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Why did the boys go on the Long Walk?
This collection of excerpts tries to answer that question
There were many reasons ...
- Assumed they would win
- Pressure from society, friends and family
- They were made to feel special for being picked
- They wanted the prize
- For the challenge
- They wanted to see people die
- It's what was expected
- After being picked in the lottery, they don't learn if they will be a Prime Walker or a Backup, filling in for someone, until the day before, so they don't have much time to think about it. It happens too fast to process.
- DENIAL: Harkness was in denial that he'd die. He just assumed he'd win, and write the book, and get rich from it.
"No, I'm going to write a book," Harkness said pleasantly. "When this is all over, I'm going to write a book."
Garraty grinned. "If you win you're going to write a book, you mean."
Harkness shrugged. "Yes, I suppose. But look at this: a book about the Long Walk from an insider's point of view could make me a rich man."
McVries burst out laughing. "If you win, you won't need a book to make you a rich man, will you?"
Harkness frowned. "Well ... I suppose not. But it would still make one heck of an interesting book, I think."
- DENIAL: Curley was also in denial, thinking the walk was fair, and that they'd make an exception if you got a muscle cramp.
"Warning! Warning 7! Third warning, 7!"
"I've got a charley horse!" Curley shouted hoarsely. "It ain't no fair if you've got a charley horse!"
- DENIAL: Larson was also in denial of his two minute timer. He thought it would be OK to rest for 5 minutes then catch up.
"Listen, I'll catch up," Larson hastened to assure him. "I'm just resting. A guy can't walk all the time. Not all the time. Can he, fellas?"
- DENIAL: Scramm assumed he'd win "You don't have any grasp of the consequences," Pearson said, falling in between Garraty and Scramm.
"You could lose. You have to admit you could lose."
"Vegas odds made me the favorite just before the Walk started," Scramm said. "Odds-on."
- DENIAL: His feet were purple. You could see the broken blood vessels in his feet. I don't think he really felt it anymore.
Maybe they were able to do something with his feet later, I don't know. Maybe they were."
"Stop. For God's sake, stop it." It was McVries. He sounded dazed and sick.
"You wanted to know," Stebbins said, almost genially. "Didn't you say that?"
- DENIAL: I think I had the idea that when the first guy got so he couldn't cut it anymore they'd aim the guns at him and pull the triggers
and little pieces of paper with the word BANG printed on them would ... would ... and the Major would say April Fool and we'd all go home.
Do you get what I'm saying at all?"
- DENIAL: Stebbins was sure he'd win
"You think you'll win, don't you?"
"Yes," Stebbins said calmly. "I'm quite sure of it."
- I don't know why I'm here
Why am I here? he asked himself desperately
he wondered in terror what he was doing here
"Why are you here, Garraty?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know," McVries said. "You're dying and you don't know why."
he felt a horror so deep it made his legs feel rubbery and weak. Why am I here? he asked himself desperately,
and there was no answer
Lot of steps. Long way to go. He found himself still with too many questions and not enough answers.
The whole Walk seemed nothing but one looming question mark. He told himself that a thing like this must have some deep meaning.
Surely it was so. A thing like this must provide an answer to every question;
"Why did I get into this?" Olson suddenly asked hopelessly, echoing Garraty's thoughts not so many minutes ago.
"Why did I let myself in for this?"
"Any particular reason you came on the Long Walk?"
"I don't really know," he said truthfully.
"I don't want to make you guys mad," Scramm said. "You're good guys. But you didn't get into this thinking of winning out and getting the Prize.
Most of these guys don't know why they got into it. Look at that Barkovitch. He ain't in it to get no Prize.
He's just walkin' to see other people die.
He lives on it. When someone gets a ticket, he gets a little more go-power. It ain't enough. He'll dry up just like a leaf on a tree."
"And me?" Garraty asked.
Scramm looked troubled. "Aw, hell ..."
"No, go on."
