The Gunslinger (revised Edition): The Dark Tower I

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The Gunslinger (revised Edition): The Dark Tower I

by Stephen King

Penguin Publishing Group | June 24, 2003 | Trade Paperback

The Gunslinger (revised Edition): The Dark Tower I is rated 3.6 out of 5 by 25.
Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange singlemindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse—left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond...the Dark Tower.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 272 pages, 8.99 × 5.96 × 0.72 in

Published: June 24, 2003

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0452284694

ISBN - 13: 9780452284692

Found in: Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling I re-purchased this book, because my old copy went missing. It is one of the best fantasy series I have ever read, and if you like Stephen King's work at all and haven't read this, then you have a major problem on your hands. This series is what he was made to write. It's the most beautiful and complex work of all his books, and even interweaves many of his other great horror stories into this series. You won't regret this book.
Date published: 2014-04-21
Rated out of 5 by from Pretty good book I thought, if you like horror, with a little bit of fantasy and mystery, this is your kind of book (or series). I have to say Stephen King has put some really neat concepts in this and you will have to read it to find out. Not bad for a 19 year old ;).
Date published: 2013-07-23
Rated out of 5 by from I loved this book! I'll admit, I didn't always (rarely) knew where the story was headed, but I was remarkably impressed. The landscape is beautiful, the character intriguing, and the story is very fast-paced. I am well on my way through the second in the series and I couldn't be happier with that one either. Definitely worth getting into!
Date published: 2013-04-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Meh, it was just "ok" - I hope the series gets better! This series has been on my TBR list since I was a teenager! I own multiple copies of the books in the series: Bound copies on my shelves, Kindle copies, and also audiobooks. Yet, I have never read them! I have finally taken the plunge into the series, and it was not at all what I expected! I was hoping for the "creep factor" that I have experienced in other King novels, but it was missing here. In the first installment of The Dark Tower series, we are introduced to Roland Deschain, a Gunslinger whose sole purpose is to meet up with The Man In Black. In his journey along the way, he meets up with a boy named Jake and takes him under his wing. Parts of the book really dragged for me and, even though I finished book, I still feel a bit lost! I will continue on with the series and hope that I get hooked with the next one. This is definitely my least favourite King book, and I much prefer his horror books to this fantasy series so far. However, I am trying to be optimistic that the series will pick up given its popularity. I like the whole good versus evil vibe, and I am hoping that I won't be disappointed! This is my first narration by George Guidall, and his voice was a nice choice for the book. However, his reading does tend to speed up during the more exciting scenes, and I actually had to put my iPod on ½ speed to follow along at a regular pace. MY RATING: 2 stars!! Meh, it was just "ok".
Date published: 2012-10-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not the Greatest from King I was fairly underwhelmed by this entry to the dark tower series. It is an okay introduction, but pales in comparison to it's sequels. If you read this and do not enjoy it I would recommend you go on to read The Drawing of the Three, as it is far superior. The plot was pretty flat in this one, not a lot going on...on the upside the atmosphere was great.
Date published: 2012-06-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring! I know that Stephen King can write a better story than what he created in this book! I had to force myself to finish this book because I made the mistake of purchasing it! For me, it was a slow paced boring story that could not grab my attention!
Date published: 2011-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eerie and surreal landscape, featuring King's most enigmatic protagonist if ya kennit It's a post-apocalytptic sphaghetti western set across several worlds, dreamt up by the most popular writer of horror in the last few decades. In other words, this is far from Stephen King's usual macabre fair, even though there are traces in his tone and savoury details. The plot resembles more of a fantasy quest with a 'Good Bad and the Ugly' aesthetic and that's exactly what makes this first installment SO DAMNED COOL! (The series tends to dip in quality after book four, but there's still plenty of good stuff to be seen thoughout the entire seven book run) The first book is about ninety-percent plot and zero context. We know that the gunslinger, the series' stoic and seemingly emotionless protagonist has been pursuing a wizard in black for a very long time, but we have no idea why. We learn that the man in black is supposed to provide a clue to lead our hero in his quest for the Dark Tower, but we have no idea what that is or why he's looking for it either. The world we find this action in seems more than a little askew. We encounter sexually ravenous oracles without physical forms and cave-crawling 'slow mutants' attacking dilapidated rail cars, and in a dingy dust strewn tavern, a crazy old man plays "Hey Jude" on a honky tonk piano. It's all so marvelously dark and surreal that you can't help but read on and guess at what our gunslinger is searching for and whether this man in black is what he seems to be - assuming our hero ever catches him. Read this. It's among King's best.
