Apt Pupil

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Apt Pupil. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

Todd has changed from hiding his true nature as a killer, behind his mask of a golden child, when he embarks on a shooting spree above the freeway.

Main Character Growth

Todd starts acting on the evils of Dussander’s memories. He tortures and kills winos, then moves on to kill whoever gets in his way (Rubber Ed), and next, anonymous freeway travelers.

Main Character Approach

Once Todd thinks he may have spotted a Nazi war criminal, he sets about tracking him down; instead of accepting his poor grade report he changes it with the help of ink eradicator; when confronted by Rubber Ed, he kills him; and so forth.

Main Character Mental Sex

Todd has a linear way of thinking, as illustrated when Rubber Ed asks how it all happened, “‘Oh, one thing just followed another,’ Todd said…‘That’s really how it happened. One thing just…followed another’” (King, 1982, p. 285).

Story Driver

Todd decides to blackmail Dussander; Dick Bowden allows his son to continue his relationship with “Arthur Denker” despite his poor grade report; Rubber Ed decides to look up Todd’s grandfather; and so forth.

Story Limit

As evidence of the true nature of his relationship with Dussander mounts, and his connection with the murdered winos becomes apparent, Todd is faced with the option of revealing (and reveling in) his evil nature or suffering through the indignities of a court case in an attempt to maintain his upstanding reputation:

Richler could suspect, but suspicion was the best he could do. Unless there was some sort of concrete evidence binding Todd to the old man. Exactly the sort of evidence Rubber Ed French could give…Yes, Rubber Ed was the link they didn’t have….And would even that end it? Oh, no. They would get his high school graduation picture next and start showing it to the stewbums [sic] down in the Mission district. What next? Court next….It would all be dragged through the newspapers… (King, 1982, pp. 284-285)

Story Outcome

Todd’s goal in obtaining Dussander’s memories of Nazi Germany is attained; Morris Heisel is finally able to recall the identity of his hospital roommate and “‘feels that God allowed him the sublime privilege of breaking his back so that he could be instrumental in the capture of one of the greatest butchers of human beings ever to live’” (King, 1982, p. 262); after Heisel recollects Dussander’s true identity, he passes on the information to Israeli special operative Weiskopf, yet before Dussander can be brought to justice he escapes retribution for his crimes by committing suicide; and so forth.

Story Judgment

Todd ultimately succeeds when he allows his true evil nature to surface:

“Everything was fine. Everything was together. The blankness left his face and a kind of wild beauty filled it…‘I’m king of the world!’ he shouted mightily at the high blue sky, and raised the rifle two-handed over his head for a moment” (King, 1982, p. 286).

Overall Story Throughline

"Reviving Nazism"

Overall Story Throughline

Society holds a fixed negative point of view about the heinous war crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews, specifically their systematic extermination of those they deemed useless or undesirable.

Overall Story Concern

Todd is anxious to hear Dussander reminisce about the horrific acts the Nazi’s perpetrated upon the Jews:

“Why…I want to hear about it. That’s all. That’s all I want. Really.” “Hear about it?” Dussander echoed. He looked utterly perplexed. Todd leaned forward, tanned elbows on bluejeaned [sic] knees. “Sure. The firing squads. The gas chambers. The ovens. The guys who had to dig their own graves and then stand on the ends so they’d fall into them. The…” His tongue came out and wetted his lips. “The examinations. The experiments. Everything. All the gooshy stuff.” (King, 1982, p. 127); Dick Bowden approves of his son’s relationship with the old man as “Arthur Denker” reminds him of his father; Rubber Ed’s memory of Todd’s “grandfather” and the circumstances surrounding their meeting doesn’t coincide the real Victor Bowden, causing the guidance counselor to confront Todd about his deception; Morris Heisel struggles to remember who his hospital roommate is; after Hap the wino points to a newspaper photo of Todd and claims he’s the one murdering the derelicts, Lieutenant Bozeman tries to remember where he has heard the name “Todd Bowden” before; and so forth.

