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*** Below are my raw notes which have not been finalized yet ***
Most Synopses say this is the New Future
It's actually set the 1970s but it's an alternate reality
Visit the Alternate Reality
page to see examples of an alternate reality.
Visit the Synopses Analysis
page to see different synopses, and why they are mostly wrong.
In the near future, where America has become a police state, ...
In a future America, the marathon is the ultimate sports competition ...
The Place: An Ultra-Conservative America of the not too distant future. The Event: The country's #1 sports contest, ...
A terrifying vision of tomorrow in the great tradition of Rollerball
How do you uniquely identify 100 boys, and their speed with radar and sonar?
It's still not even possible today with that technology, so you could argue it's the near future
based on that tech we haven't developed yet.
- This excerpt makes it feel like near future:
In the old days, before the Change and the Squads, when there was still millionaires, they used to set up foundations and build libraries and all that good shit.
- Many YouTube reviews say The Long Walk is set in the "near future",
although some reviewers say there's nothing futuristic about it.
But we have to remember that it was written in 1967 so when Stephen King describes the
"solid-state computer on his waist that uses sonar to calculate the walker speed to 4 points of accuracy",
The soldiers would refer to their "computerized console."
that was futuristic at the time. These days you wouldn't say "computerized console". You'd just assumed a console is "computerized".
But there are hints to the 60s and 70s, for example the reporter was shooting his video with a big newsreel cine camera. That's film video. Not digital video.
- There is nothing futuristic about the story, except the technology used to track the boys speed.
"He (the soldier) glanced down at the solid-state computer on his waist, a gadget that included a tiny but sophisticated sonar device. Garraty had once read an article about them in Popular Mechanix. They could read out a single Walker's speed as exactly as you would have wanted, to four numbers to the right of the decimal point."
"The group began to spread out, each person finding his own stride and speed. The halftrack clanked along the soft shoulder, throwing thin dust. The tiny radar dishes turned busily, monitoring each Walker's speed with a sophisticated on-board computer. Low speed cutoff was exactly four miles an hour."
"They would be looking for him. Hunting for him. Guns and dogs and Squads with radar and heat-tracers and —"
- When this was published in 1979, this would have seemed like technology that could be invented in the near future.
- Today, we'd use GPS. We also have heat-tracing tech.
Each boy would have a digital watch that would tell them ...
1. current day, date and time
2. count-down timer
3. count-up timer
4. warning count
- Shoe Technology was not as advanced as it is today.
Hint 3: Do not, repeat, do not wear sneakers. Nothing will give you blisters faster than sneakers on a Long Walk.
King either wrote this 1966-1967 in his first version, or 1978-1979 doing revisions right before publish.
My guess is that it was the technology of the sneaker in the mid 60s that he's referring.
These days, you could buy a high quality sneaker that would not give you blisters on a Long Walk.
As long as you kept the laces tight enough to prevent your foot from sliding around in your shoe, no blisters would form.
Garraty's shoeheel came off.
"I . . . uh!" Garraty lurched forward, momentarily off balance. "My damn shoeheel came off," he said.
"Get rid of 'em both," Baker advised. "The nails will get to pokin' through. And you have to work harder when you're off balance."
I'm no expert on how shoes are made, but I suspect most use glue instead of nails these days.
I've had the glue fail on sneakers but it takes years for that to happen.
Today's walking shoe is more robust with better technology than the 60s and 70s.
Shoes would not fall apart after 5 days of non-stop walking.
Nobody would wear a shoe with a heel that is attached with nails.
There are shoes designed for hiking that won't give you blisters as long as you keep the laces tight so your foot won't move in the shoe.
The boys would all be live-streaming their walk from their smart-phones powered by their walking.
Nobody would go into it unprepared. They'd all be well trained.
