The Long Walk

The Long Walk is a novel by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1979 as a paperback original. It was collected in 1995 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books, and has seen several reprints since, as both paperback & hardback. Set in a near future, the plot revolves around the contestants of a gruelling walking contest, held annually by a somewhat despotic and totalitarian version of the United States of America.. One hundred teenage boys participate in an annual walking contest called "The Long Walk," which is the "national sport". Each Walker must maintain a speed of at least four miles per hour; if he drops below that for 30 seconds, he receives a verbal warning (which can be erased by walking for one hour without being warned). If a Walker with three warnings slows down again, he is "ticketed". The meaning of this term is intentionally kept vague at first, but it soon becomes clear that "buying a ticket" means to be shot dead by soldiers riding in half-tracks along the roadside. Walkers may be shot immediately for certain serious violations, such as trying to leave the road or attacking the half-track. The half-tracks use electronic equipment to precisely determine a Walker's speed.The event is run by a character known as "The Major," who is implied to have much power, stemming from a possible military or fascist state system. The Major appears at the beginning of the Walk to encourage the boys and start them on their way, and then occasionally thereafter. While the Walkers initially greet him with awe and respect, they eventually realize their admiration is misplaced and ridicule him in later appearances.

After five days and hundreds of miles, the Walk eventually comes down to Garraty and Stebbins, who reveals that he is the illegitimate son of the Major. Stebbins states he used to think the Major was unaware of his existence, but it turns out that the Major has numerous illegitimate children nationwide. Four years earlier, the Major took Stebbins to the finish of a Long Walk, and now Stebbins feels that the Major has set him up to be "the rabbit" in the race. That is, just as greyhounds in dog races need a rabbit to motivate them to run faster, Stebbins will spur the others to walk farther and make the race more entertaining. Stebbins's plan, upon winning the Walk, is to ask that his prize be to be "taken into [his] father's house." At the end of the book, having walked farther than any Long Walk in history, Garraty decides to give up after realizing that Stebbins has shown almost no weaknesses over the duration of the Walk. Garraty catches up with Stebbins to tell him this, but before he can speak, Stebbins grabs his shirt, says "Oh, Garraty!", collapses and dies; thus Garraty is declared the winner.Unaware of the celebration going on around him, Garraty gets up from Stebbins's side and walks on. He sees a jeep coming towards him, but thinks it a trespassing vehicle, and does not realize that in it is the Major coming to award him the victory. Garraty walks past the jeep towards a hallucination of a dark figure, not far ahead, beckoning Garraty to him. The figure is familiar to Garraty, but he does not recognize it. He decides to get closer to find out which of the walkers he has yet to walk down. While the crowd cheers his name, Garraty walks on unhearing, trying to identify the dark figure. When a hand, possibly the Major's, touches his shoulder, Garraty shakes it off impatiently. The figure beckons him to come and play the game, telling him to get started, that there is still far to walk. Unseeing now, Garraty walks towards the figure. When the hand reaches for his shoulder again, Garraty somehow finds the strength to run. (reference : Wikipedia)


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