Overall Story Issue

King illustrates the obvious correct moral choice of telling the truth over a falsehood, especially to authority figures (parents, teachers, police) throughout “Apt Pupil.” But he also comments on socially unacknowledged truths such as the power of and “(un) truth in advertising” and society’s acceptance of what the government passes on as truth and righteousness. For example, when Todd discovers the yellowed magazine accounts of what had happened in the German concentrations camps, he wants to know what contained more truth, “the words or the ads they put beside those words” (King, 1982, p. 120), as “the words saying [Nazism] was bad were surrounded by ads, and these ads sold German knives and belts and helmets as well as Magic Trusses and Guaranteed Hair Restorer. These ads sold German flags emblazoned with swastikas and Nazi Lugers and a game called Panzer Attack as well as correspondence lessons and offers to make you rich selling elevator shoes to short men. They said it was bad, but it seemed like a lot of people must not mind. (King, 1982, p. 119) And further on, Dussander condemns the U.S. government when Todd accuses his past actions as those of a monster:

“All of that is a filthy American lie,” Dussander said, stung. “Oh, I know how the Americans have distorted that…but your own politicians make our Dr. Goebbels look like a child playing with picture books in a kindergarten. They speak of morality while they douse screaming children and old women in burning napalm. Your draft-resisters are called cowards and ‘peaceniks.’ For refusing to follow orders they are either put in jails or scourged from the country. Those who demonstrate against this country’s unfortunate Asian adventure are clubbed down in the streets. The GI soldiers who kill the innocent are decorated by Presidents, welcomed home from the bayoneting of children and the burning of hospitals with parades and bunting.” (King, 1982, pp. 127-128)

Overall Story Counterpoint

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Truth vs.Falsehood

Overall Story Problem

Rubber Ed’s knowledge of a relationship between Todd and Dussander ends his life; Monica and Dick Bowden’s lack of knowledge concerning what their son is really up to is a parental problem; the police know someone is murdering the city’s derelicts, but have no suspects; and so forth.

Overall Story Solution

If Rubber Ed had run over in his mind the implications of Todd’s relationship with Dussander before confronting the boy, he may not have put himself in mortal danger; Monica Bowden contemplates all is not what it seems when Todd gives a weak excuse for visiting Dussander, “‘I thought he had someone to read to him,’ Monica said, ‘A new boy.’ ‘He does,’ Todd said, suddenly hating his mother, hating the half-formed intuition he saw swimming in her eyes” (King, 1982, p. 218); Lieutenant Bozeman contemplates the connection between Hap’s accusation that Todd Bowden is the killer of winos and the funny feeling he has heard the boy’s name before:

...he was thinking and thinking hard. Todd Bowden. There was something very familiar about that name. Something that bothered him even worse than the thought that a local high school hero might be going around and offing winos. He thought he had heard that name just this morning in conversation. He frowned, trying to remember where….Richler and Weiskopf came in…and it was the sound of their voices…that finally brought it home to him. (King, 1982, p. 282)

Overall Story Symptom

With the exception of Dussander, Todd appears to everyone to be the all-American boy; Monica and Dick Bowden see Dussander as kindly old Mr. Denker; it is Detective Richler’s point of view that Dussander was not responsible for the deaths of the winos found around the city; and so forth.

Overall Story Response

Detective Richler and special operative Weiskopf are able to see through Todd and prepare to confront him; all Todd needs to do is demonstrate his charm and most people find him innocent; Weiskopf forces Richler to face the reality of Todd as the one responsible for killing the city’s indigents; and so forth.

Overall Story Catalyst

The police move closer to the truth about Todd and Dussander’s association when Todd is dishonest with Detective Richler:

“What slips did he make?” “The phone calls. That’s the main thing. When I slipped him the idea, I could see his eyes light up like a pinball machine….” “What else?” “He immediately jumped to the conclusion that the letter was gone and nothing else. He knew that was the only thing missing because he was the one who went back and took it.” (King, 1982, pp. 275-276)

Overall Story Inhibitor

As fate would have it, Todd intercepts a letter from his guidance counselor to his parents suggesting a meeting to discuss the boy’s drastic dip in grades (a result of Todd and Dussander’s relationship). Todd puts Dussander up to posing as his grandfather for the meeting, and Dussander is successfully able to circumvent such unavoidable situations such as counseling appointments for the Bowdens and summer school for Todd. This impedes Todd’s parents and the school authorities from finding out the real reason why his academics are in a downward spiral.

