Down the Rabbit Hole 11/22/63: Stephen King’s Historical Changeling

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Abstract

Once something becomes a story and it is appropriated in some way, that story experiences an additional, altered life. The adaptation might echo the original, but it does so in such a way that the original is forever changed. The original becomes a “changeling.” On a personal level we view events that we have “witnessed” through the lens of our own experiences. This is even true when one revisits the past through fiction. The reader or spectator experiences the past through the lens of the adapter. Stephen King admitted to being emotionally invested in the events surrounding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, and this emotional investment is reflected in his adaptation. Stephen King’s novel, 11-22-63, and its TV adaptation, serve as compelling examples of how emotional responses to the past can inform their adaptations, alter how their audiences explore and re-visit the past, and demonstrate how history and adaptations become changelings. King’s adaptation additionally demonstrates his ability to integrate the Kennedy assassination back into popular culture, inviting and allowing a “new” younger audience (who were not alive at the time of the assassination) to “experience” history by accompanying his characters down the rabbit hole of history.

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