Thursday, June 24, 2010

Character Connection - Roland Deschain

 Character Connection is a weekly meme hosted by Jen at The Introverted Reader every Thursday. It's where we get to discuss our favorite book characters and what we love about them!

I'm going to surprise absolutely nobody who knows me or has read my blog (or has ever talked to me about books) and do my very first Character Connection post on a Stephen King character, Roland Deschain. Surprise! It's a good bet that if you have read anything King has written, it is connected in some way to Roland's world. He is one of my favorite characters, and if you haven't already met him, I'd like to introduce you.

Roland Deschain's epic journey starts with one of the best opening lines I've ever read: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." With this line, we're thrown into Roland's world and follow him as he follows the man in black, whoever he is. Almost before we even know the gunslinger's name, we see his sheer determination, his single-mindedness and his ruthlessness in action in a decision that would end the journey of many a lesser man. Throughout Roland's journey, but especially in the first book of the series, this is the theme that dominates: a complete willingness to do anything, sacrifice anything to reach his goal. It's not clear whether we should be rooting for him or against him at first, and he doesn't let us know until we're already fascinated by him and in awe of him... perhaps against our will.

This is a man who has been trained to be the best at what he is (a wise-beyond-his-years, but ruthless killer who nevertheless seeks to uphold peace). He is descended from an almost mythic King Arthur-like ancestor through an unbroken line of diplomats, known in Roland's world of Gilead as gunslingers, and he has lived through trials and loss and hardship before even reaching the age of 15 that would have had grown men calling for their mommies. But as we follow him, and learn more about this gunslinger, and as he intersects with people who will change his path and his life, we learn that there is a depth to him that is unexpected to say the least.

Learning about his ultimate quest is one of those unexpected depths. One would think, given the lack of information about both the tracked and the tracker, and keeping in mind the doggedness and the grim determination with which the tracker hunts down the man in black, that this would be a revenge quest, or maybe a bounty hunt, or something along those lines, but no. Roland's quest is no selfish or for-profit act - he is willing to go to the ends of the earth and back for nothing less than to save the universe, or rather the universes, because there are many, and all hinged on one central spoke, which of course is the dark tower itself.

Roland's journey almost literally does take him to the ends of the earth, and just about every point in between. On the way, he battles all the forces of evil, with its many incarnations and faces and whispers and tricks, and finds companionship, understanding and help when he is in despair, all to try to save that which matters most. And in return, if he succeeds, he has a chance at salvation... if he's deserving of it.

Roland is one of my all-time favorite characters. He's brilliant and ruthless and harbors secrets and pain that would be impossible for a mere mortal to cope with. But he's Roland, and the road he chose to walk is necessarily one of pain, so he deals with it and pushes on relentlessly. And I admire him for his noble selflessness and sacrifice. His strength, of body, mind, and character, makes him one of the most fascinating characters I've ever met. I thought of Roland and his world when I named my blog, because reading about him and his quest is like slipping into his world and leaving my own.

"Go then... There are other worlds than these."


  1. Will your next CC (if there is a next one--don't want to push) be about Eddie? ;-)

    Great post, Becky. You explained Roland and his single-minded determination to do the right thing at any cost very, very well.

  2. I didn't know about this character before, but you described him so well. I love your post!

  3. Thank you both! Jen, I have to admit that Eddie is my ♥, so I will definitely do one for him, yes!

  4. did you know they also made a comicbook series out of these books?

  5. Yes, Sullivan, I've read the first three of them ("Gunslinger Born", "The Long Road Home" and "Treachery"), and have drooled liberally over "The Fall of Gilead", which is the 4th, but haven't bought it yet. I love them! :D

    I also have the first two in the graphic novel series for The Stand, "Captain Trips" and "American Nightmares". :)

  6. it was really interesting to read about Roland. shame on me, but i haven't read a thing by King. maybe i should start with this one.

  7. Daria, as much as I would love to say "YES! Please do!", the Dark Tower series can be pretty strange to someone new to King.

    I would say to start with The Stand or The Shining -- those are my other two favorites and not so much of a commitment.

    Thank you for commenting! :)

  8. Oh man, I can't tell you how much I LOVE this post. Roland is one of my all-time favorite characters :)

  9. Hey Becky! Thanks for hopping by a couple of weeks ago, sorry I'm so late stopping by!

    What a great post!! I haven't read any King since I was in high school, but I did recently read his memoir, On Writing, and it was wonderful! Roland sounds like a great character and you did a terrific job describing him!