1. They'd be wearing sun-screen
2. taking stimulants
3. have special clothing
4. have special shoes to avoid blisters
5. be taking meds to prevent cramps
6. every boy would have a first aid kid
7. every boy would have a packpack with all kind of tools and necessities
8. the boys would arrive in self-driving Teslas
9. they would use bio-metrics to verify indentity like face/voice recognition AI
10. every boy would have a GPS installed in his spine so they could track them
11. the killing would be automated via kill-drones
12. food and drink would be delivered by drone
13. every boy would have a smart-phone, and a smart-watch
14. everybody would have personal trainers who would massage and stretch their muscles for short rest periods on the shoulder of the road
15. they could get weather reports, news reports, check the gambling sites to see their odds
16. they would know the exact route on their smart-phone and where they were
17. they could track their stats like average speed, warnings, as well as the stats of the other 99 walkers
18. they could call or text message each other
They'd be covered in sponsors
There would be drone coverage
Almost nobody would make friends, unless it bought them some advantage
They'd have devices telling them how fast they are walking so they could set the minimum pace to preserve energy
There would be no vanguard group walking faster than everyone else
There would be a lot more back-stabbing, strategy for winning, for example, you get a warning for interfering with another walker,
but if you have less than 3 warnings, and another boy has 3 warnings, you could team up with others who have less than 3 warnings,
and trip him up so he buys his ticket. All you have to do is make him walk less than 4 mph so his timer reaches 0.
Everyone would be wearing a 2-minute timer so they know how far they are from death.
It would indicate how many warnings they have, and give them notifications when they got or lost a warning.
Rather than shoot them dead, it would be more humane. They'd have some tech installed that would basically be death by lethal injection.
Sodium thiopental is used to induce unconsciousness, pancuronium bromide to cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.
Since we know that it's an alternate reality, "near future" is meaningless.
John Travolta and Charles Atlas
"Garraty snatched a paper out of the dark and crazy air at random and found himself looking at a Charles Atlas body-building ad. He grabbed another one and was brought face-to-face with John Travolta."
You don't see Charles Atlas ads these days, so it places this time period before the 1980s. I'm thinking early 1970s at the latest.
John Travolta starred in Carrie in 1976 when he was 22. He was 13 in 1967. imdb.com lists his first role was on Emergency! on TV in 1972.
How is it John Travolta was famous enough to get a mention in 1967? Before 1972, he was in the play Grease! on Broadway in 1972, and later in the movie 1978.
Since "The Long Walk" wasn't published until 1979, my guess is that John Travolta was added in later edits, after he became famous
on TV's Welcome Back, Kotter (1975), Saturday Night Fever (1977), and Grease (1978).
When was there ever a time when there was Charles Atlas ads after John Travolta got famous.
Charles Atlas died 1972. The ads started in the 1930s. The comic/magazine ads disappeared late 70s.
Somehow he has a web site: http://www.charlesatlas.com/
"Ron Howard with a hardon" takes a new meaning today. Ron Howard would be 66 as of 2020. When the book was published in 1979, Ron Howard was playing a 16 or 17 year old on the TV show Happy Days, so that's what Stephen King was probably referring to. It's also evidence that King updated the book before publishing since he wrote the bulk of it from 1966 to 1967.
Ron Howard was 13 in 1967, when Stephen King wrote The Long Walk.
It was a comment obviously targeted at the teenage Ron Howard, who was probably best known for his character Opie in The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960 to 1968.
Many things are still tied to 1967, so I would argue The Long Walk occurs in an alternate universe in the year 1967, where some tech is futuristic.
Ron Howard starred in the TV show happy days from 1974 to 1984. He was about 20 years old when it started, but he played a teenager of maybe 16 or 17.
Reporter microphone was not wireless and required a long cable.
A fat newspaperman in a three-piece suit trotted along with them, poking his long-reach microphone at different Walkers. Behind him, two technicians busily unreeled a drum of electric cable.
Shortly afterward he ran out of microphone cable and began wending his way back toward the mobile unit, trying to avoid the tangles of unreeled cord.
"They don't grow wheat in Maine," Garraty said. "It's hay." - that was true in the past, but some farmers now grow Wheat in Maine http://www.sunjournal.com/farmers-grow-wheat-maine/
Boy howdy <- is this still used?
My Aunt Hattie had nine kids <- people having less kids now
"Two boys and two girls, that what you're gonna have?" <- people having less kids now
We're gonna be Mr. and Mrs. Norman Normal, four kids and a collie dog <- 4 kids is not normal these days. Maybe in the 50s 60s
- Party Lines "her conspiratorial whisper, begging him to stop, please stop, before someone picked up the party line."
