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The Long Walk

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The Long Walk is the seventh book published by Stephen King; it is his sixth novel, and the second written under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. It was originally published in July 1979 under his pseundonym, Richard Bachman.

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First edition cover of The Long Walk.

It was collected in the 1985 anthology, The Bachman Books.

Plot Summary

In a future United States, albeit one stemming from a different history (references to "April 31st" and "The German air blitz on the east coast" are made), there has been an apparent military takeover of the country, turning it into a totalitarian dystopia. A man only known as "The Major" seems to be the leading figure of the country. Every year on May 1st, a competition called the Long Walk starts. During this contest, one hundred teenage boys, picked at random from a large pool of applicants, walk as far as possible without stopping. The walk never stops for any reason, including bad weather (it is commented by Stebbins "It stops every year. Once."). The walkers are allowed to bring anything with them, including food, although food concentrates are handed out once a day. Once the walk starts, no outside help from the crowd is allowed, although walkers may help each other provided they stay above four miles per hour. The route starts at the border of Canada and Maine and ends where the last walker remains standing.

Each walker must maintain a constant speed of at least four miles per hour. The speed of the walkers is measured to the fourth decimal point by soldiers riding halftracks by the side of the road. If the walker drops below this speed for thirty seconds, at once or spread out, he receives a warning. Warnings can also be given to walkers who try to impede the progress of other walkers. However, a walker can eliminate a warning if he walks for an hour without receiving a fresh warning. If a walker receives four of these warnings, he is "ticketed." Although the direct meaning of being ticketed is not given at the beginning of the book, it is soon made clear after the walk begins that "buying a ticket" means being shot by the soldiers on the halftracks. Certain serious violations, such as leaving the road for any reason or attacking a halftrack, result in immediate ticketing. The last competitor remaining alive is the winner, and he receives "The Prize": whatever he wants for the rest of his life.

The general public can also be warned or receive an interference ticket for disrupting the walk or trying to help the walkers. One of the mothers of the walkers tries to take her son out of the walk multiple times, and would have been shot by the soldiers if local police hadn't intervened. Another man manages to throw watermelon to the walkers and is arrested. Although his fate is unknown after he was arrested, his execution or imprisonment would be a plausible theory.

The Long Walk is shown to be a mental and physical trial, as contestants are faced with the ideas of their own death. Being ticketed is often result of insanity and complete mental breakdowns; one walker eventually tears his own throat out due to emotional stress from the surrounding situation.

The main character of this novel is Ray Garraty, a sixteen-year-old boy from Maine. He represents the state of Maine as its only competitor in the Long Walk, and often sees signs held by the crowd saying "Maine's Own" and "Go-Go Garraty". Garraty had only seen one long walk in his life, where he was reluctantly taken by his father, a man who hated the long walk with a passion. Because Garraty's father was so vocal in his hate for the long walk, he was "squaded." Although the definition of the word is never given in the story, "squaded" is implied to mean "taken away by soldiers and eventually executed." Garraty falls in with several boys during the course of the walk, including Peter McVries, who he becomes closest to, Art Baker, Hank Olson, Collie Parker, Pearson, Harkness, and Abraham. Gary Barkovich, another walker, establishes himself as a main antagonist, taunting the other walkers with threats of "dancing on their graves." Stebbins, another walker, establishes himself as the loner of the group, often walking towards the back of the group and only speaking to Garraty in short, cryptic phrases.

Along the road, the Walkers learn that one of their number, an older kid named Scramm—who is initially the heavy odds-on favorite to win the Walk—is married. When Scramm gets pneumonia and realizes that he will soon die, the remaining Walkers agree that the winner will use some of the Prize to take care of his pregnant widow, Cathy.

After five days, the walk comes down to Garraty and Stebbins, who has just admitted to being the bastard son of the Major. After walking for almost an entire day more, Garraty, decides that he cannot walk any more and accepts his fate. He walks up to Stebbins to tell him that he is about to give up, when Stebbins claws desperately at Garraty's shirt and screams "Oh Garraty!" before dying. Unaware of the celebration going on all around him, Garraty walks towards a dark figure in front of him, trying to identify it. When the major puts his hand on Garraty's shoulder to congratulate him, Garraty "somehow finds the strength to run." 