Date published: 2011-01-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lame First, I should start this review by qualifying it, my ranking system is tough, 4 for ‘would recommend it’, 5 for ‘would recommend and re-read’. Also I am not a King fan, I actually avoid him, but this series was recommended to me by two very different people so I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s the bad for me: The story is slow slow slow and I found it hard to follow and stay engaged. The writing is over stylized and it really felt like King was trying too hard to be deep and obtuse, for instance “a light that was soft yet hard”, what??? How can something be soft yet hard, if anyone can explain that to me feel free. This is only one example of where the writing tripped me up and I paused to contemplate its ridiculousness. The characters aren’t really likeable; I didn’t get invested at all The Good Stuff: Reading this book gets you to book 2, which I found much more engaging and well written, and book 3 is better than 2 There’s also a dialogue that goes on for a few pages at the end that was delightful. And finally I enjoyed the Jake storyline, probably because it’s the first believable character interaction. I’m torn, I disliked this book, and I’m not at a point where I would recommend the series, but I have enjoyed book 2 & 3, so was it worth suffering through 1 to get to those, probably.
Date published: 2010-07-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting A very interesting novel. Did not find it as slow as some people said it might be. Looking forward to reading part two now.
Date published: 2010-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Original, interesting, and awesome If you ever wondered what lord of the rings would be like if: A) it was a old western B) Instead of a short guy with big feet the main character was Clint Eastwood Than this is the answer, and it's a damn good answer
Date published: 2010-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good book I read the book in hard cover. Josehf Lloyd Murchison Author of “Tails of a Gay Incubus” sold at chapters.
Date published: 2009-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read I got interested in the series after reading Hearts in Atlantis, and I wasn't disappointed. May seem like a slow read to start, but once you get into it, you will find it hard to put it down. Thinking of re-reading the series again :)
Date published: 2009-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hard to get into My dad got me this book for Christmas one year ago and I'm just getting around to writing the review :) this book was good but hard to get into i found my mind wandered periodically while i read this book because it was bored. i mean for the first couple of chapters absolutely nothing happens he walks through a dessert the climax is meeting the kid and basically sentencing him to death. although this read is worth it only because the rest of the series is fantabulous
Date published: 2009-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Good I am not a fan of Stephen King's writing (though I am a fan of the man), so I have purposefully stayed away from The Dark Tower series. King's books always seem to follow a simple pattern with me. The first third of the book I find myself excited, joyfully surfing the book on the wave of King's pure inventiveness (no matter how I feel about his books in the end, it is hard to deny that his crazy mind is full of interesting ideas). In the second third of the book, the wave invariably begins to lose its power, and I find myself growing annoyed. By the final third I am just angry, and the wave is spent while I'm still yards from shore. The Gunslinger didn't do this to me. I was in that pleasurable first third of King experience for the entire book (I expect, however, that I will continue to feel this way until somewhere in the third book, where the true first third of King's story finally gives way to the second third. The Dark Tower is seven books, after all). The Gunslinger and Roland himself were completely unexpected joys for me. I loved King's bleak prose (and his prose is rarely something I would praise) because it matched Roland's bleak soul and the books bleak landscape. I loved the fractured narrative that took us to multiple points in Roland's past, while dropping us smack in the middle of his quest for the Man in Black and thus The Dark Tower. I loved Roland's gray ethics, his ability to shoot a woman he'd slept with only hours before, his willingness to sacrifice a boy he loves to fulfill his obsession, his cold, calculating, hardness, and most of all his tenacity. I am not a fan of good vs. evil stories (and, sadly, I understand The Dark Tower series becomes one). I don't even believe in good and evil (certainly not in the way most people do), so to see a character whose behavior is decisive action motivated by what he perceives as necessity, and action that is (for now) presented outside the values of good and evil, is a refreshing change. I am sure "theory of thirds" decline will happen as I continue the series, and I doubt that the story will live up to the promise of this, its first chapter, but I think it will be difficult for the rest of the series to taint the beauty of this one book. And I never thought I would say that about any Stephen King story that wasn't a short one.
Date published: 2008-11-17
Rated out of 5 by from Not a bad start to a series..... I have been a big King fan for many years but the only books of his I have never attempted are the Dark Tower series. So I've decided to finally read all of them, seeing as they are so popular. The Gunslinger is a good start to convincing me the series is worth it. There's so much to describe and I'm sure the series will only get more complicated but I'm glad to say that it is interesting and unique. The book is probably the most different from any other King book I have read, which I think will prove to be a good thing. Roland is the last gunslinger, living in a world that is unclear to us as to whether it's the past, future, or another universe all together. He is travelling across a dying world, searching for The Man in Black, which will aid him in his quest to find "The Dark Tower" something that is as of yet never defined. I am about to start the second in the series The Drawing of Three......