In the 60s and early 70s, when Stephen King wrote The Long Walk, households sometimes shared a phone line with other homes,
so if you picked up the receiver, you might hear someone else's conversation.
It's also referred to as a multiparty line. This sharing on phone lines for land-line phones only exists in rare cases today.
Steubenville State Fair - thing of the past
Also the depiction of computers seems to reflect computers in the late 70s when it was published. This was probably an edit he made later.
"The guard punched another button and all of this disappeared, leaving the terminal screen smooth and green and blank again." I'd be willing to bet his description of the computer in 1967, included punch-cards.
Other names blipped past and were gone with the speeding velocity of snow across a television screen. <- modern TV are digital so they don't have "snow"
"Great town, Newark, on a given day you can smell all the cowshit in New Jersey in Newark." <- Maybe so in the past, but not now.
- McVries had a very 50s 60s 70s attitude toward women making more money than him.
So I got to find out how much fun it is to be in competition with the girl you want to marry.
The knowledge of death, as true and unarguable as a photograph - maybe in 1966/1967, but these days we have Photoshop
- Average cost of delivery in USA is $3,500
Well, Cathy's pregnant right now. She said we should wait until we had enough in the bank to pay for the delivery. When we got up to seven hundred, she said go, and we went. She caught pregnant in no time at all.
"Went to work for a bedsheet factory out in Phoenix, three dollars an hour." Sounds like minimum wage in 1979, meaning King made some edits before published, or Scramm was making above minimum wage in 1966/1967. Federal min wage is $7.25 in 2018, Wyoming $5.15 but Washington and DC $11.50
"At the end of the week I'd go home with a check for $64.40"
Scramm had torn off a piece of his T-shirt and was using it as a hanky. <- 50s 60s 70s men carried a hankerchief
Curley had been trying to cultivate sideburns. <- large side-burns were popular in 60s 70s
He saw a carbon copy of his horror on the faces of all about him. <- we no longer use carbon copy machines
wet ends <- do we use that term anymore?
McVries laughed. "I got the time if you got the money, honey." <- 60s 60s 70s
McVries had shown red, and so had Garraty, in a way <- who says "shown red" any more?
So one day he got a telegram and the next day two soldiers turned up on the doorstep and Jim Garraty had gone with them <- do people send telegrams anymore?
They passed a milk truck parked at the head of a small dirt feeder road. The milkman was sitting on the hood. <-- do we still have milktrucks with milkmen?
his next step with that foot left a bloody track, like a photograph in an Official Detective magazine. <-- from 1934 to 1976 named Official Detective Stories then renamed in 1977 to Official Detective, last issue 1995
Station Wagons: Rare site on today's roads, yet there are two mentioned
Up ahead a white station wagon with the words WHGH NEWSMOBILE lettered on the side was pulled off the road.
A sign on top of the station wagon read: DOM L'ANTIO LOVES ALL LONG WALKERS—FREE WATERMELON!!!
You should have brought a catalogue along <- since when do we think of catalogues for toilet paper?
"He thinks it's the greatest idea since pay toilets." <-- By 1970, America had over 50,000 pay toilets. By 1980, there were almost none.
Expression: take you to the cleaners " Just taking the rube to the cleaners, right?"
Howaya, Mother McCree <- Parker is referencing a 1928 silent film Mother Machree. What teen does that? https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019182/
His mind began to drift clear of his body, a huge sightless camera full of unexposed film <- film
"She was making something like ninety a week" <- you can't live on $90 per week
I wanted to make her feel like a greedy, self-centered little bitch because she was making me feel like a failure. <- McVries felt like a failure because his girlfriend earned more than him. An attitude of the 50s and 60s
"Your average housewife may walk up to sixteen miles a day, from icebox to ironing board to clothesline." sounds like something from the 50s 60s 70s
"shredded pieces of telephone book" <- who uses telephone books anymore?
"First thing I'd do is buy a whole fleet of Checkers. If I win this, I may never walk again."
