The Stand by Stephen King takes place in a post-apocalyptic world triggered by the
breakdown of society following the release of a biological weapon. The weapon is a virulent
strain of influenza that decimates the population.
The book is organized into three sections. The first takes place at a remote US Army base
where the influenza strain is accidentally released. The disease is known as Project Blue.
Charles Campion escapes with his wife and child. They drive to Arnette, Texas. The army
manages to find him, but he has already been infected. He spreads the disease and perishes
before they can get him into quarantine. In the following pandemic, 99.4% of the population
dies. Society begins to break down, and martial law does little to stem the destruction.
People die from violence as well as Project Blue, known publicly as the Superflu or Captain
In second part of the book three groups all dream of the same woman–108-year-old Abagail
Freemantle. Referred to simply as “Mother Abagail,” these groups travel to find her in a
small village in western Nebraska. She is a spiritual leader to them, and guides them to
travel to Boulder, Colorado, where they try to begin anew. They call their new society, and
the area they have claimed, the Free Zone.
Opposing Mother Abagail is the antagonist Randall Flagg. Flagg possesses supernatural
abilities, and rules with an iron fist, utilizing torture and execution to keep those he governs
under his control. He leads a group of survivors to Las Vegas, where they try and rebuild the
city and a military force. Mother Abagail leaves on a spiritual quest, and the people from the
Free Zone send three spies into Flagg’s territory. Meanwhile, Flagg convinces two
characters–Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross–to set off a bomb in the Free Zone. Though
Mother Abagail returns in time to save most of the people but several die.
In third and final part of the novel tension rises between Las Vegas and the Free Zone,
Mother Abagail sends four of the remaining members of the Free Zone leadership
committee to confront Flagg’s people. Mother Abagail passes away, and Glen Bateman,
Ralph Brentner, Larry Underwood, and Stu Redman leave to make their way to Las Vegas.
Flagg’s army captures them, and Glen is killed when he refuses to join Flagg’s army.
Brentner and Underwood are about to be executed, with all of Flagg’s people in attendance,
but at that moment, a man known as the Trashcan Man arrives with a nuclear warhead.
Flagg accidentally detonates it with a giant glowing hand. Las Vegas is destroyed, and
everyone there is killed–including Brentner and Underwood.
Meanwhile, back in Boulder, Stu’s partner, Frances Goldsmith, is about to give birth. This
will be the first baby born in the Free Zone, and they’re worried that the baby will catch the
Superflu and perish. If that happens, it would signal an end to humanity. Frances gives birth
to a living baby shortly before Stu returns after being rescued by the only Free Zone spy still
living. They name the baby Peter, and he is able to resist the Superflu. Frances and Stu
wonder whether or not history will repeat itself and conclude that they don’t know if
humans are capable of learning from their past mistakes.