Carrie is Stephen King’s debut novel that shot him into America’s spotlight in 1974. There’s good reason this book was the one that made him into the horror icon we know him as today. Carrie is the story of a teenage girl pushed to her limits. Carrie White felt loathing at every turn – at home, she was ruled over by her authoritarian mother who forced her religious views onto Carrie from birth; at school, she was the easy target for bullies because of her frumpy appearance and her religion. She lives in the hell her mother so carefully created a portrait of in Carrie’s mind. When one of the bullying stunts goes too far and one of the bullies, Chris, is punished, Chris takes things into her own hands to get her revenge on Carrie. Meanwhile, Carrie is asked to the prom by Tommy Ross, golden boy and boyfriend of Sue Snell, who wants to absolve herself for taking part in Carrie’s mistreatment. Carrie starts to nurse her power of telekinesis into fruition and uses it to overpower her mother who sees her as a demon in her household. Her power gives Carrie the strength and independence to become her own person. At the prom, things go horribly wrong when Chris and her boyfriend dump pig’s blood onto Carrie and Tommy after they are crowned Prom King and Queen. Carrie snaps and, with her unique gift, starts a rampage on the town that hated her and mocked her for years.
This book is the first Stephen King book I’ve read. I know a few diehard fans of King’s work, but I never understood it until I read Carrie. King is a master storyteller who crafted the story with care, not afraid to show the gore but always delicate with the details. My favorite part of Carrie is the formatting – King switched points of view throughout the novel in order to tell the full scope of the action. Each scene was differentiated by white space, and with each change came a different point of view. King used whoever he needed to in order to tell the story from the right angle, oftentimes revisiting the same scene from different perspectives. This technique made the story very compelling to read, as it was like you were reading someone’s investigative notes on the situation from beginning to end. The movement of the “camera eye” plays a crucial role as it lets the reader see the Prom Night incident and everything that led up to Carrie’s breaking point from multiple perspectives. The novel focuses on Carrie’s path to villainy but gives many different characters the chance to say their piece.
While this is a revenge novel, I always felt sympathetic for Carrie. She went through a lot of trauma as she grew up: her mother admitted to going so far as picking up the knife to kill her three times and she was the victim of an onslaught of bullying her entire school career. You can understand how she was pushed to her breaking point after pig blood was dumped on her at her school prom and everyone laughed at her. Carrie is obviously not without her sins (real ones, not ones her mother instilled in her), as she did go on a bloody rampage and destroyed half her town. I think Carrie can be seen not necessarily as an antihero, but as a villain that the audience can sympathize with. We see her origin, the way she was pushed and prodded until she hit her breaking point and goes down the wrong path toward revenge. She’s both the hero and the villain of her own story.
Conclusion: Carrie is the incredibly well-written debut of Stephen King and stands as an iconic horror novel. King carefully crafted the novel’s details and point of view so that the full scope of Carrie’s story leading up to, and including, Prom Night was all laid out on the page for the reader to comprehend.
What did you think of Carrie?