Overall Story Benchmark

The means by which progress is measured in the objective story are basic human drives and desires: Morris Heisel’s need for retribution; Todd’s desire to give into his evil nature; Dussander’s desperation at not being turned over to the Israelis; and so forth.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

Monica and Dick Bowden are the proud parents of their teenage son, Todd, an “apt pupil” and exceptional athlete. They are especially pleased with his extracurricular activity of reading to “Arthur Denker,” an old lonely man. Little do they know the old man is Kurt Dussander, a wanted Nazi war criminal, and Todd is blackmailing him for his memories of the horrors of the concentration camps. Dussander is able to keep his identity hidden until it no longer matters, and Todd is able to keep his true nature and nature of their relationship from his parents and teachers up to the point when he no longer cares, deciding to cause a holocaust of his own.

Main Character Throughline

Todd — Kid

Main Character Throughline

Once Todd determines his “GREAT INTEREST” is in the Nazi war crimes, he endeavors to find out everything he can about them. When he thinks he has spotted a bona fide Nazi war criminal, he takes the initiative to track him down. This enterprise includes shadowing, photographing, and fingerprinting the man. As soon as Todd is certain of the man’s identity, he confronts him with the evidence and blackmails the old man into sharing his memories with him.

Main Character Concern

Todd is concerned with not being caught out, as no-one will understand why he maintained a lengthy relationship with a known war criminal; Weiskopf can’t comprehend what kind of boy Todd is, “‘...he was fourteen when all of this started. Why would a fourteen-year-old boy mix himself up with such a man as Dussander? I have tried to understand that and still I can’t’” (King, 1982, p. 277).

Main Character Issue

Because he is conditioned to behave according to society’s conventions, for a certain amount of time Todd is successfully able to quell his involuntary drive to give into his evil nature completely:

During the latter half of his senior year, an odd impulse came on him-one which was as frightening to Todd as it was irrational. He seemed to be clearly and firmly in control of it, and that at least was comforting, but that such a thought should have occurred at all was scary. He had made an arrangement with life. He had worked things out. His life was much like his mother’s bright and sunshiny kitchen, where all the surfaces were dressed in chrome, Formica, or stainless steel-a place where everything worked when you pressed the buttons. There were deep and dark cupboards in this kitchen, of course, but many things could be stored in them and their doors still be closed. (King, 1982, p. 211)

Main Character Counterpoint

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Instinct vs.Conditioning

Main Character Problem

Todd’s knowledge of the terrors of Nazism causes nightmares; his certainty of the grave trouble he would be in if anyone were to find out he has had knowledge of a wanted war criminal and had not mentioned it is a problem; when Dussander informs him he has put a written account of their association in a safety deposit box that he refuses to destroy until he feels his own life is safe fills Todd with “a black knowledge of the years ahead…” (King, 1982, p. 202).

Main Character Solution

Once Todd contemplates his options and determines his next course of action, he is able to solve his problem of knowing what to do now that evidence of his guilt will inevitably come out:

He thought he would clean his rifle and just sort of think the whole thing over. Try to get it straight in his mind….he closed his eyes….When he opened them again, he felt better than he had in months-maybe better than he had felt in years. (King, 1982, pp. 282, 286).

Main Character Symptom

Todd is occupied with his aspiration to find out about everything that happened in Nazi concentration camps, not realizing the problems it will cause for him later on; he is highly motivated to conceal the true nature his relationship with Dussander as, if it came out it will only get him in trouble; and so forth.

Main Character Response

Todd uses his innate charm to fend off too many hard questions about what he is up to.

Main Character Unique Ability

As an “apt pupil” Todd has experience in knowing how to respond appropriately to the people around him and situations he may find himself in. This kind of conditioning makes him uniquely suited to be a killer, as he is able to fend off his parents and other authorities from realizing what kind of person he truly is, especially when he can keep a cool head under tough circumstances:

Monica looked at her son and wondered if he had been sleeping well. He looked pale. And his grades had taken that inexplicable dip. Todd never got C’s. “You feeling okay these days, Todd?” He looked at her blankly for a moment, and then that radiant smile spread over his face, charming her…comforting her. (King, 1982, p. 152); Detective Richler reports to Weiskopf Todd’s composure during questioning, “‘Oh, I think the kid was in on it somehow,’ Richler said. ‘Somehow, some way, to some degree. But is he cool? If you poured hot water into his mouth I think he’d spit out ice cubes’” (King, 1982, p. 275).

State of Being
Main Character Critical Flaw

Todd’s true self is one of evil, making it difficult for him to maintain the facade of a clean-cut teen. His essential nature undermines his efforts to keep the truth about himself from his parents and authorities.