Major Characters

  • Raymond Garraty – A sixteen year old boy from Maine. He is the only competitor from the state of Maine, where the long walk is held, and is shown huge amounts of support from the crowd. During the walk, Garraty makes many revelations about mortality, and the imminent possibility of his own death. Garraty bonds with many of the competitors over the course of the long walk, including the enigmatic Stebbins. Garraty eventually becomes the winner of the walk after Stebbins's death. When the major comes to congratulate him, Garraty somehow finds the strength to run.
  • Peter McVries – A young, cynical man with a sardonic sense of crazy peanut butter humor, and a prominent scar on his cheek. Of all the walkers, he bonds the closest with Garraty and saves his life multiple times. He also creates the idea for the " eight musketeers," a group made up of himself, Garraty, Baker, Olson, Harkness, Abraham, and Pearson. McVries admits during the walk that he applied for the walk due to subconcious death left from a broken relationship that left him in a suicidal depression. He also develops the most antagonistic relationship with Gary Barkovich. He tells Garraty that when he is done walking, he may just sit down. Near the end of the walk, he sits down in the street. Although Garraty tries desperately to save him, McVries refuses to budge, and he smiles one last time at Garraty before being killed by the soldiers.
  • Art Baker - A close friend of Garraty and McVries who is shown to be one of the kindest and honest competitors in the walk, and the least prone to speaking cryptically. He is one of the last walkers to die. When he decides that he can't go on, he asks Garraty for a lead-lined casket, a reference to a past conversation about Baker's uncle, an undertaker. He also asks Garraty "not to watch 'em do it." Baker's death affects Garraty so much that he can barely keep walking.
  • Hank Olson - A confident young walker who believes he has an edge on the other walkers. Olson starts out the walk cracking jokes and playfully insulting the other walkers, but quickly exhausts and turns into an empty shell. He is referred to by Stebbins as a demonstration of the mind to control the body, because although Olson is nearly dead, the mind commands him to keep walking to avoid death. Olson manages to outlast the majority of the walkers, because, as he admits to Garraty, "he does not want to die." He eventually climbs upon a halftrack and takes a gun from a sleeping soldier, shooting another one. After being shot in the stomach, with his inner organs falling out, he continues to walk, much to the surprise of the other walkers. Finally, he succumbs, after screaming, "I DID IT WRONG!"
  • Gary Barkovitch - The established external antagonist who every other walker wishes to outlast, and seems to be "running on high-octane hate." He teases the walkers with multiple hats of "dancing on their shoes." Barkovitch antagonizes another walker named Rank, who attacks him. This leads to altercation resulting in Rank's death. This event causes the other walkers to think of him as a murderer, especially McVries. Despite this, Barkovitch later admits he wishes he had friends and that he didn't know how to act any other way. Some point during the night, the walkers hear shots. When Garraty asks if Barkovich has been shot, Barkovich screams "Not Yet!" and tears his own throat out.
  • Stebbins - The illigitimate son of the Major, and the most mysterious walker. He has many strange habits, including giving Garraty odd advice and then recanting the advice as lies. Stebbins becomes the favorite to win after Scramm's death, showing himself to be impossible to wear down. Near the end of the book, however, he breaks down in front of Garraty and admits to being the son of the Major—one of many. He tells Garraty that the major deliberately distanced him psychologically to make him a "rabbit" (like one that would be found in a greyhound race) to provoke other walkers into catching him. He is the last walker to die, clawing desperately at Garraty before collapsing.

Death list

The asterisk (*) indicates that the Walkers were mentioned dead at the same time, meaning that there is no way to determine exact order. (Most "Reasons of Death" indicated with a "?" resulted from a Walker dropping below four miles-per-hour too often.)