Date published: 2008-05-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hmm...Disappointing I can't say I really enjoyed this book, but it kept my interest enough to keep reading. The book is a bit confusing with many unanswered questions (which I presume will be answered later). There is not a lot of action or things that "happen." There are also many things that I feel that are minor details in this book, but will become important later (Read the next ones now before you forget!). I can see how this book will set up some great stroytelling, but the book by itself is slow and boring. Although I didn't overly enjoy this book, I am still going to try the next ones... I have already started The Drawing of the Three and already it is MUCH better!!
Date published: 2008-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Other Worlds The first time I read The Gunslinger, I was in high school. I loved it. I fell for Stephen King and developed a taste for fantasy and other forms of fantastic fiction. The Gunslinger showed me that I could (and would) enjoy novels beyond the standard realm of fiction and literature.
Date published: 2008-01-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from YAWN i feel like MY world "moved on" while I was reading this. And I wish I had those 24 hours back.
Date published: 2006-11-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Hope it gets better as it goes... With only an hour left to go before I finish this audiobook, I am starting to question the hype surrounding this series. I hate to be negative because I am a very big Stephen King fan... but, so far, its a lot slower-paced than I expected. It seems like there was only two or three exciting parts in the entire audiobook... and even then, they weren't so great. The gunslinger blows away a bunch of people, but its over so quickly you don't really have a chance to appreciate it. However, I will continue on with the other audiobooks in the series because I hope it gets better. Given its success, I think it will. (Though I heard Wizard and Glass is boring.) In any case, its important to listen to this one (and that) so that you understand the ground work of the tale. Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I don't think so. I feel like this one was over-rated. I mean, half the time you're listenting to nonesense babble with the occasional flashback while the Gunslinger smokes his cigarettes. I don't know what the big deal is about this series so far. I wish I had these six hours back though.
Date published: 2006-11-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from over-rated This book is over-rated and not very good. But I loved it.
Date published: 2006-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! If you're a King fan, this is something new and completely unexpected that will throw you completely off-balance... but in a very good way. Talk about an original, off-beat and weird story! I was simply unable to close the book, it was extraordinary from the first page to the very last.
Date published: 2006-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesomely Great! This is the one book in along time that kept me interested from front to back, I had a hard time putting the book down. All I could think about was the book and wondering what was going to happen next. A great starting book for a series, you keep wanting more. I look forward to reading more of his books.
Date published: 2006-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best ever says it all! Always a skeptic, I could not bring myself to belive how hooked I could become on this series. You can read it cover to cover and still there are simple comments and timy details that upon a second read beg you to notice them and add them to the stock of information and wonder already gleened from this novel. To sum up, it was really good.
Date published: 2006-06-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Didn't know what would lie ahead Had no idea when starting this book that I would get completely hooked into the series I'm glad I didnt discover the series before it was complete, because I was able to immediately transition from one volume to the next. A very enjoyable read...fantasy not horror...a true escape from the everyday.
Date published: 2006-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You'll Never Look Back This series is the best Steven King has produced. If you're a fan of his work, and haven't read the Dark Tower series...get ready to be enthralled. It's King's very own Lord of the Rings and I truly believe it stands up to Tolkien. Every book in this series is very different and very great in it's own way. I envy those who have yet to read this first book. Unforgettable. A great journey awaits.
Date published: 2004-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing book It almost seems as if the book traps you in another mind-grasping story. The first book in the series of seven has definitely kept me reading on and on. It has about three hundred pages of a person called the gunslinger or roland that basically goes through towns and people to get to his first step of getting to the dark tower. I couldn't sleep eat or do anything else than read.I will also tell you that if you like lord of the rings (which you probably do) then this book is a must buy. It isn't very frightening and scary, but adventurous and incredibly detailed this book has taken on. Not a wate of money at all.
Date published: 2004-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Book I've Ever Read After I finished this book I was just aching to continue on with the series (unfortunately I haven't found the next book at any of the stores i've visited) and there was suspense and I was happy with the quality of the writing. It didn't wander or just drone on and on. This is the first Steven King book i've read and I will surely continue on with the series after I find the next books!
Date published: 2003-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stephen King's "The Gunslinger" One of my all time favorites. The entire series is outstanding. Roland the Gunslinger is an exceptional character and his experiences are touching and exciting. Stephen King is NOT just a Horror Writer . He's a gifted artist. Best of the 20th Century.
Date published: 2000-07-15

