Analysis of 1408 a short story of Stephen King

                                                          By: Marcus Levis

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John Cusack as Mike Enslin in the Film Version of 1408

1408 was probably one of the best short stories that I have read and it definitely has all of the elements of a short story that makes it so gripping, and for the 53 pages I was totally hooked in. It had one of the most gripping plots of any short story, had a nice small arrangement of characters that progressed through the story at a nice pace, keeping it moving along nicely, a setting that fit the story and type and then finally capped it off with as supremely gripping climax that left me wanting to finish the story in suspense.


Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Olin in the film version of 1408

Summary: The story starts in the old looking Dolphin Hotel (which opened in 1908) around the year 1999-2002 (doesn’t say in the story) but I made an assumption based off of the evidence throughout the story (tape recorder, Persian rugs and the fact the hotel was near to being 100 but wasn’t quite there yet). Mike Enslin (protagonist/main character) who is a writer of short stories walks into the hotel (for the second time in the day, because they had to bring in a lawyer earlier to discuss him getting that room) and shook Mr. Olin’s hand and then was escorted into his office for a chat. Mr. Olin coming to realize that his mind will not be changed offered him a drink of scotch, which was consumed. Then Mike Enslin was accompanied by Mr. Olin over to the elevator and up to the 14th floor which was actually the 13th floor but because of superstition (and because the door numbers add up to thirteen (1+4+8+0=13)) and because apparently all over the world buildings change their floor numbers. Mr. Olin says that he goes no farther than the elevator, and again pleads that Mike not go through with it. Then the elevator shuts and Mike is left alone on the 14th (sorry 13th) floor.

Already the problems are arising, because as soon as he gets to the door everything starts to go crazy, the door seems tilted to the left, kind of like how it is on a ship, he notes. Then he looks away, then back at the door and its fine again. He shakes himself and after a quick look down the hall, seeing a security camera he thinks; “Teach him to come in here and throw his weight and lawyer around, lookit him. White as a ghost himself, and he hasn’t even touched the key to the lock yet.” This realization makes him take out the key and go in. Almost as soon as he gets into the room other problems start to arise as he starts to record on his recorder and looks at the only window in the room and states to the camera that this is the window where six people have jumped from and killed themselves, he picked up a box of matches, then he sets the camera down, pauses it and looks over at the wall where he came in and saw something odd; The pictures were crooked. He quickly straightened the pictures, then went and sat down again, took a few deep breaths and returned to looking around the hotel room. He went into the bedroom and grabbed the door breakfast menu off of the bed, brushing the old bed sheet with his hands and looked at it; it was in French, no Russian, no Italian, no there was no menu just a picture of a boy with his leg half eaten and a wolf munching on it like a T-bone steak, he was tripping horribly. After that it went so fast, like nothing I’ve ever read before it just picked up going at 100 miles an hour from there, he started to feel as if the walls were melting and forming mouths, as if something was coming for him, he ran to the door and tried to open it but it wouldn’t open and he got one thing into his mind; I got to call for help. He runs over to the phone and reaches for it and it feel like his arms are working in slow motion, he dials 0 and the other end of the phone is a kinds of inhuman voice that says; “This is Nine! Nine! This is Ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is Six! Six!”


What the room 1408 looked like after it was scorched in the film version

At this point he is so freaked out that he takes out (without realizing it) the cigarette from behind his ear (he keeps it there as a good luck charm even though he hasn’t smoked in 9 years), put it in his mouth and lit up a match and started smoking, then he lit all of the other matches in the pack and held it close to himself, realizing it was burning, he tossed it across the room and ran out of the room (the door opening this time). In the hall way another person Rufus Dearborn (only appears in the book) who was coming back from the ice machine saw that Mike was running down the hall in flames and rushed to get more ice and water to put Mike out. If it wasn’t for Dearborn, Mike Enslin would have died that day (spoiler alert: he does in the movie, which was a huge change, because I watched the movie first), but he didn’t because of the heroics of Mr. Dearborn. It was also said that Mike saved the life of Mr. Dearborn because he wanted to go and check out the room and what was going on and Mike said “Don’t go in there, because you will never come back!” and instead of heading towards room 1408, he pulled the fire alarm. The final part of the story says that Mike suffered only 4 fatal second-degree burns to the face, chest and neck, and that they would eventually heal, that he now lives in Long Island, NY and that he has no recollection of what happened over the 75 minutes that he spent in the room (in the movie it was much longer than that). Short Story Elements (PACTS):

·         Plot: The story’s plot is a gripping one; it starts when Mike enters the Dolphin Hotel and starts the rise from there, when he is constantly being suggested by Mr. Olin that he shouldn’t go into the room and definitely shouldn’t stay the night, but being the writer (and human) that he is, he says that he will not be swayed and is handed the keys to the room. The rising action starts as soon as he enters the elevator and continues to rise as he gets to the door of room 1408 and starts tripping. The climax (which can be different for everyone) for me was when he started going really crazy and picked up the phone and it said “We have killed your friends!” that was the most epic point in the story for me. Then you have the falling action when he lights himself and the room on fire and runs out of the room screaming and on fire only to be doused out by Mr. Dearborn. Then the conclusion where the after effects of 1408 are talked about.

·         Atmosphere/Mood: The story’s general mood all throughout is one of sinister and evil nature with the occasional bit of dark humor thrown in to shake things up a bit because it’s Stephen King and that is to be expected. It starts when you hear about the 40 (or so) deaths that have occurred in that one room alone. Mr. Olin is quoted in saying “I know every hotel has a suicide every now and again, but no one had heard of a hotel that has had 12 suicides in the same room!” The dark, evil nature continues into the point when he gets up to the door, inside the room, with the phone and ends when he finally sets himself and the room on fire.

·         Characters: In 1408 there are really only 3 characters (I’m being serious);

                                   I.            Mike Enslin; The protagonist in this story is a horror author and writes books about his experiences in scary places and is hoping for a jackpot with his book called 10 Nights in 10 Haunted Hotel Rooms.

                                 II.            Mr. Olin; He is the Dolphin Hotel’s manager and is the go between for Mike and the room and is rather pessimistic because since he had come on to the job in 1978 no one has ever gone slept in room 1408 and he hoped that Mike wouldn’t go through with it.   AND

                               III.            Mr. Dearborn; He is a Typewriter salesman and is on the fast track to a promotion, he is the character that saves the life of Mike Enslin and also ends the horror that is 1408 by pulling the fire alarm.

·                Theme: The main idea (or theme as some would say) from what I can get is to never back down until you are beaten. Mike doesn’t back down until he realizes that the room has him beat in the end. By the fact of him going crazy and putting the room up in flames.

·                Setting: Finally we have setting and that is the easy one, there are six settings (two major and four minor). These are; Major ones are Mr. Olin’s office and Room 1408 where most of the action happens, along with the most character and story development happens. Then we have the minor ones; Lower foyer, elevator, upper hallway and in front of the door to Room 1408, these places have one or two events that happen and they just advance the story (in a nice way don’t get me wrong) and allow the action to flow.

That is my analysis of the short story 1408 by Stephen King and if I had to give the story a rating out of 10 it would get an 8.5 it was that good, it would also be a great movie to shoe to the class. (I think I have it) I hope you enjoyed my analysis of this story and will read it for yourself (and watch the movie because you need to see the changes made for the screen as opposed to just reading it or just watching it).

Ps. stated in the beginning of the story King states that the story was supposed to just be an example of how manuscripts progress in one of his other books called On Writing, but he says that the story spoke to him (figuratively) and he decided to finish it.


1408 by Stephan King