Main Character Benchmark

The more Todd gleans of Dussander’s memories, the more he begins to lose sleep, weight, and his semblance of the all-American boy.

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

All-American boy with a bent for evil

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

At the age of thirteen, Todd Bowden discovers his “GREAT INTEREST” in WW2 German concentration camps. Soon thereafter, he discovers a Nazi war criminal living in the same city. Todd blackmails the old man into sharing his horror stories, which leads to awakening the potential horror in himself.

Influence Character Throughline

Dussander — Nazi war criminal

Influence Character Throughline

Dussander owes his very existence to his ability to manipulate others.

Influence Character Concern

Dussander conceives the need to ensure his safety from exposure as a wanted war criminal. He implements this idea by claiming to be “Arthur Denker,” fabricating a false history, and maintaining a low profile in a quiet Californian suburb.

State of Being
Influence Character Issue

Dussander holds the correct perception of his true nature as one of evil. His evil nature has transcended time from its impact on the lives of Jews in Nazi, Germany, to nameless victims in present day Southern California.

Sense of Self
Influence Character Counterpoint

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
State of Being vs.Sense of Self

Influence Character Problem

Dussander has structured his “retirement” from his life as a Nazi to be low profile and mundane:

I go to movies. I eat out once a week, always at one of those fast-food places that are so clean and so well-lighted by fluorescent bars. Here at my house I do jigsaw puzzles and I read novels, most of them bad ones-and watch TV. At night I drink until I’m sleepy. The dreams don’t come anymore. (King, 1982, p. 130)

This is a problem for Dussander as “he believed now that he had come to a coward’s terms with his past. He has been forced to give up part of himself” (King, 1982, p. 155).

Influence Character Solution

Dussander’s well ordered life has been disrupted by the boy’s insistence he look back at his past. Though at first discomfited by the turmoil he feels at the return of his nightmares and need to kill, Dussander is happy to reclaim his evil nature.

Influence Character Symptom

Dussander’s reading of Todd’s situation causes problems for the boy:

“Before today,” Dussander said carefully, “it was possible, just barely possible, that you could have denounced me and come out clean yourself….Today I impersonated your grandfather, one Victor Bowden. No one can have the slightest doubt that I did it with…how is the word?...your connivance. If it comes out now, boy, you will look blacker than ever. And you will have no defense. I took care of that today.” (King, 1982, p. 174)

Influence Character Response

Dussander’s true evil nature influences Todd to tap into his own propensity for evil.

Sense of Self
Influence Character Unique Ability

Dussander does not try to fool himself about the kind of person he is. He perceives himself as a killer. His honesty on this point forces Todd to confront his own attempts to avoid facing his true nature as a killer:

“I want to ask you something,” Todd said, looking at Dussander steadily. “That’s why I came in today. I want to ask you about something you said once….That wino. You said something about me having experience. First-hand experience. What was that supposed to mean?” Dussander’s smile widened a bit. “I read the newspapers, boy….A month ago there was a story…IS SOMEONE STALKING SANTO DONATO’S DOWN-AND-OUT?”...Todd’s hands were clenched into fists, hiding the butchered nails….The idea that someone had been making connections behind his back infuriated him. “Then I say to myself: ‘Do I know anybody who might be doing such things? Somebody who has been under as much strain as I have during the last few years?’...And the answer is yes. I know you, boy.” (King, 1982, pp. 235-237)

Influence Character Critical Flaw

Living out his “retirement” years as “Arthur Denker” in sunny California has given Dussander a false sense of security, dulling his instinct for survival. This leaves him unprepared for Todd’s detection of his true identity:

Dussander turned and looked at him. His shoulders sagged. He put the phone down. “A boy,” he breathed. “A boy.” Todd smiled widely but rather modestly. “How did you find out?” “One piece of luck and a lot of hard work,” Todd said. (King, 1982, p. 117)

Influence Character Benchmark

As Dussander becomes older and physically weaker, he is less frightened by the prospect of death, and holding onto to his tale of a written account of his and Todd’s association becomes less necessary, “‘I have looked death in the face and it frightens me, but not as badly as I thought it would. There is no document’” (King, 1982, p. 237).

