|Release Date||September 15, 1986|
|Website||Film official website|
The novel is told through narratives alternating between two periods, and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes that eventually became King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, the ugliness lurking behind a façade of small-town quaintness, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.
King has stated that he first conceived the story in 1978, and began writing it in 1981. He also stated that he originally wanted the title character to be a trolllike the one in the children's story Three Billy Goats Gruff, but who inhabited the local sewer system rather than just the area beneath one bridge. He also wanted the story to interweave the stories of children and the adults they later become.
The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987, and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year. Publishers Weeklylisted It as the best-selling book in the United States in 1986. It has been adapted into a 1990 two-part miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, and into a two-part film duology directed by Andy Muschietti; It: Chapter One was released in 2017 and It: Chapter Two will be released in 2019.
The novel alternates between two timelines, often mid-chapter. The plot is described here in a linear order.
During a heavy rainstorm in Derry, Maine, six-year-old George "Georgie" Denbrough is chasing a paper boat that was given to him by his older brother, Bill, down a gutter. The boat is washed down a storm drain and Georgie peers in, seeing a pair of glowing yellow eyes. Georgie is confronted by a mandressed in a silver clown suit who introduces himself as "Mr. Bob Gray", a.k.a. "Pennywise the Dancing Clown". Pennywise offers Georgie a balloon which he cautiously refuses. The clown then entices Georgie to reach into the drain to retrieve his boat; he then severs Georgie's arm and leaves him to bleed to death.
The following June, Benjamin "Ben" Hanscom, an overweight eleven-year-old boy, is harassed by a gang of bullies led by the feared Henry Bowers. On the last day of school, Ben hides from his tormentors in the Barrens after an altercation with the Bowers Gang. Ben befriends Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak and William "Bill" Denbrough, Georgie's older brother. The three boys later befriend fellow misfits Richard "Richie" Tozier, Stanley "Stan" Uris, and Beverly "Bev" Marsh, forming the "Losers Club". In July of the same summer, the Losers are joined by Michael "Mike" Hanlon.
As the summer draws on, the Losers realize that they have each had an encounter with a seemingly omniscient, prehistoric shape-shifting alien entity which takes the form of whatever they fear the most: Ben saw him as a mummy, Eddie as a leper, Bill as Georgie's ghost, Richie as a werewolf, Stan as two drowned boys, Mike as a flesh-eating bird that vaguely resembles Rodan, and Beverly as a fountain of blood spurting from her bathroom sink. Due to the unknown origin of the monster, the Losers refer to the creature as "It" and link It with a series of recent child murders, including that of Edward "Eddie" Corcoran, who is killed by the monster in the form of the Gill-man.
The Losers begin to suspect that It has control over Derry due to the number of unsolved disappearances and violent tragedies which go unnoticed or seem to be forgotten by the adults in the town. They begin to investigate It's origins, discovering that It is immortal and arrived in Derry millions of years ago. The Losers also learned that It awakens every 27 years from a slumber in the town's sewers, usually after a terrible event or tragedy, and feeds for 12 to 16 months.
The Losers decide to put an end to It and Ben makes two silver slugs out of a silver dollar, believing that silver will harm It. The kids go to the house on Neibolt Street where Eddie, Bill, and Richie had previously encountered It. It attacks them in the form of a werewolf. However, Beverly shoots a slug from Bill's slingshot, injuring It, and causing It to flee back to the sewers. Two weeks later, Beverly returns home, where her abusive father attacks her and attempts to rape and kill her. Beverly manages to escape. Henry, accompanied by his two closest friends, Victor "Vic" Criss and Reginald "Belch" Huggins, chases the Losers into the sewers, with the intention of killing them.
The narrative changes and "It" informs the reader that it existed originally in a void between our universe and others, in a dimension known as the Macroverse. It boasts of its own superiority to anything on planet Earth. It also explains that it chooses to prey on children, because their fears are easier to interpret in a physical form. It expresses its own fear that It might not be the only eternal being in existence. It suspects there might be Another, and that the children could be the agents of this Other. This might explain their power and unprecedented ability to harm It.
Back in the sewers, It attacks the three bullies in the form of Frankenstein's monster, ripping Vic's head off and mutilating Belch's face. Henry, driven insane from seeing his friends killed, chases after the Losers and gets lost. He eventually washes out of the sewers into a nearby river and is blamed for all of the child murders. Meanwhile, Bill discovers the "Ritual of Chüd", allowing him to enter the Macroverse to confront It and discover It's true form; a mass of destructive orange lights referred to as the "Deadlights". During the ritual, Bill also encounters "The Turtle", an ancient being, possibly more ancient than It, that created the universe while vomiting after a stomach-ache. The Turtle explains that It can only be defeated during a battle of wills. Through it Bill also learns of yet another being: the Final Other. This Other is a force beyond the universe, the creator of the Turtle, and maybe even It. With the help of The Turtle, Bill is able to defeat It and send it back to its slumber. After the battle, the Losers get lost in the sewers until Beverly has sex with all the boys to connect childhood and adulthood while bringing unity back to the group.The Losers swear a blood oath to return to Derry, should It return in the future.