These old taxicabs are no longer in service
"Flashbulbs popped and dazzled." and "Flashbulbs popped and Garraty turned his head away miserably." <- flashbulbs were single-use. They burned up to create the flash, then you threw them away.
McVries cackled. "As my old granny used to say, if you ain't got a cob, then just let your hips slide a little freer." <- the cob of corn was used as toilet paper
"I'll call the 800 number" <- if this were today, they'd have a web page
"I'm not even going to make it any easier by letting you know if I'm joking. What say?" <- is "What say" an old expression?
"Baker started, then seemed to shake himself all over, like a dog." <- Who says "start" instead of "was startled" these days?
"Just thirty-five left to walk down." <- do we say walk down?
"Not with only twenty left to walk over." <- do we say walk over?
"Man, I'm glad to be alive." - 11 times they say "Man". A very 60s and 70s thing to say.
He wondered where Harkness was. Far out of sight, anyway. That was Scramm, too. Really out of sight. Hey Scramm, I think you made a bad mistake. <- out of sight, 60s 70s
"Get away from me," Garraty hissed. "Or I'll knock your block off!" <- knock your block off 60s 70s
It was indeed a steep hill. It seemed to rise above them like a toboggan slide. <- toboggans and toboggan slides were popular in in late 1800s early 1900s but no so much lately
"One of the guards was eating C rations from a can" - the C-Ration was replaced in 1958 with the Meal Combat Individual (MCI). The MCI was continued to be called "C-Rations" by American troops throughout its production life as a combat ration (1958-1980). Books written 1966/1967 published 1979.
Layin' in the backyard and sleepin' with a Popeye funnybook over my face. - "funnybook" was a popular name for comics in the 60s 70s. I checked comic database and Popeye comics are still being made even though the first comic was 1929.
the memory dulled and browned very quickly, like a Polaroid negative left out in the sun. <- Polaroid cameras were popular in the 70s
The Ladies' Aid <- see below
Started during the American Civil War in the 1860s
But it's organization is now splintered and mostly disbanded, dying a slow death since not enough new members are joining to keep it alive.
It was obviously a strong force in the 1960s when this Monkees song was written and the book was written.
They probably picketed long-haired hippies.
Band: The Monkees
Album: The Monkees Present (1969)
Song: Ladies Aid Society
In every little town and village too
Somewhere in the neighborhood
You'll find a little band of ladies who
Can't stop doing good
Good for the pigeons in the park
Good for the weekly tea
Good for the national bank where they keep their treasury
We're the ladies aid society
And we're really a great bunch of girls
We're the ladies aid society
And soon we'll take over the world
Here they come marching down the street
With their picket signs in hand
With their blue and white pleated uniforms
And their all girl five-piece band
Down with long haired singing groups
Down with the mayor too
And if you're under 65 they're down on you
We're the ladies aid society
And we just want to sell you the truth
things seem a little dicky around the edges. <- who says this?
"And I usually don't match dimes with guys that call me that," <- do people "match dimes" anymore?
He found a book of matches with a tomato sauce recipe on it. - 60s
"They've been giving me the old hairy eyeball for the last hour or so." - old hairy eyeball 60s
"Blood?" "It ain't molasses," Davidson said grimly. 60s
A man with an electric bullhorn - In the 60s, some bullhorns were not electric, hence the clarification "electric". Today, the definition is "an electronic device for amplifying the sound of the voice so it can be heard at a distance." so electric is assumed
"Still bleeding?" McVries asked. "Like a stuck pig."
rube: "You think I'm some kind of idiot, right? Go on and admit it! Just taking the rube to the cleaners, right?"
What's say? "Now what say you flake off?" / "I'm not even going to make it any easier by letting you know if I'm joking. What say?"
the walkers would have high quality walking shoes. Garraty's heal would not have come off. People would not end up walking bare footed.
tin whistle: "Garraty wondered if it was embarrassing, being shot in front of people, and guessed by the time you got to that you probably didn't give a tin whistle. Curley hadn't looked as if he gave a tin whistle, certainly."