– More About This Product –

The Gunslinger (revised Edition): The Dark Tower I

by Stephen King

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 272 pages, 8.99 × 5.96 × 0.72 in

Published: June 24, 2003

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0452284694

ISBN - 13: 9780452284692

From the Publisher

Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange singlemindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse—left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond...the Dark Tower.

About the Author

Stephen King, the world's bestselling novelist, was educated at the University of Maine at Orono. He lives with his wife, the novelist Tabitha King, and their children in Bangor, Maine.

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION

"Roland's story is my Jupiter, a planet that dwarfs all the others…"

A General Introduction to Stephen King's The Dark Tower Novels

The Dark Tower books have followed a publishing arc unique in modern literature. Beginning with a now-legendary series of five short stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fictionfive stories which now comprise the first volume of the novel cycleStephen King has spent thirty-three years writing The Dark Tower. It stands today as a singularly ambitious work of quest literature, matched only by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings fantasy epic. A series that operates beautifully as a single, stand-alone saga, The Dark Tower series also ties into and informs many other novels in Stephen King's fictional universe. King's vast galaxy of overlapping realms and charactersa galaxy that has been exhaustively annotated and analyzed by the author's peerlessly avid fan-baseoutstrips even Faulkner's fabled Yoknapatawpha County as a wonder of narrative interconnectedness.

Though inspired by a wide range of literary antecedents and cultural archetypes, The Dark Tower saga was initially sparked by a course on the romantic poets at the University of Maine. It was here, King has said, that he first encountered a deeply enigmatic, richly symbolic poem by Robert Browning called "Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came" (1855). King's object, dating back to his sophomore year in college, was to fashion a long novel that played on the conceits and constructs of the romantic aestheticto attempt a work that echoed the epic tone and atmospherics of Browning's poem, if not its explicit narrative line. Volume I, The Gunslinger, first appeared in hardcover in a limited edition from Donald M. Grant in 1982. The Plume trade paperback edition was published five years later and became a #1 national bestseller.

With Scribner's 2003 release of the fifth volume, Wolves of the Calla, and the culminating sixth and seventh volumes both slated for publication in 2004, Stephen King nears completion of what many argue is the crowning masterwork of a matchlessly prolific career. Of the undertaking, King has reflected, "I have written enough novels and short stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland's story is my Jupitera planet that dwarfs all the others (at least from my own perspective), a place of strange atmosphere, crazy landscape, and savage gravitational pull. Dwarfs the others, did I say? I think there's more to it than that, actually. I am coming to understand that Roland's world (or worlds) actually contains all the others of my making."

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed…"

About The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I

In The Gunslinger, Stephen King has crafted what seems, on the face of it, a simple chase narrativean anachronistic "road novel" of sorts. The simplicity is deceptive, to put it mildly. Featuring the most starkly appointed prose of all The Dark Towernovels, King's writing voice here is lean and angular and penetrating, a style which neatly underscores the essential nature of the novel's eponymous protagonist: the physically gaunt and emotionally ravaged gunslinger. The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded throughout by King, with new story material, in addition to a new introduction and foreword.