In July 1984, at the annual Derry carnival, three youths brutally attack a gayman named Adrian Mellon and throw him off a bridge. The boys are arrested and charged with murder when Mellon's mutilated corpse is found. One of the boys claims that he saw a clown dressed in a silver suit kill Mellon underneath the bridge. Adrian's boyfriend, the other victim in the attack, had also noticed the clown but the prosecutors convince him not to mention it during the trial.
When a string of child murders occurs in Derry once again, an adult Mike Hanlon, now the town's librarian and the only one of the Losers to remain in Derry, calls up the six former members of the Losers Club, all now in their thirties, and reminds them of their childhood promise to return should the killings start again. Bill Denbrough is now a successful horror writer living in England with his actress wife, Audra. Beverly Marsh is a fashion designer in Chicago, and is married to an abusive man named Tom Rogan. Eddie Kaspbrak has moved to New York City, where he runs a limousine rental company and has married a hysterical, codependent woman similar to his controlling mother. Richie Tozier lives in Los Angeles and works as a disc jockey. Ben Hanscom is now thin and a successful architect, living in Nebraska. Stan Uris is a wealthy accountant residing in Atlanta, Georgia.
Prior to Mike's phone calls, the Losers had buried the horror of their encounters with It. However, all but Stan reluctantly agree to return to Derry. After Mike's phone call, Stan is so terrified of facing It again that he slits his wrists in the bathtub, writing "IT" on the wall in his own blood. Tom refuses to let Beverly go and tries to beat her, but she lashes out at him before fleeing, causing him serious injury. The five return to Derry with only the slightest awareness of why they are doing so, remembering only the absolute terror and their promise to return.
The Losers meet for lunch, where Mike reminds them that It awakens once roughly every 27 years for 12–16 months at a time, feeding on children before going into slumber again. The group decides to kill It once and for all. At Mike's suggestion, each person explores different parts of Derry to help restore their memories. While exploring, Eddie, Richie, Beverly, and Ben are faced with manifestations of It (Eddie as Belch Huggins in leper form, Richie as a Paul Bunyan statue, Beverly as the witch from Hansel & Gretel, and Ben in the form of Dracula). Bill finds his childhood Schwinn, "Silver", and brings it to Mike's.
Three other people are also converging on the town: Audra, who is worried about Bill; Tom, who plans to kill Beverly; and Henry Bowers, who has escaped from Juniper Hill Mental Asylum with help from It. Mike and Henry have a violent confrontation at the library. Mike is nearly killed but Henry escapes, severely injured. Henry is driven to the hotel where It instructs him to kill the rest of the Losers. Henry attacks Eddie, breaking his arm once again, but in the fight, Henry is killed.
It appears to Tom and orders him to capture Audra. Tom brings Audra to It's lair. Upon seeing It's true form, Audra becomes catatonic and Tom drops dead from shock. Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, and Eddie learn that Mike is near death and realize they are being forced into another confrontation with It. They descend into the sewers and use their strength as a group to "send energy" to a hospitalized Mike, who fights off a nurse that is under the control of It. They reach It's lair and find It has taken the form of a giant spider. Bill and Richie enter It's mind through the Ritual of Chüd. Bill is initially dismayed to learn that the Turtle is now dead and almost loses to despair. But with Richie's help, the two of them manage to injure It. Eddie helps successfully bring Bill and Richie back from the Ritual, but in the process It rips off Eddie's arm, killing him. It runs away to tend to its injuries, but Bill, Richie, and Ben chase after It and find that It has laid eggs. Ben stays behind to destroy the eggs, while Bill and Richie head toward their final confrontation with It. Bill fights his way inside its body, locates It's heart and destroys it. As It writhes in the clear throes of death, Bill hears the voice of the Other complimenting him on his victory. The group meets up to head out of its lair, and although they try to bring Audra and Eddie's bodies with them, they are forced to leave Eddie behind. They make it to the surface and realize that the scars on their hands from when they were children have disappeared, indicating that their ordeal is finally over.