Baker cut past him suddenly, looked around for spectators, saw none, dropped his britches and squatted. He was warned. - britches? Also called knee breeches. knee-length trousers
Hank Aaron's record "Only six Long Walks in history had ended over the state line in New Hampshire, and only one had gotten into Massachusetts, and the experts said that was like Hank Aaron hitting seven hundred and thirty home runs, or whatever it was ... a record that would never be equaled."
Barry Bonds Aug 7, 2007 break the record
START: start means startled
"Warning! Warning 88!" Garraty started and looked around. It was Stebbins. Stebbins was 88.
"Cathy!" Scramm yelled suddenly, making Garraty start.
"He put his foot down in a puddle of water and started fully awake again."
hangdog: "one of the Troopers looked around, startled and ... well, almost hangdog."
Old expression? "Now go peddle your papers, little man." You don't see many kids peddling newspapers anymore. Expression means "go away"
The clear fluorescent light from a telephone booth cast the only glow. <- you don't see telephone booths anymore
Confetti, newspaper, shredded pieces of telephone book <- who has a telephone book anymore?
Mellow Cigarettes - did they exist?: "McVries fumbled in his pocket and came up with a package of Mellow cigarettes."
I could walk all the way to New Orleans before I fell down on my knees for those wet ends in their kiddy car. <- who says "wet ends" any more?
- why didn't I take the phone off the hook
Garraty is referring to the old style phones that were held on hooks. Do they still make those?
- What's it all about, Alphie? It's a reference from a Burt Bacharach song named Alphie, off the album Reach Out, which was released Jan 1 1967, right when Stephen King was in the middle of writing the book.
- Most young people reading the book won't get this reference, but it would have been hilarious in 1967.
"What's it all about?"
Suddenly Garraty cackled madly. "What's it all about, Alfie?"
"Go soak your head." <- expression from 60s
"I'd bet my dog and lot" <- 60s saying?
I got girls everywhere, you dumb hump," Parker said. - dumb hump? <- 60s saying?
Give up the old psy war. <- 60s saying? Psychological Warfare
Corduroy: It became unfashionable after the 70s
- Two men in corduroy coats leaned against a big asphalt-spattered truck marked HIGHWAY REPAIR.
- He was warned, hesitated, and then plunged against her, a jamming, hurtling, frustrated, angry, frightened figure in a sweaty white shirt and cord pants.
"See anything green?" Garraty asked irritably. <- 60s saying?
I was scairt green. <- 60s saying?
whoresons <- 60s?
Does this goddam state punk out on its rainstorms, too?" <- punk out, gone with the 80s?
- 42nd Street has gone through a renovation in the early 90s, so no more prostitutes like in the 70s.
"Your mother sucks cock on 42nd Street, Rank!"
"Your mother sucks cock on 42nd Street too, scarface," Barkovitch said hoarsely.
Why don't you just go and have it on someplace else - do people still talk like this?
Time to stop being rabbits and grunting pigs and sheep and to be people ... even if we can only rise to the level of whoremasters and the perverts in the balconies of the theaters on 42nd Street."
"Don't say I never gave ya nothin', ya goddam rube!" <- Rube? 60s?
Then everything would be jake <- 60s?
Barkovitch - Plastic Feet <- what is state of the art on limb replacement. When did plastic first hit consumers?
Plastic: The Graduate 1967, the new wonder material. Today foot prosthesis is far more sophisticated.
Root hog or die - old expression dating before 1854. Coming from the early colonial practice of turning pigs loose in the woods to fend for themselves
"He's some hot ticket," Garraty said. <- 60s?
"Well hot shit!" <- 60s?
"Tut-tut," McVries said. <- 60s?
Cathy's a peach. <- 60s?
You'll see. You and your diddy-bop friends, Garraty. <- 60s?
wiffle haircut - 60s 70s?
A pretty girl of about sixteen in a white blouse and red-checked pedal pushers <- pedal pushers 50s 60s often called clam-diggers or capri pants
Dicky around the edges - But when you work for the Government, the Government is twice as aware that you're alive, twice as ready to call in a Squad if things seem a little dicky around the edges.
bodybags are not made of canvas these days - "wrapped securely in a canvas bodybag"
"You fucking bumpkin,"
"He's buggy," McVries said. "Everybody's buggy this morning.
gibes - "the gibes of the others"
flogging it - "now he'll get up and start flogging it."
