The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 5: The Piper School

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

After Jake's near-death experience at the corner of 5th Ave. and Forty-third St, he continues on to school. Located on Fifty-sixth Street between Park and Madison Avenues in the New York of his where and when, The Piper School (which is Private and Nice, and most of all, White) is in Jake's father's mind "The Best Damned School In The Country For A Boy His Age."

In our own where and when, on the spot where The Piper School would have been located is (at least during the time that Niki and I visited) nothing but a vacant lot (something long-time Dark Tower reader's would know as being quite significant).

It wasn't much to look at, but all the same I took a moment to recall The Piper School song:

"So we hail the halls of Piper,
Hold its banner high;
Hail to thee, our alma mater,
Piper, do or die!"

While I'm not a hundred per cent sure (as there is The Pied Piper of Hamelin to consider, as well), I believe it's possible that the private school Jake attends is named after Watty Piper, the pseudonym used by Platt & Munk publisher Arnold Munk (whose New York office was located at 200 Fifth Ave. up until his death in 1957). This seems especially likely since another children's book, which features an anthropomorphic train, factors into Jake's life in a profound way later on in both The Waste Lands and Wizard & Glass.

After three weeks of suffering, it's here at The Piper School that Jake finally gives up trying to reconcile the two voices tearing his mind apart. Two voices that continue to argue; one that he is dead, the other that he is alive. The breaking point occurs when Jake pauses to take a look at his Final Essay for English Comp before handing it in, only to find what appears to be random magazine clippings and insane gibberish typed out inside.

Jake has no recollection of pasting pictures of the door to Number 10 Downing Street (the address to the British Prime Minister's office) and an Amtrak train to the title page of his Final Essay.

Turning the page over, Jake is dismayed to find writing that may ultimately indict him as having completely lost his mind. Among the random bullet points of seeming insanity are two quotes from famous poems.

The first is from T.S. Eliot, and is taken from The Waste Land.

The next quote, from Robert Browning, is the opening lines to a poem of extreme importance to the Dark Tower series as a whole, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Both quotes are intermingled with references to the Paul Newman/Robert Redford film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Jake reads on with mounting horror, while his English Comp teacher Ms. Avery begins discussing the English Department's Short List of recommended summer reading, beginning with William Golding's Lord of The Flies.

As Ms. Avery describes how a good novel is like a series of riddles within riddles, Jake continues to read his own riddle of a Final Essay, which also contains riddles within it. Silly riddles like "When is door not a door?" and "What has four wheels and flies?"

As Jake tries to take in all of this seemingly latent madness that he's spewed forth onto the pages of his Final Essay, Ms. Avery continues to discuss the summer reading list, describing Joseph Heller's Catch-22 as a comedy of the surreal. Jake can't help but feel he himself is trapped within something just like that, but without the benefit of comedy to ease his bewildered mind.

Turning to the last page of his Final Essay, Jake finds a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa scribbled black with a crayon. Having absolutely no memory of doing any of this, Jake quickly asks permission to "step out for a moment." Making his way to the school's entrance, he immediately flees toward the East River, fearing that he will finally be revealed to have gone completely insane.

Long days, pleasant nights!


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