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

The guy did look a little bit like Albert Einstein, and he did look a little bit like Boris Karloff, but what he looked like more than anything else was one of the seedy old winos that hung around down by the railroad yard. (King, 1982, 111)

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

Kurt Dussander has successfully avoided capture as a WW2 Nazi war criminal and is living out his days in a small Southern California town under the alias, “Arthur Denker.” His identity is uncovered by a young boy with an avid interest in Nazi concentration camps. The boy forces Dussander to recall the horrors he and others have perpetrated upon the Jews, effectively reawakening his own evil nature.

Relationship Story Throughline

"Hitler Youth"

Relationship Story Throughline

The state of affairs Todd and Dussander have created for themselves is one of mutual mistrust, dislike, and interest in keeping the other alive. Todd warns the old man that one of his friends has a letter regarding Dussander and himself, and if anything untoward was to happen to the boy the friend would immediately go to the police; Dussander announces to Todd he has a full written account of their relationship in a safe deposit box with instructions to be opened and read upon his death.

Relationship Story Concern

Dussander has done his utmost to bury his past as a Nazi war criminal, but Todd discovers his true identity and threatens him with exposure. Instead of telling his parents and the authorities he has discovered a wanted man, as time passes, Todd creates his own dark past by involving himself with Dussander, supplying Dussander with his own blackmail materials.

Relationship Story Issue

That Todd and Dussander meet is a destined occurrence along the way of fulfilling their evil natures. “‘I was crazy to get mixed up with you in the first place.’ ‘No doubt,’ Dussander said, and smiled thinly. ‘But you are mixed up with me…You must realize that your fate and my own are now inextricably entwined’” (King, 1982, p. 161).

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Fate vs.Destiny

Relationship Story Problem

Todd and Dussander must maintain the status quo of their relationship as Todd takes the chance of having his reputation (and therefore future) destroyed by Dussander, and Dussander takes the chance of living the rest of his life out in jail if Todd turns him into the authorities. This conflict causes mutual mistrust, dislike, and suffering between the two:

Dussander uttered a long, windy, rueful sigh. “My, boy,” he said. “Still you do not understand the situation. You never have, right from the beginning….If we burned our letters here, in this jar cover, how would I know you hadn’t made a copy? Or two? Or three? Down at the library they have a Xerox machine, for a nickel anyone can make a photocopy. For a dollar, you could post a copy of my death-warrant on every streetcorner [sic] for twenty blocks. Two miles of death-warrants, boy! Think of it! Can you tell me how I would know you hadn’t done such a thing….and how would you know I hadn’t made two copies for my safety deposit box…that I had burned one and left the other there….even if there were some impartial third party we could go to, always there would be doubts. The problem is insoluble, boy. Believe it.” (King, 1982, pp. 198-200)

Relationship Story Solution

Dussander points out to Todd the boy’s hold over him will weaken with the passing of time, dissipating the conflict between them, “‘...because no matter how important my life and liberty remain to me, the Americans and-yes, even the Israelis-will have less and less interest in taking them away’” (King, 1982, p. 201). Dussander further explains to Todd he will, one day, destroy the document in his safety deposit box, thereby freeing the boy from their relationship, “‘And there will come a time-if I live long enough-when I will decide what you know no longer matters. Then I will destroy the document’” (King, 1982, p. 202).

Relationship Story Symptom

Todd sees Dussander as an evil man, and himself as a normal kid with a healthy curiosity:

“Why…I want to hear about it”....Dussander stared at him with a certain amazed detachment, the way a veterinarian might stare at a cat who was giving birth to a succession of two-headed kittens. “You are a monster,” he said softly. Todd sniffed. “According to the books I read for my report, you’re the monster, Mr. Dussander. Not me.” (King, 1982, p. 127)

Relationship Story Response

Although Todd perceives himself to be different than Dussander, in reality, they are two of a kind.

Relationship Story Catalyst

That Dussander suffers from a heart attack is unavoidable. A man in his late seventies, he drinks, smokes, and engages in the exhausting physical activity of murder. When he is felled by a heart attack in the midst of burying one of his victims, Todd is the only one he can turn to for help-a request Todd not dare refuse. Since Todd can’t handle the situation alone, he must seek additional help from his father, the medical community, and the police, escalating the inevitable discovery of the real nature of the old man and boy’s relationship.

Relationship Story Inhibitor

Todd and Dussander’s relationship idles along as neither one can be sure if the other is telling the truth about the respective written accounts regarding their association.

