world is now their world too.

Finally, Susannah asks the million-dollar question: “Who’s the Crimson King?” But Roland says he doesn’t know.

What Constant Reader Learns: Steven’s lack of action, if that’s what happened, is worse than Roland’s mother’s sins, at least in terms of letting his young son do the dirty work. It seems very un-gunslinger-like, although if he had, indeed, been keeping track of things in the Wizard’s Glass, it could have corrupted him. And if Steven at one time had the Glass, how did he lose it? Maybe we were told that when Steven sent Roland and his friends to Mejis, but I don&rsquot recall it.

Roland says he saw Rhea again later, but doesn’t explain. He implies that he put an end to her.

 

Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 4, The Path of the Beam, Section 4

“They clustered near the grove, five wanderers on the face of an empty land.” They all held hands. “We are ka-tet,” Eddie says. “We are one from many.” The others repeat it, and they all set off again for the Dark Tower, walking along the Yellow Brick Road Path of the Beam.

What Constant Reader Learns: There’s an interesting afterword from Stephen King in which he points out that twenty-six years had passed between when he wrote the scene of Roland besting Cort and visiting the whore’s bed and when Steven Deschain shows up “the next morning” to confront him. This, he says, “sums up the essential weirdness of the Dark Tower experience.”


That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll put Wizard and Glass behind us and venture into the world of Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla.

28 comments
Arila
1. Arila
I wish that this read had been around when I was reading the Dark Tower. I feel so pressed for time, or I'd love to re-read along with you. I find that just reading through this, I don't remember so much! :(
Arila
2. Lsana
King's comment about how it was 26 years between the scene in the Gunslinger and it's aftermath does sum up the coolness of the Dark Tower series for me and just what it is that makes the first four books so epic. Each one of them is different, because in many respects they were written by a different man. It's also what I think makes the next three books less cool: I think King wrote them before he was really ready, and they just aren't as epic.

This may be my goodbye to the re-read. I'm going to try to stick with it through at least Wolves, but I just don't like the last three books nearly as much as first ones, and I don't want to turn into the person who does nothing but whine about how much the books suck. So if this is the end, I wanted to say thank you for a great experience. You've made my Mondays.
Arila
3. Lsana
BTW, did we ever get the story of how Roland lost the belt? I remember looking for it, but I don't remember ever hearing it.
Arila
4. lovelylikebeestings
Lsana-nope.

"And if Steven at one time had the Glass, how did he lose it? Maybe we were told that when Steven sent Roland and his friends to Mejis, but I don't recall it."

He had the glass after Roland and co returned. If I recall correctly, there was at least a day between the boys returning and Roland shooting his mother.
Arila
5. StrongDreams
@3, nope.

@SJ,
if the Power in the Tower is so anxious for them to abandon their quest

There is more than one power in the world. Remember Frodo's chat with Gandalf in Moria. "Bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by Sauron...and that is an encouraging thought."

Song of Susannah is (I think) the first place where we learn concretely of forces that oppose the destruction of the beams. That could also be an explanation for why Flagg seems so ineffectual here, although I don't know whether King was actually thinking about these "pro-Tower" forces when he wrote W&G.
Arila
6. olethros
That line about a hog on ice skates is similar to a line in the Tom Waits song Cemetery Polka.
Arila
7. Callahan OTheRoads
Still enjoying the read-through. I liked the part where Roland offers to let the ka-tet go home. He seems to be changing, doesn't he?
I also liked it that Sheemie made it to Gilead- "He and that damned mule."
Also remember as you read on, that "...- in my world even the past is in motion, rearranging itself in many vital ways..."
And the best part is not having to wait 6 or 7 years for the next installment!
Suzanne Johnson
8. SuzanneJohnson
Really looking forward to Wolves!

@Lsana...we need a whiner (just in case I start whining more, I'd appreciate the company), so hope you'll stick around!
Tricia Irish
9. Tektonica
I loved Rolands return to humanity here. So nice to see. I wonder if it lasts? And I loved the Ka-tet, truly becoming One. Now that Eddie, Susanna, Oy, and Jake have chosen this world, this cause, Roland, it makes them even stronger. Did seeing Roland's beginnings and hearing his story give them the empathy to stick by him?