During the Ritual, the worst storm in Maine's history sweeps through Derry, destroying most of the buildings as the downtown area collapses. Mike concludes that Derry is finally dying. Richie returns to LA, Ben and Beverly leave town together, and while Mike is in the hospital, Bill stays in Mike's house to look after Audra in hopes she will snap out of her catatonic state. The Losers gradually begin to forget about It, Derry, and each other. Mike's memory of his friends and events with It also begins to fade, as well as his Derry memoir and journal, much to his relief, and he considers starting a new life elsewhere. Before Bill leaves Derry, he takes Audra, still catatonic, for a ride on Silver, rushing through downtown Derry like he did as a kid. Audra awakens from her catatonia with no recollection of what happened upon arriving in Maine and she and Bill kiss.
The Losers Club
The Losers Club is a group of seven eleven-year-old misfit children who are united by their unhappy lives. They share the same misery and torment from being the victims of a gang of local bullies led by the increasingly sociopathic Henry Bowers and band together as they struggle to overcome It. The seven children find themselves caught up in a nefarious situation, which they cannot quite comprehend but against which they must fight.
- William "Bill" Denbrough
- Bill is the leader and most self-assured member of the Losers Club as well as the main protagonist of the story. Feeling responsible for Georgie's death, he seeks revenge on the monster. His parents have become cold and withdrawn towards him after the loss of their youngest son, and he secretly hopes the death of the murderer will awaken his parents to his presence again. He has a severe stutter, which has earned him the nickname "Stuttering Bill". His mother attributes the stutter to a car accident that occurred when he was three years old, but his stutter is implied to be psychosomatic rather than physical: it worsens considerably after Georgie's death, and fades during his teenage years entirely, returning suddenly when Bill returns to Derry in 1985. He is the most determined and resourceful of the Losers and is their unofficial leader. It is Bill who eventually destroys It, engaging It in the Ritual of Chüd in both 1958 and 1985, and eventually killing It's physical form by ripping its heart out. As an adult, he becomes a successful writer and marries film star Audra Phillips, who bears a strong resemblance to Beverly.
- Benjamin "Ben" Hanscom
- Known as "Haystack" to his friends, Ben is a highly intelligent boy who, before joining the Losers Club, often spent his free time reading books at the public library. Due to childhood obesity he was the favorite victim of Henry Bowers, but later sheds the weight as an adult. His mechanical skills prove useful to the Losers, from making two silver slugs to building an underground clubhouse, and later attributes to his success as an internationally renowned architect. He develops a crush on Beverly Marsh as a child and the two leave Derry together after the 1985 defeat of It.
- Beverly "Bev" Marsh
- An attractive and tomboyish redhead on whom each of the boys has a secret crush at some point during the story. She is the only girl in the group and comes from the poorest part of Derry. During her childhood she is frequently abused by her father, Alvin, while her mother, Elfrida is out working. As an adult, she becomes a successful fashion designer in Chicago, but endures several abusive relationships, culminating in her marriage to Tom Rogan, who sees her as an object of sex and frequently beats her. Following the destruction of It, she leaves Derry with Ben.
- Richard "Richie" Tozier
- Known as "Trashmouth", Richie is the Losers' self-appointed comic relief, always cracking jokes and doing impersonations or "Voices", which proves to be a very powerful weapon against It. He is " too intelligent for his own good" which frequently leads to trouble. He is the most devoted to keeping the group together, as he sees seven as a magical number and believes the group should have no more, no less. In adulthood, he is a successful disc jockey in Los Angeles. As the DJ, he uses his once-annoying and unrealistic voices as one of his main attractions. He is extremely nearsighted and wears thick glasses as a child, but changes to contact lenses as an adult. He loses his contact lenses in an encounter with It and is forced to return to his glasses, one of several ways the Losers return to their childhood. Although it is unclear if he was the basis of the character's name and occupation, Maine Public Radio has a music program hosted by a Rich Tozier.
- Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak
- Eddie is a frail and asthmatic hypochondriac, who carries his inhaler with him everywhere. His father died when he was very young, and his mother is domineering and constantly worries about his health. Later in the story, it is revealed that Eddie's asthma is psychosomatic: the pharmacist has been giving him water instead of medicine in his inhaler. The root of Eddie's problems is his mother, who has Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Her constant worrying about his health has been a way to manipulate him into caring for her. When Henry and his friends break his arm, his mother tries to prevent the Losers from visiting Eddie in the hospital and he finally stands up to her, telling her he is not as helpless as she thinks. As an adult, he runs a successful limousine business in New York City and is married to a Myra, who is very similar to his mother. In his return to Derry as an adult, he also finds the strength to defend himself from Henry Bowers, killing him with a broken bottle. In the altercation, he re-breaks his arm in the same spot as he did as a child. When facing It in the sewers, his arm is bitten off and he bleeds to death, ultimately dying in Richie's arms.