Waifa chocolate bar - old brand not made any more
you've had the course - "Don't panic. If you panic now you've had the course."
"Ray, I don't think I'd do it again if the Major put his pistol up against my nates.
Some of these guys will go on walking long after the laws of biochemistry and handicapping have gone by the boards.
Wouldn't that be the living end.
report - a sudden loud noise of or like an explosion or gunfire.
"You're the bee's knees, Ray.
It's gonna be a boomer!
Garraty felt a familiar lift-drop of excitement.
Piss on you!
"Shit on you."
- "I use Dial, Don't you wish everybody did?" Actual slogan: Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?
"It's your mind," McVries said, "using the old escape hatch. Don't you wish your feet could?"
"I use Dial," Pearson said, pulling an idiotic face. "Don't you wish everybody did?"
Zori are flat and thonged Japanese sandals made of rice straw or other plant fibers, cloth, lacquered wood, leather, rubber
"Garraty himself was wearing a ragged pair of denim shorts and his zoris."
"Not me, babe," - one guy saying it to another guy
If this was the near future, there would be equality. They might choose randomly from boys and girls, or have it so they pick 50 girls and 50 boys.
fatigue jackets were popular in the late 60s early 60s (Vietname war), not so much today
Rifles would only fire for soldiers or enable only for a soldier so no walker or spectator could fire a rifle
- bread? Do we call money "bread" anymore? "keep her in clover"?
"I'll send her enough bread to keep her in clover the rest of her life."
he felt as if he had just walked through a Shirley Jackson short story. - she died 1965, a year before King started The Long Walk. She wrote Horror and Mystery. I'm guessing King is a fan.
I don't give a tin whistle!
Garraty thinks about a Robert Mitchum movie where he played "the role of an implacable Southern revival minister who had also been a compulsive murderer." The movie was The Night of the Hunter (1955). Believe in 1966 but teens don't typically watch 1950s movies.
moccasins - do people wear those anymore?
Posters of the Major were raised and lowered rhythmically on sticks so raw and new they were still bleeding sap. - 60s? New sticks bleed sap?
"Eat my meat," Barkovitch snarled. - late 60s? Perhaps added by Stephen King before published
he had to fight himself to keep from wolfing everything. - do we use wolfing anymore?
He had gone into hysterics, had a laughing jag - jag? can't find definition that fits
fair is fair, square is square, and quits are quits
They were all listening to Stebbins now. A horrified silence had fallen like a rubber sheet. - how does "rubber sheet" mean silence?
Collie was still smiling gaily and waving <-- we don't use the word gaily to mean happy, old usage
It was the first thing he had said in some time, and he sounded queer. "My legs feel funny." - queer, do we say "I feel queer" for "I feel weird"?
It was a queer, shambling, limping run.
"Come on, you turkey, I can't lug you!" McVries hissed. - turkey?
"He asked me if it was commencing to come off hot down home," Baker said -???
His one foot fetched against his other foot - I can't find a definition for fetch that fits
"I'm John Carter," Olson said. "My home is Barsoom, Mars." - how many teens these days would get that reference?
Edgar Rice Burroughs published that series in the 1910's and the Marvel comic was published 1977, 2 years before The Long Walk was published.
That detail may have been added in 1979.
Transistor Radio - a walker and spectator had one. Feels like the 60s and 60s to me.
The word also came back that thunder showers were forecast for the afternoon—someone had a transistor radio, Garraty supposed.
The guy with the radio says it's gonna shit potatoes pretty quick.
A woman in a floppy straw sun-hat threw a transistor radio at one of them.
May 1 - the walk begins on May 1. Collie Parker yells at a watress "You and me, Friday night."
Assuming he knew that Long Walks last 5 days typically, that would mean that the walk began on a Monday.
Knowing that Stephen King wrote the it in 1966/1967, then updated in 1978 with 1978 pop-culture references,
it makes sense that he was trying to set it in 1978. May 1, 1978 is a Monday.
Coincidentally, May 1, 1967 is also a Monday, so it made sense when he wrote it, and when he updated it.