In the context of all that comes after it, The Gunslinger is a bewitching and enigmatic work, alluring readers with its willful ambiguity. To read this first volume is to get the sense that we are glimpsing only the smallest fraction of a much larger story. And this is very much the case. The Gunslinger is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

King illuminates a post-apocalyptic landscape through a deliberately opaque lens. "Time is funny out here," in the Mohaine, "the apotheosis of all deserts." Rendering a disorienting reality where people, objects, and events may or may not be what they seem, King drops us into the action of a story that is already in progress. The gunslinger, it is revealed deep into the novel, is Roland of Gilead, the last of his kind in a world which has "moved on." Mourning a bygone world "filled with love and light," Roland is a kind of knight in dogged pursuit of the man in black. This man, we discover in the novel's extraordinary climax, is a sorcerer named Walter, who falsely claimed the friendship of Roland's father in the days when the unity of Mid-World still held.

While myriad mysteries remain at the end of this first volume, certain realities and physical laws of the gunslinger's world are established. Most crucial is the fact that Roland's world is related to our own in some fundamental wayand passage between the two is possible. At an abandoned way station on an obsolete coach-road running through the desert, Roland meets Jake Chambers, a boy who died in what appears to be midtown Manhattan when he was pushed into the path of an oncoming car. Jake died with the man in black peering over him, then awoke in the gunslinger's world.

In a final confrontation with Walter, Roland glimpses the nature of his own future, as the man in black foretells the gunslinger's fate with a Tarot deck. Three cards in particularthe Prisoner, the Lady of the Shadows, and Death ("yet not for you, gunslinger")feature prominently in Roland's fortune. As the two adversaries make palaver in a golgotha of decaying bones, Stephen King lays the foundation for all that is to comein The Drawing of the Three: The Dark Tower II and beyond. Here, on the edge of the Western Sea, The Gunslinger comes to a close. But the story has by no means reached an end. "Not an end," the man in black suggests to Roland, "but the end of the beginning, eh?"

 


ABOUT STEPHEN KING

By any measure, Stephen King occupies a central position in the recent history of literature in English, having produced a body of work that is as artistically vital as it is commercially prominent. His primacy in the horror-fiction canon in particular bears comparison to that of J.R.R. Tolkien's station among modern fantasy writers. And like Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Sinclair Lewis before him, King has demonstrated over the course of his career a rare talent for limning the cultural zeitgeist and expressing the characteristic concerns of his era. The fact that he has worked largely within the parameters of the horror and fantasy genres in pursuing these ambitious ends makes his achievement all the more remarkable. Since his earliest works in the 1970s, King has been an author of matchless international reach, enjoying an enduring brand of popularity that transcends all presumed literary and commercial boundaries.

For all the darkness and terror with which King's narratives are generally associated, many critics and fans have argued that King's often brutal fictional universe belies a fundamental optimism about human nature. Richly populating his novels and stories with all manner of pop-cultural signifiers and pitch-perfect minutiae of American middle-class life, King's writing holds up a mirror of sorts and reflects that, even in a world of cynicism, despair, and seemingly infinite cruelty, it remains possible for individuals to find love, discover unexpected resources in themselves, and conquer their own problems, along with the malevolent powers that would suppress or destroy them.

Born in Portland, Maine in 1947, Stephen Edwin King is the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his parents separated when he was a toddler, King and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. He spent parts of his childhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Stratford, Connecticut; and Durham, Maine.

King graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, with a degree in English. In January of 1971, he married Tabitha Spruce, whom he met in the stacks of the university library. Shortly after graduation, he began selling his first short stories to mass-market men's magazines. Many of these stories later appeared in the Night Shift collection and elsewhere. In the spring of 1974, Doubleday published King's first novel, Carrie. He has since written more than thirty-five books, all international bestsellers. His recent works include Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8, Dreamcatcher, Bag of Bones, The Green Mile, and the nonfiction work On Writing. He is also the coauthor, with Peter Straab, of Black House and The Talisman. Under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, King has published several more bestselling works, including The Regulators, Thinner, and The Running Man. Most of his books have been adapted for the screen, including: Dreamcatcher (2003), Hearts in Atlantis, The Green Mile, Misery, Stand by Me (from "The Body"), Thinner, The Shining, Carrie, Christine, The Stand, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, Cujo, and Firestarter. Among King's forthcoming books are Wolves of the Calla: The Dark Tower V; Song of Susannah: The Dark Tower VI; and The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower VII.

A celebrated philanthropist and the father of three children, King lives in Bangor, Maine and Florida, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • As we come to know him in the opening pages, what initial impressions do we get of the gunslinger? What is the nature of Roland's quest?
     