- Michael "Mike" Hanlon
- Mike is the last to join the Losers. He is the only African-American in the group and lives with his parents on a large farm. He goes to a different school from the other kids due to his Baptist faith. Mike is racially persecuted by Henry Bowers, whose father holds a long-standing grudge against Mike's father. Mike meets The Losers when they help him fight back against Bowers in a massive rock fight. His father kept an album filled with photos that were important to Derry's history, including several of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He is the only one of the Losers to stay behind in Derry (and thus the only one to retain his memory of the events of 1958) and becomes the town librarian. He researches Derry history and It, and is the one who beckons the others back when the killings begin again in 1985. Though he survives, Mike is seriously wounded by Henry and is unable to join the remaining Losers (Bill, Ben, Bev, Eddie, and Richie) in the final battle against It. He later recovers from his wounds but, like the others, starts to lose his memory of the experience. It was later revealed in Insomnia that Mike continued as a librarian and was the boss of one of that book's primary characters in 1993.
- Stanley "Stan" Uris
- Stan is the most skeptical member of the Club. He is Jewish and is persecuted by Henry Bowers for this reason. Logic, order, and cleanliness are deeply ingrained in his psyche. He relies on logic more than anything else and is the least willing to accept that It actually exists. As an adult, he becomes a partner in a large Atlanta-based accounting firm and marries Patty Blum, a teacher. Upon receiving Mike's phone call in 1985, he commits suicide by slitting his wrists in the bathtub and writing "IT" in his blood on the wall. It is heavily implied that Stan was the only one aware that It was not only female but was also pregnant, hence he chose death over returning to Derry to face the ancient terror despite being the one to slice the Losers palms in a blood oath. It is also implied in the book that Stan remembers more about the children's encounters with It than the others do, sometimes commenting on the Turtle and other events from his time in Derry, though he claims that he doesn't remember what those phrases mean. It can be inferred throughout the story that he was psychic to a mild degree (accurately predicting which job his wife should apply for, a higher sensitivity to Its activities, frequent references from the other Losers to his "ordered mind"). Besides blaming It for Georgie's death, Bill also blames It for Stan's death.
Described as a mysterious, prehistoric entity from beyond time and space, Itis a monster of unknown origin that preys on Derry's residents every twenty-seven years, stating It finds the fear in children akin to "salt(ing) the meat". Among It's powers is shapeshifting into a form that induces fear while killing the victim, normally assuming the form of a middle-aged man dressed in a clown costume, calling itself "Pennywise the Dancing Clown" and occasionally Bob or Robert Gray, modeled after Bozo, Clarabell and Ronald McDonald.
It can also manipulate people and use them as pawns in doing its bidding, either by assuming a form most familiar to them, promising them their desires or through subliminal influence. Because of this control over what happens in Derry, many of the child murders It commits are never solved; the adults of Derry act as though either nothing is happening or they have forgotten about It. It's true form as perceived by the human eye is that of a giant spider that houses its essence: writhing orange lights (termed "Deadlights"). Looking directly into the lights can either kill a person or drive them insane.
Both It's awakening and its return to hibernation mark the greatest instances of violence during its time awake. In one example, It caused the disappearance of over three hundred settlers from Derry Township in 1740–43. In 1957, It awoke during a great storm which flooded part of the city, whereupon It went on a feeding spree, starting by killing Georgie Denbrough. However, the Losers Club forced It to return to an early hibernation when it was heavily wounded by the young Bill Denbrough in the first Ritual of Chüd. As the story opens, It has awakened approximately 27 years later and is first seen when three bullies beat up a homosexual couple, Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty. It kills Adrian after the bullies throw him off of a bridge.
When the adult members of the Losers Club gather, It recognizes them as a threat and resolves to drive them away both through illusions and by seeking help from Henry Bowers, the Losers' long-time childhood bully. Bill, Richie, Beverly, Eddie, and Ben manage to confront It's spider form after It arranges to have Audra in its possession. It is finally killed in the second Ritual of Chüd, and an enormous storm damages the downtown part of Derry to symbolize It's death. In the novel Dreamcatcher, when Mr. Gray tries to put a worm in Derry's water by use of the Standpipe, It is no longer there due to the 1985 flood. In its place is a memorial featuring a cast-bronze statue of two children and a plaque underneath, dedicated to the victims of the 1985 flood and of It. The plaque has been vandalized with graffiti reading, "PENNYWISE LIVES".
The character has been named by several outlets as one of the scariest clowns in film or pop culture.