"Well, the way I see it, you don't know why you are walking, either. It's the same thing. You're going now because you're afraid, but ...
that's not enough. That wears out." Scramm looked down at the road and rubbed his hands together.
"And when it wears out, I guess you'll buy a ticket like all the rest, Ray."
... he wondered what in the hell he was doing and how he ever could have gotten involved.
He could not even kid himself that everything had not been up front, because it had been. And he hadn't even done it alone.
There were currently ninety-five other fools in this parade.
- Starting to understand
I think she started to understand. Maybe as well as I did myself, which God knows wasn't-isn't-very well.
Ray, you don't understand what you're doing. Well, he thought now, as he walked on down the road, she was right about that.
I sure didn't understand what I was doing. But I don't understand it even now.
Man, I'm not sure of anything," Garraty said. "I didn't know much when I started, and I know less now.
You're dumb, Garraty. You and me and Pearson and Barkovitch and Stebbins, we're all dumb.
Scramm's dumb because he thinks he understands and he doesn't.
Olson's dumb because he understood too much too late.
"Then why are you doing it?" Garraty asked him. "If you know that much, and if you're that sure, why are you doing it?"
"The same reason we're all doing it," Stebbins said.
"We want to die"
"Ah, I don't want to die this way," Abraham said. He was crying.
Daddy, I wasn't glad when you had to go, but I never really missed you when you were gone. Sorry. But that's not the reason I'm here.
- McVries saying he'd do it over again
"If you had it to do all over again-"
"Yeah, yeah, I'd still do it, but-"
- McVries would not do it again.
"If you had it to do all over again ... if you knew you could get this far and still be walking ... would you do it?"
"Ray, I don't think I'd do it again if the Major put his pistol up against my nates. This is the next thing to suicide, except that a regular suicide is quicker."
Pearson: "Boy, I'd never do this again in a hundred thousand years."
- They're coming to the realization that they're dying
"The only difference is we're involved in dying right now."
I wanted to die. Didn't you? Isn't that why?"
Why did we do it, Garraty? We must have been insane."
"I don't think there was any good reason."
"We're all crazy or we wouldn't be here. I thought we'd thrashed that out a long time ago. We want to die, Ray.
Haven't you got that through your sick, thick head yet? Look at Olson. A skull on top of a stick. Tell me he doesn't want to die.
You can't. Second place? It's bad enough that even one of us has got to get gypped out of what he really wants."
- Pressure from Society
"I couldn't back down. There were too many people watching. I think it must work the same with just about everyone.
It's one of the ways they tip the game, you know.
I let the April 15th backout date go by and the day after that they had a big testimonial dinner for me at the town hall-all my friends were there
and after dessert everyone started yelling Speech! Speech! And I got out and mumbled something down at my hands about how I was gonna do the best I could
if I got in, and everyone applauded like mad. It was like I'd laid the fucking Gettysburg Address on their heads. You know what I mean?"
I have to go, he had told her. I have to, don't you understand, I have to.
Ray, you don't understand what you're doing. Ray, please don't. I love you.
Well, he thought now, as he walked on down the road, she was right about that. I sure didn't understand what I was doing.
But I don't understand it even now. That's the hell of it. The pure and simple hell of it.
- Accepting they'll die
"Do you think you'll win, Ray?"
"No," he said finally. "No, I ... no."
"How about yourself?"
"I guess not," McVries said. "I stopped thinking I had any real chance around nine tonight.
"when I get tired enough ... I think I'll just sit down."
- The Prize
"What do you think about the Prize?" Baker asked.
"I don't see much sense thinking about it," Garraty said,
"I think about it," Baker said dreamily. "Not so much the Prize itself as the money. All that money."
"It's a fake," McVries said, his voice trembling. "There's no winner, no Prize. They take the last guy out behind a barn somewhere and shoot him too."
"Everyone loses," McVries said.
"Everyone loses," McVries repeated. "You better believe it."
And when I won, the Prize I was going to ask for was to be taken into my father's house."