Aside from the disaster of the adaptation of The Dark Tower by Sony, 2017 has been one of the greatest years for Stephen King. You just have to take look at the numbers: IT has raised 640’000.000 dollars worldwide and is already ranked as the most watched horror film of all time (R-rated and Supernatural) as well as the best adaptation of Stephen King over films icons such as the Green Mile and the Shining . And Netflix could not be happier.
And the risks taken by the web content platform committing for two adaptations of the so-called Master of Terror could not come at a better time. The first adaptation, Gerald’s Game quickly generated the most diverse opinions and feedbacks on social networks, on behalf of its rawness, its approach to the original material, moments of suspense and of course, their criticism of objectification of women. Now, in October Netflix launches its Second King’s adaptation, this time of 1922, a novella released in 2010 in a book called Full Dark, No Stars
And, as it usually happens with every single work from Stephen King, written or adapted, it is necessary and mandatory to read carefully and analyzing what is going on. So, if after the credits rolled, you were left with some questions about 1922 , you are in the right place. Without further ado, let’s start over with the analysis and explanation of 1922 .
1 ^ Where does the story of 1922 take place?
The story of the film takes place in a town in Nebraska, called Hemingford Home. This, unlike many of the towns and villages that King mentions in his work, is a real town that today counts about 850 inhabitants, in the middle of one of the least densely populated states of the American Union.
Hemingford Home is also interesting because it is mentioned in other works of Stephen King as The Stand as the place of origin of one of the main characters of the story: Sister Abigail. Also, Gatlin, Nebraska – where The Children of Corn takes place – is a neighboring village to Hemingford Home, to the point that the film sequel takes place precisely in Hemingford.
Larry, the protagonist of The Last Rung on the Ladder mentions growing up with her sister, also in Hemingford.
And the cherry on the cake, Ben Hanscom, the chubby boy from IT, after the events of the film, spends much of his life, precisely in Hemingford Home.
2 ^ What was all the conflict between Wilfred and Arlette about?
Well, the conflict between Wilfred (Thomas Jane) and Arlette (Molly Parker) was essentially an existential conflict. Wilfred was a countryman, and Arlette having spent part of his life in Omaha, was fascinated with the city. Wilfred and Arlette were a couple of appearances just to keep a home to offer his son Henry (Dylan Schmid).
The conflict erupted when a food company (specialized in pork) offered money to Arlette in exchange for her 100 hectares. Wilfred owned 80 hectares that were next to Arlette’s, so the combined legacy of Henry were exactly 180 hectares.
Arlette’s plan was to sell everything so the entire family could move to Omaha, or even St. Louis, Missouri with enough money to start a dress shop while Wilfred could get a job as a mechanic or construction worker and even Henry might have a chance to go to college. However, as she knew that Wilfred was unwilling to abandon his farm, her Plan B was to sell her 100 hectares, and take Henry with her to live in Omaha. In the book there is an additional reason why Wilfred was so worried, but we’ll see that later.
3 ^ Why did Henry decide to leave the farm and his father?
After Wilfred convinced Henry that the only way to keep the farm, and keep seeing his girlfriend Shannon, was killing Arlette. Father and son, committed murder after getting Arlette drunk and later covered their tracks completely cleaning the house and throwing the body into a dry well.
This causes a deep trauma in Henry, whose moral compass was now completely destroyed. He got Shannon pregnant and began to put pressure on his father to give him enough money to elope with her. However, Wilfred flatly refused and Henry is forced to flee with Shannon without money, just with his father’s truck and a gun.
4 ^ Was the house haunted or Wilfred just went crazy?
This point is quite controversial, because even in the book the evidence is mostly circumstantial. But let’s analyze and get things in context:
First, a corn farm like Wilfred’s tends to have rats, so it is necessary to keep a strict waste control to prevent the site to get infested by rodents. So, when Wilfred threw his wife into the well, connected with pipes where some rats lived longer, and then he threw them over a complete cow, rats literally feasted. They had enough food to stock and especially to reproduce. It is not surprising that the farm, including the barn and the house was filled with rodents. Wilfred did not hallucinate that, but …
5 ^ What were those pills Wilfred was taking?
Wilfred initially believed that this invasion of rats could be the result of his guilt, that he was literally going crazy. And he started taking the pills we saw on a couple of occasions. Those were hysteria pills.