Order Name Number Reason for Death
1. Curley, ? No. 7 Charley horse
2. Ewing, ? No. 9 Blisters
3. Unknown boy No. ? Slowed down too often
4. Zuck, ? No. 100 Excessive bleeding from scraped knee
5. Travin, ? No. ? Slowed by diarrhea, shot when sitting down to empty bowels
6. Fenter, ? No. 12 Foot cramp
7. Larson, ? No. 60 Fatigue - sat down and couldn't get back up
8. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
9. Toland, ? No. ? Fainted
10. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
11. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
12. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
13. Baker, James No. 4  ?
14. Rank, ? No. ? Fighting with Barkovitch, fell down and got up dazed
15. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
16. Percy No. ? Shot while trying to escape into the woods
17. Unknown boy No. 45 Fell down
*18. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*19. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*20. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*21. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*22. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*23. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*24. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*25. Davidson, ? No. 8  ?
26. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
27. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
28. Yannick, ? No. 98  ?
29. Unknown boy No. ? Convulsions
30. Gribble, ? No. 48 Blue balls
31. Harkness, ? No. 49 Fatigue- "Burnt out"
32.  ?, Percy No. 31 Tried to escape into the woods
33. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
34. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*35. Wayne, ? No. 94  ?
*36. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
37. Morgan, Frank No. 64  ?
38. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
39. Unknown boy No. 38 Feet run over by escorting half-track.
40. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*41. Tressler, ? No. 92 Sunstroke
*42. Unknown boy No. ? Convulsion
*43. Aaronson, ? No. 1 Cramps in both feet
*44. Wallace No. ? Sunstroke
45. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
46. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
47. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
48. Jensen, ? No. ? Panic & blundered off of road due to hailstorm
49. Unknown boy No. ? Fainted
50. Fenum, Roger No. 13 Fainted
51. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
52. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
53. Olson, Hank No. 70 Shot while attempting to hijack escorting half-track
54. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
55. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
56. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
57. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
58. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*59. Scramm, ? No. 85 Pneumonia/sat down
*60.  ?, Mike No. ? Stomach cramps/sat down
61.  ?, Joe No. ?  ?
62. Unknown boy No. ?
63. Gallant, ? No. ?  ?
64. Milligan, ? No. ? Severe headache from cheering
65. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
66. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
67. Quince, Harold No. ? At his friends toe
68. Barkovitch, Gary No. 5 Ripped out his own throat
*69. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*70. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*71. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*72. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*73. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*74. Pearson, ? No. ? Vomiting; shot that night
75. Field, Charlie No. ?  ?
76. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*77. Klingerman, ? No. 59 Appendicitis
*78. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*79. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
80. Tubbins, ? No. ? Insanity
81. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
82. Parker, Collie No. ? Shot after attempting to hijack escorting half-track
83. Wyman, Marty No. 97 Lay down
84. Sledge, Bobby No. ? Tried to escape into the crowd
85. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
86. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*87. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*88. Unknown boy No. ? tried taking a bite out of another walker
*89. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
*90. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
91. Abraham, ? No. 2 Fever-induced fatigue
92. Pastor, Bruce No. ?  ?
93. Unknown boy No. ?  ?
94. Fielder, George No. ? Insanity
95. Hough, Bill No. ?  ?
96. Milligan, ? No. ?  ?
97. Baker, Art No. 3 Hemorrhage
98. McVries, Peter No. 61 Sat Down
99. Stebbins ? No. 88 Sudden death due to fatigue
100. Garraty, Ray No. 47 Winner; possible insanity or death,

Hints and Procedures

All Walkers receive a handbook of sorts that included "hints" and "rules", and several are featured prominently in the novel:

  • Hint 3: Do not, repeat, do not wear sneakers. Nothing will give you blisters faster than sneakers on a Long Walk.
  • Hint 6: Slow and easy does it.
  • Rule 8: No interference with your fellow Walkers.
  • Hint 10: Save your wind. If you smoke ordinarily, try not to smoke on the Long Walk.
  • Hint 12: (not stated specifically, but recommends wearing white athletic socks)
  • Hint 13: Conserve energy whenever possible.

Each year, thousands of teenage boys apply to take part in the Long Walk. Applicants are put through a series of tests, including an essay in which they explain why they believe themselves qualified to participate. Those who pass are entered into a lottery drawing that is broadcast nationwide on television, well before the Walk begins. Two hundred names are drawn, with 100 classified as "Prime Walkers" (first picks to participate) and 100 as backups; however, no announcements are made at this time as to which is which.

There are several chances to withdraw from the process, spread out between the time that applicants learn whether they have passed the tests and the start of the Walk. If someone does withdraw, the first available backup Walker (based on the order in which names were drawn) is moved up to take his place. Notifications as to Prime or backup status are not sent out until the final withdrawal deadline, which is the day before the Walk begins.

On the morning of May 1, the Walkers gather at the starting point, where soldiers check them in and give them canteens and food supplies. The Major greets them and assigns each one a number from 1 to 100 in alphabetical order by last name; each Walker is given a placard with his number, which he must wear taped to his clothes. The soldiers refer to Walkers only by their numbers throughout the course of the event. At exactly 9:00, the Major signals for the Walk to start.

The Route

Adaptation

Frank Darabont has secured the rights to the film adaptation of the novel (1), claiming that he will "get to it one day". He currently plans to make a low-budget, "weird, existential, and very self contained" film (2).

Audiobook

The audiobook version of The Long Walk is read by Kirby Heyborne.

The Bachman Books
RageThe Long WalkRoadworkThe Running ManThinnerThe RegulatorsBlaze

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