The Theme in Stephen King's Apt Pupil

The Theme in Stephen King's Apt Pupil

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Many of Stephen King’s writings explore the theme of evil, and Apt Pupil is no exception. He has incorporated his ideas of malevolence into the characters of Todd Bowden and Kurt Dussander. The beginning of the novella delves into the dark thoughts of a young boy whose encounter with Dussander encourages the growth of his dark side. From stories of Patin to killing animals, the potential for evil can be seen in the eyes of the two and leads them to the ultimate evil: murder.
It all began when Todd found his ‘GREAT INTEREST. Staring at those old war magazines utterly lost. Like a key turning in a lock, it opened his inner thoughts and thus set in motion, the creation of a monster. His fascination with the horror stories from the magazines led him to Kurt Dussander, a former Nazi general stationed in Patin. Through the process of blackmail, Dussander was forced to tell stories about the Nazi concentration camps, the poison gas that came out of the showers, all the horrors that went on there. Todd ‘got off’ on the ‘gooshy’ stories, which propelled his thoughts. Millions of flickering signals in his brain like a euphoric feeling satisfying every evil brain cell. Dussander acted like a catalyst that encouraged Todd’s dark side growth.
Although to Todd it seemed like the relationship between him and Dussander was one-sided, the old war criminal was benefiting from it as well. He was reborn. Never in so long did the old man feel so alive, just like the good old days at Patin. The two of them were like parasites to each other. Todd, feeding his inner evil with stories of war, and Dussander, reliving his younger years by telling them. But both began to realize that stories could not keep them happy. There urge for a greater evil built up like a snowball rolling down a hill. Bigger and bigger it got. The forgotten tales of the thousands of Jews herded into gas chambers must have rekindled some evil spirit living in Kurt Dussander, and was trying to escape. Almost like a trance, he lured a cat by enticing it with a bowl of milk, grabbed it, and threw it into a gas stove. An evil grin came upon his face as he listened to the cat scream.

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It almost sounded like that of a young child. The snowball was growing bigger.
The same can be said for Todd Bowden. The evil inside him was building up and until now was kept at bay with the stories of Patin. But now Todd urged for more. While riding his bike on day in March, he saw a blue jay lying on the sidewalk. A helpless bird with nowhere to go, Todd saw an opportunity to displace his evil thoughts. A thin smile began to form on his lips as he rolled his bike forward over the blue jay slowly. So agonizingly slow that he could hear the crackle of its feathers and the crunch of its small hallow bones as they fractured inside. Rolling over and over for five minutes, the smile on his face turned into an evil grin. The same grin that Dussander had. The same grin in the days of Patin: the grin of pure evil. The snowball was getting bigger.
As the novella progresses, the conversations between Dussander and Todd begin to lack the excitement of horror both were used to, and the slaughtering of animals failed to satisfy their needs. The evil inside them saw this as an opportunity to escape. Dussander begins his reign of terror by luring winos into his house with hopes of food, shelter, and alcohol. With their backs turned to him he began hacking at their necks with a butcher cleaver. One after another, the Nazi war criminal buried them in his cellar. Todd’s malicious attitude allowed Dussander to mould him into his ‘apt pupil.’ Like his mentor, Todd found joy in torturing and murdering stew bums. Stabbing and hacking at them, over and over, the screams of pain and the sight of gushing blood fascinated him. Hack after hack, thirty-seven times to be exact. After the sixth strike the wino was dead, but that didn’t matter. The unleashing had begun. It wasn’t until he blew a hole in Mr. French’s head that we realize that Todd’s dark side had taken over. Three times he shot him before French’s lifeless body fell to the ground. At the moment a burst of pain as sharp as an ice pick drove into his brain so he closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he felt better than he had in years. Everything was fine. Everything was together. Pure evil had been reborn. His evil side had finally crawled out of the dark spot it used to hide in and now took over the boy’s body and mind. The snowball was so big now there was only one-way to stop it: a bullet, five hours later.
Stephen King has done a good job incorporating the theme of evil into his novella, “Apt Pupil.” The darkness of ones mind, body, and soul, are portrayed by the characters of Todd Bowden and Kurt Dussander. This type of evil is a progressive one, one that creeps in so slowly that it is undetectable by anyone. The stories of Patin tingle the senses and lead to the murdering of animals and then to of course human beings. Is it possible for this kind of evil to be living in every one of us? Perhaps it is. Like a great interest it only has to be unlocked with a key.
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