If you research this type of medicines that were prescribed for women at that time, they contained a mixture of opiates, cocaine and chloroform, which consumed in large quantities – as Wilfred did- generate hallucinations on the patient. Exactly as we saw it. So you can admit that much of what he Wilfred saw was the effect of taking drugs combined with alcohol, but …
6 ^ Arlette’s ghost was real?
Something that Stephen King has implicitly declared in his books is that high stress situations, drug abuse, or even physical injuries, could enable some people to see dimensions that are beyond the ordinary reality we perceive daily.
It is rather odd that the ghost of Arlette knew so many details about Henry, his new life as a criminal with Shannon, and especially his death- That would not be possible if it was only the product of a mind dulled by drugs. So, in effect, drugs enabled Wilfred to see a world beyond his senses, a world where his dead wife demanded revenge with the help of rats.
7 ^ How much time passed between the death of Arlette and the hotel scene?
Arlette’s death occurred in the summer of 1922. Henry and Shannon ran away together in the fall and later died in the winter of that year. The bank took possession of the lands of Wilfred and Arlette, as part-payment of the loan by $750, giving compensation in return, in the spring of 1923.
Ironically this forced Wilfred to leave the farm and going to the city where he worked on what he could, considering he was missing a hand. Wilfred’s state of mind, which made it accessible to Arlette, made him a extremely fearful and unstable man, so he became an alcoholic, a vice that ended with the money he got in compensation for the land.
Finally in 1930, the date on which the letter is signed, Wilfred gets a room in a hotel in Omaha to write exactly what happened to his wife.
8 ^ What is the meaning of the final scene in 1922 with the ghosts of Arlette, Henry and Shannon?
Wilfred’s confession is just one of the goals of Arlette. After all, this will clarify her death and hopefully will help other to find her body. But the confession was not all.
The letter made clear that she did not run away, that she always loved her son, and that she was murdered and thrown into a dry well. But the second goal was very clear – taking revenge on Wifred.
Arlette, Henry and Shannon died because of Wilfred’s stubbornness to accept a manifest destiny and now the three of them were claiming him into their world. That is why Henry shows him the knife.
9 ^ Does Wilfred die at the end?
The film’s end is kind of open. The viewer decides whether the protagonist commits suicide, or if he decides to keep alive, but haunted by ghosts. However, if we go to the book, indeed, Wilfred dies of wounds he made on himself. Draw your own conclusions.
10 ^ What are the differences between 1922, the book and 1922, the movie?
The fundamental differences are :
a ^ If Arlette had sold her 100 hectares to the food company, the consequences would have been disastrous first for Wilfred, because his 80 hectares were just next to hers, and second for most of the farms in Hemingford. In the film is stated that only Harlan’s – Shannon’s father- land would be affected. Not Wilfred’s.
b ^ In the book Harlan sends Shannon to an orphanage, where some people would find parents for the baby, but before soon Henry breaks into the place and escapes with her. In the film everything indicates that Henry took Shannon from her father’s house.
c ^ In the book the ghost of Arlette is much more vivid, she literally gets out of the well and chases Wilfred to the basement. Likewise, Arlette explains to Wilfred what will happen to Henry and Shannon, while in the film implies that Henry’s demise was something that already happened.
d ^ In the film, the only conflict Wilfred has is with Harlan, who blames him for the death of Shannon. In the book, the issue is more complicated. Hemingford’s people literally despises Wilfred for ruining the agricultural potential of several farms after he sells his lands to a company that throws waste into their waters.
e ^ In the book, the death of Wilfred is more confused. First his letter turns out to be ilegible and he seems to die from several self-inflicted bite wounds. In the film we see that if Wilfred dies he does by using the knife Henry shows him. In the case you want to believe he dies…
11 ^ What is the symbolism behind 1922?
Clearly the symbolism behind this film is primarily the conflict between the countryside and the city. Between rural and urban. Especially in the context of the Midwestern United States.
Wilfred represents the old, original and foundational area of the United States, religious, impolite, but tough, strong and determined. Arlette represents the new, proud, libertine and determined city. Henry represents the new generation of Americans at that time, torn between keep living the country life and moving to the comforts of the city.
Arlette’s murder represents the conflict and struggle of the countryside for not being absorbed by the city, leading to extreme lengths to keep their customs. However, as we saw at the end of the book, the fate of the country is succumbing to the industrial needs of the city.
The time of self-sufficient peasant ended at the time when demand in cities increased from thereon, it is necessary to forget the ghost idyllic peasant and his little bit of land, and think big. It is inevitable.
Questions? The comments section below is open to everyone, and every single comment is welcome.