Characters that linger: Abigail Freemantle

This post begins a new series I’ll be sharing each week surrounding characters that linger in my thoughts long after I’ve finished the book.

One of my main influences when I began writing was Stephen King.  He’s incredibly talented in the art of character creation, filling his pages with complicated, flawed, unique individuals who burrow into my head and make me believe they’re real.  They’re out there somewhere, living and breathing.  Loving.  Hurting.  Laughing.  I feel like I know them, and I miss them when their story ends.

One of my favorite books is The Stand.

Here’s the blurb to give you the gist:

First came the days of the plague. After the days of the plague came the dreams. Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil.
His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms…


This is a classic story of good verses evil, a post-apocalyptic setting after the human race all but destroys itself.

Although at least four of my all-time favorite characters live inside these pages, there’s one that stands out above the rest for me:  Mother Abigail.

Here’s what I love about her.  “I’m a hundred and six years old, and I still make my own bread.”  She has so many traits to adore.  First is that simple pleasures are all she needs to be happy.  Her own home cooking.  Sitting on her porch strumming her guitar.  Looking out over the “home place” she saved when her brothers lost the rest of her father’s lands.  She’s thankful for regular bowels.  How can you not love her?

Second, is that she’s tenacious.  She’s God’s proverbial magnet, drawing the few remaining “good”  people left on the earth to her via their dreams, all while the Dark Man tries to frighten her away.  She doesn’t view her old age as something that can stop her.  Only a loss of faith can do that.  Knowing the first of God’s chosen are about to arrive in Hemmingford Home, and being the woman she is, Mother Abigail braves the Dark Man’s creatures and treks for miles to fetch some chickens so she can provide the newcomers a hot meal.  I mean, who would do that for their own family, let alone a bunch of strangers?

“Chicken’s a bit tough, but it’s tougher where there’s none.”  It’s lines like this that add such depths to King’s characters.  One bit of dialogue tells me who she is, that although she recognizes the hardships of life, she’s thankful for the blessings she still has and doesn’t dwell on the ones she doesn’t.

So we have the brave old woman who stands up to the Dark Man and his followers.  It’s easy to believe she’s invincible, that nothing really stirs her emotions to the point it will break her.  Until we see her weakness:  the home place.  As Mother Abigail and the chosen ones prepare to move on to meet the rest of the survivors, we see her lose composure for the first time as she’s forced to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known.  It’s fleeting, but it’s powerful.  That scene made her real to me.  Under all of her grit, an emotional woman exists, one who feels deeply even though she does a good job of hiding it most of the time.  It isn’t enough to make her abandon the important task she’s been given, but enough to allow us a glimpse of her soul.

By offering this one character to tie the rest of the cast together, the captivating way she interacts with and encourages them, Stephen King hooked me on this book.  The movie’s great, too.  I’ve seen it about ::cough:: twenty times ::cough::.  🙂

What traits do you think make the most memorable characters?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “Characters that linger: Abigail Freemantle

  1. This would be a really hard one for me to answer, as it’s more the plotlines and certain scenes, or maybe a line spoken by a character that stays with me–and then my mind ends up twisting and turning it, and moulding it into a bigger picture until it in no way resembles the snippet that my mind refused to let go of. I guess I’m a bit of a weird one like that.
    I recall reading a book when I was in senior school. I can’t recall the name of the book, and I can’t remember the name of the MC, but I do have a vivid recollection of how profoundly this young musician affected me because he was the first fictional character I totally fell for, hook line & sinker.

    As for The Stand: I’ve never read it. I did try once but couldn’t get into it–but then I’ve found that with every one of King’s novels I’ve attempted to read. I just don’t seem to gel with his style.

  2. I know King isn’t for everyone, and if it wasn’t for his gift with characters, I probably wouldn’t read either. Now I read his work for learning purposes to help me with my own craft. 🙂

  3. The Stand is my favorite book of all time, though I don’t think of myself as much of a horror reader. Mother Abigail is such a great character, I agree. Stephen King is such a great writer because when I do read something of his, I immediately identify with all the characters, and I find that even though I don’t like what they are doing sometimes, I understand what motivates them to do it.

  4. One of my favourite characters is Frank McCourt from Angela’s Ashes. The plucky wee lad stole my heart along with his younger brother Malachy. That children can grow up in such poverty and still retain a sense of humour and vigour for live was a true revelation.

    I read a lot of King when I was in my early twenties and loved every novel he produced. I haven’t read anything of his recently. Maybe I should.

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