It’s hard to describe how ballsy it was for King to start his career off with a novel like this. A 200-page story about a high school girl with telekinetic powers… in 1974!? “Carrie” was extremely ambitious at the time.
Legend has it, King’s wife, Tabitha, pulled the manuscript from the trashcan and told him to finish it. I think all constant readers can give her a huge Thank You. Not only for pushing this book into circulation, but sparking King’s career.
“On the subject of Carrie White, we’re all relatively uninformed.”
Readers are thrown right into the midst of action with Carrie White, the tragic heroine of this story, having her first period and the other girls in the gym locker room throwing tampons at her and screaming “plug it up.” This is an insane way to start a book and its even better when readers realize later just how cataclysmic this event truly is.
I said cataclysmic, and that really is the only way to describe the locker room scene. It was the moment Carrie realized she was truly different… and not just different like every high school student, but something special. Carrie began exercising her previously semi-dormant telekinetic abilities. She describes it as working out a muscle in her head.
King does an excellent job of flipping between narrative styles throughout the novel. We get snippets of Carrie’s childhood as well as clips from newspapers, letters, telekinetic textbooks, and others. The text clippings set up the impending destruction later in the novel and keeps readers on the edge of their seats the whole time. With these snippets King gives you a taste of what is to come without truly revealing everything. Its really an amazing experience to read.
The scenes from Carrie’s past are some of my favorites. The random bursts of power associated with high-stress and her insane and overly religious mother, trapping Carrie in the closet beneath the stairs… maybe J.K. Rowling was inspired by this for “Harry Potter?” Speaking of Carries mother… wow what a terrible person. She’s easily one of the most hated characters in the Kingverse, but she is still an amazingly written crazy woman and vitally important to Carrie’s actions.
“What happens if there are others like her? What happens to the world?”
I mentioned impending destruction earlier, well, after the locker room incident, Sue Snell, one of the tampon throwers attempts to absolve herself of her guilt by convincing her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to their senior prom. Carrie obviously accepts and things start to look up for the poor girl.
Chris Hargensen, the “bully” in this story, was the leader of the tampon throwers and she’s a vile person, so put it lightly. After the locker room incident, she is banned from the prom and in an act of revenge, her and her greaser boyfriend Billy, put buckets of pig’s blood on the rafters above the Prom King and Queen thrones. Chris rigs the voting to make it so Tommy and Carrie win.
Once on stage, accepting their crowns, Chris, hiding behind the stage, drops the blood buckets on their heads. All hell breaks loose. Carrie’s slight growth in confidence and finally happy thoughts are shattered, and she allows her now extremely powerful ability to take over.
“If the TK (telekinetic) test shows positive, we have no treatment except a bullet in the head. And how is it possible to isolate a person who will eventually have the power to knock down walls?”
I won’t go into much detail because it’s much better if you read it yourself, but Carrie’s path of destruction to her mother and then to Chris and Billy are very intense and extremely disturbing. She single-handedly destroys almost the entire town and kills hundreds of people.
This all makes Carrie sound like a terrible person and probably makes you wonder how people sympathize, but honestly, she is pretty justified for a lot of the deaths. Did all those people need to die? God, no. Many deserved it though, for the way Carrie was treated.
“People don’t get better, they get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it.”
Before I let you go, “Carrie” has been adapted into two films and one made-for-TV movie. The only movie worth watching is the original 1976 movie starring the amazing Sissy Spacek. The 2002 TV-movie is atrocious, and the 2013 film is just not good.
“Carrie” truly is a very special novel. It is easily a top 20 novel of all time for me, and it’s top 15 King for sure. I could rank it that high for the style and impact alone. I am really glad I picked “Carrie” back up and it will probably turn into a yearly or every-other-year reread. I love King’s tragic debut novel and I highly recommend you check it out whether you’ve read it yet or not. It is more than worth it.