Ranking the Stories in Stephen King’s “Different Seasons”

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Photo By Oliver Barnfield

The book cover of Different Season’s showcasing the 4 seasons, represented in the book by 4 stories.

By Zach Maynes and Oliver Barnfield

Stephen King, one of the world’s most famous and prolific writers, may be known for his horror novels like The Shining, Cujo, IT, and The Stand, but before he achieved fame (and even after) he cut his teeth writing short stories for magazines. He has compiled most of them into several collections over the years, but the most famous has to be Different Seasons. Different Seasons is most notable for not having any of the straight-up horror elements that made King famous. While the stories do have some gore, they mostly deal with human horror, the idea that a person can be incredibly evil and dangerous, a far cry from the gore and suspense-driven stories that King usually writes. Also notable is the strange fact that all of its short stories have either been produced as films or are in the works as films, with some even being in the running for the greatest movies ever made. With all this in mind, it’s only natural that rating these stories is of the highest priority.

 

4. The Breathing Method

The Breathing Method isn’t a bad story, per se, but compared to the others included, it pales in comparison. Not only is it the shortest in the book, it’s also the only one to involve any sort of potentially supernatural force. In this violent story, a single woman is pregnant and is treated by the narrator, a doctor who is relaying the story at a small club where men share tales. The first part of the story is straightforward and rather unremarkable, although the expectant mother is an engaging character. The story only enters Stephen King’s territory in its climax, a very disturbing scene that sees the woman giving birth under odd circumstances. The ending may be visceral and shocking but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from King. It feels like the most regular story in the collection by King’s standards. 

 

3. Apt Pupil

This story is notable for its incredibly graphic imagery and topics such as Nazis and horrifying experiments, so reader discretion is definitely advised. It all starts off with a harmless visit between a teenager and his new elderly neighbor, who form a sort of friendship. Unfortunately, this is because the teenager has found evidence pointing to the old man being a wanted Nazi war criminal. However, after the old man finally confesses, the teenager shows his true, disturbing colors not by turning him in, but by threatening him with imprisonment unless he tells the stories of his crimes. The apt pupil (get it?) soon becomes so enthralled with the gory, disgusting stories being told to him that he makes daily visitations, which are shielded from his parents under the thinly disguised veil of a general friendly appreciation for the man. As expected, these horrifying stories begin to inflict serious damage on the boy’s mental health, which manifests itself in terrible grades. The rest of the story consists of the boy having to study under the eye of the old man, and once everything is resolved school-wise, the boy makes plans to kill him. The following chapters show the boy’s spiral into madness, and the ending is just as disturbing as the rest of the book. While the story is quite intense at points, this adds to the horror aspect; in a way, it’s a kind of mental fear not often explored in many novels. We would definitely recommend this read, but as stated before, be prepared for some deep topics and imagery. 

 

2.Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

According to IMDB, 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption is the greatest film of all time. But a lot of people don’t realize that it’s based on a Stephen King story. The plot itself is straightforward, detailing the escape of Andy Dufrense from Shawshank Prison. However, it succeeds with the tender relationship shared between Andy and Red, setting it apart from other prison break stories. However, the story structure makes it somewhat of a predictable read, and from a descriptive standpoint,  Shawshank Prison isn’t very interesting. But nevertheless, at its core, the first story in this collection is strong and shows that King can write more than just horror. One of the most interesting things about the story is its fascinating evocation of the passing of time. Throughout the years, Andy replaces the poster that covers his escape hole. What’s fascinating about this is that the posters reflect the cultural zeitgeist, each displaying the most popular sex symbol of the day, from Marilyn Monroe to Raquel Welch. In King’s stories, time is a slow crawl, and aging is a constant theme. While Andy may grow older, the posters remain forever young, and by escaping through it, Andy escapes into a world of eternal youth and freedom. 

 

1. The Body

One of the most iconic scenes in all of both the film and literary world: 4 boys walking down railroad tracks, about to grow up. Regardless of age, gender, or nationality, The Body (and its movie adaptation Stand by Me) is instantly relatable. Although it’s set in Maine during the 1950s, it could easily be substituted with any decade or any country. Friendship, and how it changes when you grow up, is a topic that anyone can identify with, so it’s no surprise that The Body is the best story included in the collection. The story opens up on an adult remembering the fantastical days of his youth, and from there he describes that fateful weekend, where him and his teenage peers went on a journey to find a dead body in the woods, report it to the authorities, and become heroes of the town. He reminisces on the stories he would tell to his friends and the areas of the town like the dump and the iconic train tracks. It has a solemn, perfect ending, the kind of final page that leaves you ashamed for wanting more. While many stories employ the kind of ending used here, no one does it quite like the King. Without hesitation we rank it at the top of the stories in this collection, even surpassing many of King’s more well-known, longer novels. It holds a power like no other to bring up memories of the not-so distant past. If you absolutely could only read one of these stories, this is the best possible choice. Everyone needs to read this at least once in their lifetimes; it is that incredible.