I must admit, it's been so long since I read these, that I don't remember the last 3 books particularly. I'm looking forward to them! This is quite a tale.

Thanks, Suzanne! I'm so enjoying your read!
Arila
10. Aeryl
How many dang times I've read these books, and this is the first time I connect Gabrielle Deschain hiding behind the curtain and Oz.

Duh.

I love the next three books, though I can agree with what Lsana says, how they are very different than the 1st four, which were spread out over 26 years, and the last three, which were wrote over the course of 18 months I believe. I like them more than the 1st four, so I hope you'll give them an honest chance.

They are very different, and SK takes the story places some people don't like, which can make enjoying the books that much harder.
Jack Flynn
11. JackofMidworld
I keep getting reminded of little bits and pieces as we go along and that's going to get a lot more common. I read The Gunslinger and then read it again before I read Drawing of the Three, then read them both before Wastelands, and then all three of them again before Wizard and Glass but I've only read the rest one time each but still enjoyed them.

That said, I'd invested so much into the ka-tet that even if the last books were written in crayon and printed on the back of cereal boxes, I would have kept on reading them (I also planned on buying a ouija board to find out what happened when SK had his accident!. Thanks be to ka that I didn't have to!)
Arila
12. StrongDreams
@11, Jack,

I do kind of wish I had a magic doorway to take me to an alternate world where King did not have his accident yet still finished the series. The early books seemed to have a different "shape" than the latter and I wonder where that would have gone.
Suzanne Johnson
13. SuzanneJohnson
I am really looking forward to see where the story goes. Each of the four books so far has been incredibly different, and I like the comment that each of them was essentially written by four different authors because SK was evolving so much as a writer over those years. I'll be delving into WoC tonight!
Arila
14. Aeryl
@ 11 & 12

SPOILERS

I guess I kinda hear ya, but considering what he'd been trying to do with the books from the start, I think his accident works into the story beautifully. It's one of those things that if it didn't happen, he'd have to invent it.
Arila
15. StrongDreams
Aeryl,
That's kind of my point. It's not clear to me that the things he did, especially in book 7, were meant to be there from the beginning.

I think, for example, that the world of The Gunslinger was meant to be the future of our world, and not an alternate world. Walter, the man in black, died, because his mission was finished. Walter's superior could have been Flagg, the man who darkles and tincts and lives in all times. Does Flagg pop up in Lud at the end of Wastelands (written in 1990) because King was intentionally trying to link all his worlds together, or because King's worlds are subconsciously leaky.

We know what King eventually did, but I'm not convinced that was his intention all along.
Arila
16. Lsana
@8,

Okay, then. But if I start to get on everyone's nerves, then I'm pointing back to this post as proof that I officially have permission to be the group whiner.
Arila
17. Aeryl
HUGE SPOILERS FOR NEW CHARACTERS IN WOLVES AND DT (Roll over to view text)
I think he was trying to connect his works, he's said in interviews that he knew he wasn't done with Callahan after Salem's Lot and would be bringing him back in Roland's story, and begun using Castle Rock as a central location' with an influential history in future stories before then, and knew Patrick Danville was gonna be huge in Roland's story. And Flagg first faced off with Prince Roland in Eyes of the Dragon in 1987.

In Hearts in Atlantis, Ted recommends several books dealing with parallel worlds to the kid in the books(name escapes me), books King talks about reading in his youth that influenced this story, so I'm also convinced that Roland's world was always a future version of a parallel world, much like he used in The Talisman published in 1984.

So yea, I think the groundwork for linking his universe was laid prior to Wolves of the Calla(though I am still sad to this day that we never got to meet up grown up Charlie McGee, obviously a Breaker, hi powered one at that).

And I don't think King using Roland's story to link all his works together is the ultimate endgame here, I think it's a little more philosophical than that, not a marketing scheme. Buy All My Books For The Whole Story!!! I think he is trying to state more about good and evil, and the power of literature to change worlds, in this case literally. When Roland's story starts over, because reliving his story is what holds the universe together, I bawl everytime.

It's like the entire universe truly exists amongst the petals of a rose. Like I've said, I'm quite the fan of how this ends. (End spoilers)
Suzanne Johnson
18. SuzanneJohnson
Thanks for the SPOILER warnings, guys--I'm being a good girl (well, so far) and not reading anything with a spoiler warning so feel free to chat among yourselves.