  • Discuss Stephen King's writing style in The Gunslinger. To what degree is it a departure from the rest of his work? What are some of the stylistic patterns and thematic concerns that The Gunslinger shares with other Stephen King works?
     
  • At one point in Roland's recollections of his boyhood, his father saddles him with what seems on the surface a very troubling, even damning judgment. "It is not your place to be moral," his father says. "Morals may always be beyond you." Then he cryptically suggests that his son's amorality is what will make him " formidable." What does he mean? How does this characterization inform the novel's ensuing actionand the larger journey Roland takes over the course of the entire Dark Tower saga?
     
  • What sense, in the flashbacks that occur throughout the novel, does Stephen King provide of what Roland's world was like before it "moved on"?
     
  • What is the nature of honor, according to the gunslinger's moral code? What does it mean to rememberor, conversely, to forget"the face of one's father"?
     
  • What kind of a man is Cort? Discuss Roland's ambivalent feelings about his boyhood teacher.
     
  • Over the course of this first novel, what do we discover about the gunslinger's value system? What is most important to him? What do you suppose it means, in Roland of Gilead's estimation, to be a "good" man?
     
  • What do we learn about the nature of khef in The Gunslinger? What bearing does it seem to have on the gunslinger's quest?
     
  • What is the High Speech? What is the gunslinger's reaction at Sheb's honky-tonk bar upon hearing Nort, the undead man, address him in the High Speech?
     
  • What does Roland learn from the demon in the cellar of the way station? "While you travel with the boy, the man in black travels with your soul in his pocket." What does this mean? And how does the pronouncement bear out, in light of the novel's climax at the edge of the desert?
     
  • Chart the evolution of the gunslinger's perceptions of and interactions with womenfrom his cryptic references to Susan from the old world, to his fevered coupling with Alice in the forsaken town of Tull, to his memories of his adulterous mother, and on through to his fierce standoff with the voracious and graphically feminized Oracle. What connects, and what distinguishes, each of these interactions?
     
  • What role, if any, does faith appear to play in shaping the life of the gunslinger? Is the gunslinger an ascetic? A sacred warrior of one kind or another?
     
  • What are the dynamics of power, or individual agency, in The Gunslinger? Discuss how King illustrates the undercurrents of powerwhether benevolent, malevolent, or ambivalentwhich pulse through every relationship and situation in this novel: the power which nature holds over man, the power the past exercises upon the present, the power of fate over free will, and so on.
     
  • Why does the man in black refer to Jake as the gunslinger's "Isaac"? What is he referencing here, and what are the implications of his insinuation?
     
  • How can we make the argument that Jake comes to represent to Roland a kind of symbolic son? Reread the passage following Roland's sacrifice of Jake. How does the episode affect the gunslinger?
     
  • Discuss the various allusions and imageswhether biblical, mythological, medieval, Hollywood Western, or otherwisethat pepper the action in The Gunslinger. How do they contribute to the overall tone and style of King's narrative?
     
  • The image of the Tower actually does grace the sixteenth card of the Higher Arcana in a Tarot deck. The card portends an extremely painful experience, the end of which yields a liberation of sorts. In the aftermath of excruciating struggle comes redemption, emancipation, salvation. How does this inform the action of The Gunslinger, and The Dark Towercycle as a whole?
     
  • Who was the man in black before the world "moved on"? Can we be certain about his fate at the close of the novel? Explain.
     
  • Discuss the seven cards drawn by the man in black: the Hanged Man, the Sailor, the Prisoner, the Lady of the Shadows, Death, the Tower, and Life. What is the significance of each? Looking ahead to the subsequent volumes inThe Dark Tower, how do their prophecies bear out?
     
  • Unpack the loaded final section of The Gunslinger, where King performs a head-spinning metaphysical riff on the cosmos and the notion of "Size," and then reveals a range of vital information about the Beast guarding the Tower, the Ageless Stranger (Maerlyn), and other elements of the adventure that awaits the gunslinger.
     
  • Based on the words of the man in black, what do you expect from the The Drawing of the Three?
     
  • How do the two versions of The Gunslinger differ? Why might Stephen King have decided to go back and rework the first novel in the series? How does the new version alter our view of what might come in the final three books?