Relationship Story Benchmark

Dussander and Todd’s relationship becomes more and more strained as Todd believes he will be forced to endure the uncertainty of their relationship coming to light (ruining his future) for an indeterminate amount of time:

“No,” Todd said thickly. “What you’re saying…I can’t face that.” “My boy,” Dussander said gently, and Todd heard for the first time and with dawning horror the slight accent the old man had put on the first word. “My boy…you must.” (King, 1982, p. 202)

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

“Apt Pupil” is the story of a sick symbiosis between a thirteen-year-old “all-American kid” named Todd Bowden and a former death-camp commandant, Mr. Dussander, who had hopes of living out his life in anonymity in suburban Los Angeles under the name of Arthur Denker. But Bowden, who discovers that his own “GREAT INTEREST” is an obsession for the grisly details of the Holocaust, blackmails Dussander into telling him about the “gooshy stuff.” Dussander does…but the price is high, and both Bowden and Dussander must pay. (Beahm, 1989, 205)

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

The goal of common concern revolves around Kurt Dussander. Todd is interested in Dussander’s memories, while his parents are interested in “Arthur Denker’s” reminiscences. Rubber Ed French is concerned with recalling the man who impersonated Todd’s grandfather (Dussander); the police force and special operative Weiskopf are concerned with Morris Heisel’s recollection of Dussander, the former Nazi death commandant.

Overall Story Consequence

If Dussander does not share his memories with Todd, Todd will reveal his past; if Morris Heisel does not remember Dussander is the man who tortured him and murdered his wife and daughters during WW2, he will not be able to make sure that the past will not go unpunished; and so forth.

Overall Story Cost

To be considered a “normal” guy Todd has sex with Betty. In order to do so he must visualize torturing her, an exhausting and unpleasant endeavor; Dussander has to sleep in a SS uniform, “like grotesque pajamas” (King, 1982, p. 153) to get a good night’s rest, an idea he came up with after many nights of tossing and turning; Heisel has to envision a way to notify the authorities about Dussander without losing control first and confronting the man; and so forth.

Overall Story Dividend

Monica and Dick Bowden understand they have an exceptional son; Morris Heisel understands trying to figure out who is roommate is a way to amuse his mind while laid up in the hospital; and so forth.

Overall Story Requirements

Todd and Dussander must have a basic drive for evil, “Todd looked down, feeling the old sickening lift and drop in his stomach. Terror, hate, and a desire to do something so awful it could only be fully contemplated in his dreams” (King, 1982, p. 198); Morris Heisel and Weiskopf must have a basic drive for revenge; the police must a basic drive for justice; Rubber Ed French must have a basic curiosity about the students under his guidance; and so forth.

Overall Story Prerequisites

Heisel’s future release from the hospital forces him to discover and deal with the identity of his roommate in the present time; bringing Nazi war criminals to justice is a way to make sure a holocaust such as Nazi, Germany does not happen in the future; and so forth.

Overall Story Preconditions

After Todd’s teacher suggests her students to find their “GREAT INTEREST,” Todd becomes interested in Nazism; Todd insists Dussander wear the SS uniform he has purchased for him while sharing his wartime stories; Rubber Ed French becomes friendly with the real Victor Bowden as one way to satisfy his curiosity about the man who posed as Todd Bowden’s grandfather; and so forth.

Overall Story Forewarnings

Morris Heisel achieves feeling in his toes, increasing the likelihood of his release from the hospital before he has discovered his roommate is the man responsible for his family’s and others’ deaths, losing his opportunity to right the wrongs of the past; the police obtaining the true identity of “Arthur Denker” is a forewarning that the punishment for Dussander’s past crimes as a Nazi war criminal is imminent; and so forth.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

Dussander contemplates the fact that a mere boy has been able to discover his true identity and whereabouts; Monica Bowden considers she and her husband have given Todd a happy and healthy home life; Dick Bowden momentarily considers the “wild, pallid anger in his son’s eyes” (King, 1982, p. 137), when he suggests Todd cut down on his time spent with Dussander, but (foolishly) does not take it seriously; and so forth.

Overall Story Signpost 2

Rubber Ed French has “had a damned hard time remembering what it had been like to be thirteen himself” (King, 1982, p. 166); Monica and Dick Bowden recall their respective adolescence’s; and so forth.

