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Different Seasons by Stephen King

Different Seasons is a collection of short stories written by Stephen King. King, who generally writes horror novels, published his novellas in 1982 with New America Library. The collection includes “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” “Apt Pupil” and “The Body.” All three of the short stories were turned into movies. Although they are not horror books per say, the novellas in Different Seasons certainly display King’s ability to leave the reader with fear and tension throughout the book.
The first story in the collection is “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” This story deals with a man named Andy Dufrense; a calm and wise former banker who was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in Shawshank. He gives the guards tax advice and, over time, the guards and wardens grow to respect Andy and beg for his help. Andy befriends a man by the name of Red. Red is the narrator of the story and he is locked away for committing murder much like Andy. Red writes the story from jail and says that he is doing so in an attempt to “make sense of his friendship with Andy.” Over a period of 28 years, Andy works on ways to escape from the gruesome prison life. He tells no one of his plan and Red awakes one day to find that Andy has disappeared through the sewer system and is nowhere to be found. Many years later, Red is out of jail and goes to a stone wall which Andy had mentioned many times. Once he reaches the wall, he finds a note. In said note, Andy directs Red to come to Mexico and start his life over. The novella concludes as Red begins his journey to find his old friend.

“The Apt pupil” is the next story in the series. “The Apt Pupil” is the story of a young man by the name of Todd Bowden who meets Kurt Dussander, a wanted Nazi criminal. Dussander now goes by the name Arthur Denker and is frightened that Todd will reveal Dussander’s true identity. However, instead of turning the man in, Todd commands Dussander to tell him war stories from World War II. Dussander obeys for he is terrified of being arrested. The stories begin to haunt Todd and his life is turned upside down. His grades slip and he has awful nightmares. To cope with these nightmares, Todd goes on a killing spree and becomes a serial killer. Todd and Dussander go on shooting binges together and, one night, the pressure gets the to elderly Dussander and he has a heart attack. When Dussander is sent to the hospital, a fellow patient who happens to be Jewish recognizes the Nazi. Dussander can no longer handle leading a hidden life and commits suicide. Friends and family confront Todd, who has become delusional and goes on one final shooting bout during which the authorities find and kill the previously promising young man.
“The Body” is the third short story in Different Seasons. In “The Body,” Gordie tells his story of searching for a missing body with his friends, Vern, Teddy and Chris. They are confident that they will find the body, become famous and go on their merry way; however, things take a turn for the worse when they realize that Vern’s older brother, Billy, is making a similar journey with his friends. The boys race to find the body and have many adventures including near-death experiences along the way. The younger boys find the body first, but they are not rewarded in the manner for which they expected. The older boys beat up the younger boys often and other than Gordie, all three of the young men were killed before they reached adulthood. Besides Gordie, they all led dangerous and unwise lifestyles. Gordie became a Vietnam War veteran and went on the write the story he narrated.
The three pieces from Different Seasons have similarities and differences; they all deal with the theme of mystery and constantly keep readers on the edge of their seats. However, “Shawshank Redemption” was a far more enjoyable story. “Shawshank” deals with the classic concept of escaping from prison; but King writes the story in a fresh manner. The tale does not seem to be cliché at all. “Apt Pupil” seems too convoluted. The story was not stale in any way shape or form, but the story drags on and has too many subplots floating around. The novella should be half as long and twice as detailed. “The Body” lacks story-depth. Although interesting situations occur, there is hardly any conflict between the boys. I would have enjoyed the story more if one of the boys had died or been arrested or somehow faced with adversity other than that which was expected. Different Seasons, like many short story collections, has moments of excellence, and moments where the reader is left wanting more.





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