@Lsana--yay! You officially have permission to be the group whiner :-)
Marcus Ferguson
19. Fergster
Hey Suzanne,

I'm something of a Johnny-come-lately to your series of blogs on The Dark Tower having only just finished reading up to the end of Drawing, but I just had to chime in to express my appreciation for providing such a surreal trip down memory lane.

I first read The Gunslinger back in 1989 having found it in a second-hand bookshop. I'd read most of King's published novels at that stage, beginning with IT (which I immediately fell in love with) and then steadily working my way through his back catalogue. But somehow I never even come across a mention of The Gunslinger, so literally stumbling across this book was pure serendipity and reading it only deepened my admiration for my favourite author.

I'm not even sure when I discovered that a second book had already been published in the States, but as soon as I saw it in the bookshops here in Australia I immediately put it on the top of my Christmas wish list (still being a teenager at the time and not so flush with cash as to be able to buy every book I wanted to own). Come Christmas day the book was literally the only present I cared about, but I couldn't start reading it till the next day with all the family around and the like.

So first thing on Boxing Day I got stuck into it and I literally didn't come back to reality for the next 12 hours or so as I feverishly read the entire thing in one hit. I'm fairly sure I didn't eat anything until dinner, and then ate as fast as I could in order to get back as quickly as possible. Even having to take a short few short toilet breaks felt like an interminable distraction. I was utterly enthralled from the very first sentence through to the end. It was then, and still remains the most profoundly affecting reading experience of my life, and reading your posts section-by-section and chapter-by-chapter put me right back in my bedroom on that Boxing Day of almost 23 years ago.

I said before it was a surreal experience for me; it actually felt like something out of a King novel. As I read each of your weekly posts, I was simultaneously experiencing three things: firstly, I was remembering, or perhaps re-remembering, the events in the novel (many of which I had completely forgotten); secondly, I was experiencing vivid flashbacks to the first time I read the book almost to the point of feeling like I was there again; and thirdly I had the completely bizarre feeling that I was reading the story for the first time a second time over.

It's been something of a weird day for me, to say the least, but I just wanted to let you know that I've really enjoyed reading your posts, almost as much as I enjoyed reading the actual novels, and I am well looking forward to reading through all the rest, right through to the finale. Then I think I may just need to read the series in its entirety again.
Suzanne Johnson
20. SuzanneJohnson
@Fergster--So glad you're joining us! I'm a longtime SK fan but somehow, because I'm not an epic fantasy reader (LOTR notwithstanding) and I mistakenly thought this was an ordinary epic fantasy, I always avoided it. So it's a delight, at this stage in my reading, to discover "new" Stephen King--and such an amazing read. So far, I'd say my favorite of the books has been The Drawing of the Three--it sucked me in faster and held me harder than the others, although I bitched about the "showmance" plenty at the time.
Arila
21. Hemmingway
Somebody make those spoilers disappear, really. Make it, you know, invisible for the sake of good.

Also, Callas next week!
Bridget McGovern
22. BMcGovern
Spoilers whited out @17--Spoiler warnings are appreciated, but since it's difficult to control what you see and read while scrolling through the comment thread, if everybody could use the Text Color option in the toolbar to white out any potential spoilers, that would be even more helpful--thanks!
Arila
23. Hemmingway
Thank you for the quick work. :)
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
I will from here on out, I just registered for an account(kept not doing it, but I've been commenting so much, I figured it was about time) and I know for non account holders, whiting out text is tricky.
Arila
25. CVtoWorkinMidWorld
And so the book four comes to the end.

I waited that part of Roland loosing the belt his mother gave him to be
explained in The Wind Through The Keyhole, but it was not the case, even though it had some of this Ro/His mother's death thing in it.
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
I might be wrong, I haven't read it in awhile, but I think Roland lost the belt in The Little Sisters of Eluria, which is in the Everything's Eventual collection.
Arila
27. CVtoWorkinMidWorld
@26,

Haven't read that one in a long time, but it could be it, perhaps. Can anyone verify this?
Chris Nelly
28. Aeryl
I know he gets stripped by the "nurses" which is why I think that's it. I didn't actually remember the detail about Roland losing the belt until this post, which is why if it did happen there, I don't remember it.

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