Overall Story Signpost 3

The bum Dussander solicits “for just a moment…felt a chill of apprehension, an urge to just turn away and forget the whole thing” (King, 1982, p. 206); Todd knows when he calls his mother “mommy” she will instinctively respond to his needs; Todd feels “a mad urge to take the .30-.30 back into the house and shoot both of his parents and then go down to the slope overlooking the freeway” (King, 1982, p. 218); when Morris Heisel tries to recall who Dussander is, “he broke out in a sudden rash of gooseflesh [sic], as if he had stepped into some mental haunted house” King, 1982, p. 232).

Overall Story Signpost 4

Monica and Dick Bowden feel compassion for what their son is going through; Todd is feeling desperate as the truth is closing in on him; Detective Richler and Weiskopf discuss humankind’s evil desires:

Maybe there is something about what the Germans did that exercises a deadly fascination over us-something that opens the catacombs of the imagination. Maybe part of our dread and horror comes from a secret knowledge that under the right-or wrong-set of circumstances, we ourselves would be willing to build such places and staff them. Black serendipity. (King, 1982, p. 279)

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

Todd wants to understand the truth behind everything he has read concerning the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Main Character Signpost 2

Todd changes his grade report and takes action against his parents having to visit his guidance counselor.

Main Character Signpost 3

Todd learns committing murder does not drive him crazy with guilt:

After stabbing the wino under the train platform, he had expected his nightmares to intensify-to perhaps even drive him crazy. He had expected waves of paralyzing guilt that might well end with a blurted confession or the taking of his own life. Instead of any of those things, he had gone to Hawaii with his parents and enjoyed the best vacation of his life. (King, 1982, p. 208)

Main Character Signpost 4

Todd is concerned that his parents and police not obtain the truth about his real relationship with Dussander.

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

Dussander has a need to propitiate his nightmares. To do this he comes up with the idea of committing murders. To implement his idea, he lures unsuspecting tomcats and winos into his home to carry out the deed.

Influence Character Signpost 2

“Arthur Denker” wants to avoid achieving his identity of Kurt Dussander in the eyes of the world:

“I am worried about my life!...The Israelis will not scruple at the fact that I am seventy-six. The death penalty is still very much in favor over there, you know, especially when the man in the dock is a Nazi war criminal associated with the camps.” “You’re a U.S. Citizen,” Todd said. “America wouldn’t let them take you. I read up on that. I-” “You read, but you don’t listen! I am not a U.S. citizen! My papers came from la cosa nostra. I would be deported, and Mossad agents would be waiting for me wherever I deplaned.” (King, 1982, pp. 160-161)

Influence Character Signpost 3

Dussander poses as a lonely old man willing to pay for companionship to lure winos into his home.

Influence Character Signpost 4

Dussander devises a way to kill himself in the hospital, rather than face the charges that are to be brought against him.

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

As Todd and Dussander’s relationship moves forward, they each begin to physically and mentally deteriorate, losing weight and sleep from the nightmares they share.

Relationship Story Signpost 2

Todd and Dussander conflict when Todd realizes the old man holds his future in his hands:

...“if your part in this matter came out, your punishment would be quite small…but it might well ruin your life all the same. There are records…and people talk…and, of course, as the years pass, your culpability will grow with you. Your silence will grow more damning, if the truth came out today, people would say, ‘But he is just a child!’....but what would they say, boy, if the truth about me, coupled with the fact that you knew about me as early as 1974 but kept silent, came out while you are in high school? That would be bad. For it to come out while you are in college would be a disaster. As a young man just starting out in business…Armageddon.” (King, 1982, pp. 200-201)

Relationship Story Signpost 3

Dussander and Todd conflict over how things stand between them; Dussander assures the boy “we are quits” (King, 1982, p. 237) yet Todd does not believe him:

Now, sitting behind the dead tree on the slope which ran down to the freeway, looking at all the anonymous headlights disappearing endlessly like slow tracer bullets, he knew well enough what he was afraid of. Dussander talking about trust. That made him afraid….even after four years of visiting Dussander, he still didn’t know what went on in the old man’s head. (King, 1982, p. 239)

Relationship Story Signpost 4

As he is dying, Dussander wishes he could warn Todd he has been found out, but does not as he believes it would cast suspicion upon the boy. His wish is all in vain as his past as a Nazi death camp commandant is published in the newspaper and he and Todd’s past association is scrutinized closely by Todd’s parents and the police.

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