The Hidden Meaning Behind Castle Rock
Castle Rock now streaming On Demand
If you’re familiar with any of Stephen King’s works, you’ll know the author indulges in creating stories ripe with both suspense and symbolism, and Castle Rock is no exception to this tradition. In King’s signature style, the story leads you in every direction except the right one, shocking audiences and leaving them doubting every deduction they’ve made throughout the series.
If you’ve yet to watch the series, it surrounds the discovery of a young man kept in a cage beneath Castle Rock’s Shawshank Prison for twenty-seven years. Upon his release, a string of gruesome events occur within the quiet town, leading its residents to believe they had unknowingly set free the Antichrist.
Not only is the thriller full subtle of references to King’s other works, but if you delve deep enough, you’ll note there are darker, allegorical concepts communicated throughout.
LITERARY GOLD MINE
If you’ve a keen eye, you would have noticed that Castle Rock is riddled with classic literary references outside of King’s own universe, the most predominant being William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.
Episode two provides the first insight of many, when The Kid’s cellmate is seen reading the dystopian fiction before his unexplained and untimely death.
To give you a brief back story, the novel surrounds a group of boys marooned on an island, slowly going mad with isolation. Characters struggle with the conflicting human predispositions that exist within each of them- the yearning for civilization and order, and at the same time savagery, chaos, and violence.
The novel portrays the internal battle between conscience and primal impulse, a theme richly found in King’s series and thoroughly embodied through Bill Skarsgard’s character, ‘The Kid’.
The name of King’s new series wasn’t plucked out of thin air. Castle Rock was a prominent landmark within Golding’s novel, rich with symbolism that mirrors King’s own humble town in Maine.
In Lord of the Flies, Castle Rock is a small, rocky outcrop connected to the main island the boys are stranded on. The landmark is established by the antagonist of the novel, Jack, as he breaks away from the civility and authority of the rest of the group.
The outcrop symbolises a haven for savagery where bad deeds go unpunished. Sound familiar? It should.
‘You know they say Castle Rock has some kind of luck? It’s not really luck though, is it? Bad shit happens here because bad people know they’re safe here. How many times can one town look the other way?’ – Dennis Zalewski
Undoubtedly, one of the most confronting scenes in Castle Rock was not one of death (and there were a lot of those), but rather of the child tribunal Molly found herself in the middle of. Children are normally portrayed as the epitome of innocence and naivety, so to witness them holding a ritualised trial for murder was quite jarring.
Somehow the messages about power and instinct in both King’s and Golding’s mediums are much more powerful when communicated through this shocking method.
What happens when we take children, a symbol of purity, and show them as agents of chaos?
The savage-but-fair feudal systems in Golding’s novel are mirrored in Castle Rock and encouraged through the unnerving animal masks worn by the children. One such example that resonated quite heavily was the brief shot of a child in a particularly grotesque pig mask, paralleling Golding’s character ‘Piggy’.
If you can’t remember that bit of Highschool English class, here’s a refresher: Piggy was brutally murdered by one of the other children whilst marooned on the island. He was a beacon of conscience throughout the novel, and his death is heralded by academics as the moment civility and rationality dies.
It wouldn’t be a Stephen King production without a plethora of biblical allusion. The series goes hand-in-hand with its literary counterpart, each work using strong, biblical motifs to convey the struggle between ethical and primal instincts.
Ever heard of a guy named Beelzebub? You should have. Beelzebub is the Hebrew name for Satan, and directly translated means Lord of the Flies. Pair that little revelation (pun intended) with the town-wide belief that the Antichrist has been released in Maine, and you have a perfect scapegoat for any unjust and inherently evil deed undertaken by seemingly good people.
“Everyone in this town has some sin, or regret. Some cage of his own making. And a story, a sad one, about how he got this way. ‘It wasn’t me, it was this place.’ That’s what we say…. Maybe something turned you into a monster. Or maybe you were one all along.”-Henry Deaver
If there is one thing you can take away from both of these texts, it is the need to portray the nature of innate, human evil under the guise of good and noble intention.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Political power plays, social media voyeurism, wars that have moved from battlefields to computer screens, and ways of living that extend beyond fanatical belief (but are still fought for just as vehemently).
Castle Rock is a modern retelling of Lord of the Flies that aspires to make you think about the reality of your beliefs and the effect they have on the world around you. Whether that’s religious, political, social, or ethical, we live in a modern world where fanaticism is seen as passion, our lives are a result of our social media consumption, and the constant struggle for power is leading us away from the civility we worked so hard to achieve.
Golding and King both aim to tell us that whilst noble intention may be present, we are continuously sacrificing our morals and ethics to uphold what we think is right.
Whether that’s locking someone in a cage beneath an (extremely) unlucky town, descending into barbarous savagery for survival on a desert island, or arguing with someone on the internet about whether the Earth truly is round… what are we giving up in our constant battle to be right?
Castle Rock now streaming On Demand