The Tower of ambition.
When I was about ten years old, my grandfather gave me my first novel to read. That novel was Stephen King’s ‘Firestarter’ and so my obsession with King’s work started.
Love him or hate him, no one can deny Stephen King’s work has had much acclaim over the past 30 years. With several of his books being adapted into TV shows and Movies. This July we finally get a ‘Dark Tower’ adaptation on the big screen. Featuring an incredible cast, a great director and already the early images look mesmerising and true to the source content. Early indications are that this is to be an original story and not a direct interpretation.
This is a brave move. The Dark Tower will have many fans and playing with their beloved story is risky business. However, I feel that with the amount of confusing and complex content available in the original material. This was essential to make this an enjoyable movie for all viewers, after all this could be just the beginning.
Many people will never even have heard of these novel’s, ‘The Dark Tower’ was basically King’s homage to ‘The lord of the rings’. It is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where ‘the world has moved on’. We follow the ‘last Gunslinger’ Roland Deschain, who King took inspiration from Clint Eastwood’s ‘man with no name’. Roland is the last of his kind able to use the art of the gun. Imagine the world has started to rewind and we have lost all the technological advancements of the modern world. As you can imagine the story gets much more complex and expands even into the modern world and time period, spans several books and at one point even incorporates King himself in the story. I will leave these intricacies for you to discover whether through words or the big screen. What I want to explore is what ‘The Dark Tower’ represents and what it can teach all of us about life. I know it had a big impact on mine.
The never-ending climb.
“The Man in black fled across the desert, The Gunslinger followed.” This is the opening line to the very first book, so simple, yet it tells us everything about Roland in one sentence. We are faced with a man that will go to any extent to get what he wants, across desert or mountain without ever giving up. Roland believes the man in black will be able to tell him how to get to the Dark Tower, where he will finally find his peace at the very summit of its peak. The Dark tower is exactly what it sounds like, it is a large structure surrounded with a bed of red roses, Roland often dreams of it and he believes that it is his life’s goal to reach it.
The journey to The Dark Tower is dangerous and careless. Yet Roland will let nothing get in his way, he turns his back on everyone he loves, walks over, or rather ‘guns down’ anyone that threatens to stop him and even loses himself on his long journey.
This is why The Dark Tower is such a great story, all adventure and fantasy aside. Because I believe that what The Dark tower truly represents is our life ambitions and as Thom Yorke told us back in the 90’s “ambition makes you look pretty ugly”.
All roads lead to one.
Usually we follow a hero or heroine on a journey of revenge, redemption or saviour. In this tale, we watch a man unravel slowly and painfully in his obsession, it engulfs his entire life and is part of every decision and thought he has ever made.
Throughout the journey, Roland is tested on just ‘how much he wants it’ how far he will go to reach his ambition and how much he will give up to finally obtain it. It’s the kind of narrative that perfectly mirrors most lives. In fact, this works also on a macro scale, it perfectly sums up society. The constant need to achieve and obtain the things that we are programmed to want from a very young age. We plan our lives early, we see ourselves with a big house, a perfect spouse and in our dream job. How often do we face obstacles and people who try to get in our way, who we disregard as not part of the plan, hence to us, as of no importance?
Just like Roland we continue across the desert, chasing the man in black. How many places, people and experiences do we pass along the way? Fundamentally we are truly a race that is constantly obsessed with growth. Whether personal or collective, we want for everything, yet we don’t often stop to appreciate what we had in the first place. Ambition is what both drives and cages humanity. Exponential growth is not sustainable and eventually we will either end all life or create something that will replace it.
Not just for valentines.
Throughout Roland’s adventures he comes across a single red rose, in the most unconventional of places and growing where nothing can possibly live. That rose represents a moment of ‘hope’ for our hero (us). It is a moment to stop and look around, to appreciate the beauty that is laid out in front of you. However, the rose is also bound to the tower and without its presence the tower would fall. It is described to offer some mild healing powers as a man who once stood next to it was cured of his acne.
If the rose represents both hope and the beauty of the world, why is it intrinsic to the structure of our ambition?
My interpretation is that King is trying to tell us here that we will always have ambition. However, without the beauty in the world and the hope that it brings us, ambition is pointless. Which for me at least, feels very poignant. We can’t enjoy life without stopping to take it all in, the race to reach our goals will only ever present us with more goals.
I feel that Roland himself is ‘King’ and ‘The Dark Tower’ is writing, once stripped back, it’s a tale of regret and missed opportunity in the drive to succeed. Passion can quickly turn to obsession and even laid on a bed of red roses obsession is ugly. Which gets me thinking, do we all have a Dark Tower that we simply spend our whole life looking for? My Dark Tower has always been my obsession to find the perfect partner who really understands me completely. Its both dangerous and a little sad, but at least I understand what drives me. Which begs the question, what is your Dark Tower?