"Carrie" by Stephen King

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   I think every kid who has ever been bullied daydreams about that one glorious day when they can get their sweet revenge on their attackers – the kind of sweet and complete revenge that would you leave you totally satisfied by the end. 

   This book is for anyone who’s ever dreamed of that. That makes it sound like I’m endorsing violence or something – which I’m not. Much. But I think it’s exactly this kind of vicarious experiences that makes certain parts of certain readers’ lives a little more bearable. Maybe I should just stop – the more I go on, the more I start to sound twisted. Gosh, I hadn’t planned on revealing it all so soon. 

   Carietta White has been viciously bullied by her schoolmates for as long as she can remember. This is only worsened by the fact that she lives with an anti-social mother with rigid, and harsh religious beliefs which she in turn inflicts on Carrie. This constant tug-of-war of emotional abuse that Carrie undergoes leads to a breaking point and it is captivating to watch. Because Carrie has a secret ability – the gift of telekinesis –  something that she has been honing secretly and she’s ready to unleash it on anyone who’s ever mistreated her. And unleash it she does.

   The book is fairly short and King doesn’t actually make you sit through all of Carrie’s past misery – her bleak childhood and current situation are all painted swiftly in a few flashbacks. I’ve only read a couple of other King books so far, and what I’ve come to like is his ability to describe things in such a simple but effective way that everything plays out like a film in my head. 

   It’s partially an epistolary novel. There are newspaper articles and excerpts from scientific journals and autobiographies that are peppered throughout – it’s quite deftly done as they foreshadow the horror to come without actually revealing everything. The result is that you end up breezing through the pages as fast as you possibly can in order to find out what actually did happen. 

   Carrie’s final ‘masterpiece’ and the feelings that fuel it are captured so completely, in my opinion. It was absolutely captivating to read, I tell you. Carrie moves zombie-like through the town, wreaking havoc and bringing complete destruction to the only world she’s ever known and, I have to admit, the whole time I was on her side. 

   In the edition that I read there was an introduction by King. He states that Carrie is actually the imaginary result of two girls whom he knew when he was a young boy. Two girls who were bullied just like Carrie, who could see no escape from their lives, with one of them committing suicide in the end. 

   Knowing stories like that, about children who are powerless to defend themselves makes Carrie so much more real, and her anger very legitimate. By the closing of the book you realize that it was all just leading up to this inevitable conclusion and that it couldn’t have ended any other way. I know it’s supposed to be a horror but I was only left with hollowness and sadness when I finished reading Carrie’s story.  

   I said earlier that this is exactly what people who dream of revenge should read and now that I think about it, it seems even more apt. Carrie does get her revenge in the end, and at first she’s manically happy, but even that manic happiness fades to make room for a realization that she’s got nothing left. She brings complete destruction, and in the end she really has nothing to live for. It seems like the sick, but very real fantasy of every bullied child, but the story actually ends up outlining how hollow such a victory can be. 

   This is one of those books that had me mulling it for days after I had read it. I became obsessed with Carrie and her vendetta. I couldn’t help lamenting her position and her actions.

   Also, honorable mentions go to Carrie’s mother for being utterly terrifying:

   “Mrs White threw her tea in Carrie’s face. 

   It was only  lukewarm, but it could not have shut off Carrie’s words more suddeny if it had been scalding. She sat numbly, the amber fluid dripping from her chin and her cheeks on to her white blouse, spreading. It was sticky and smelled like cinnamon. 

   Mrs White sat trembling, her face frozen except for her nostrils, which continued to flare. Abruptly she threw back her head and screamed at the ceiling. 

   ‘God! God! God!’ Her jaw snapped brutally over each syllable.

  Carrie sat without moving. 

  Mrs White got up and came around the table. Her hands were hooked into shaking claws. Her face bore a half-mad expression of compassion mixed with hate.

   ‘The closet,’ she said. ‘Go to your closet and pray.’ 

  ‘No, Momma.’ 

  ‘Boys. Yes, boys come next. After the blood the boys come. Like sniffing dogs, grinning and slobbering, trying to find out where that smell. That . . . smell!’

   She swung her whole arm into the blow, and the sound of her palm against Carrie’s face
   
     (o god i am so afraid now)

      was like that flat sound of a leather belt being snapped in air. Carrie remained seated, although her upper body swayed. The mark on her cheek was first white, then blood red.

   ‘The mark,’ Mrs White said. Her eyes were large but blank’ she was breathing in rapid, snatching gulps of air.  She seemed to be talking to herself as the claw hand descended on Carrie’s shoulder and pulled her out of the chair.

   ‘I’ve seen it all right. Oh yes. But. I. Never. Did. But for him. He. Took. Me. . . ‘ She paused, her eyes wandering vaguely towards the ceiling. Carried was terrified. Momma seemed in the throes of some great revelation which might destroy her. 

   ‘Momma-‘

  ‘In cars. Oh, I know where they take you in their arms. City limits. Roadhouses. Whiskey. Smelling . . . oh they smell it on you!; Her voice rose to a scream. Tendons stood out on her neck, and her head twisted in a questing upward rotation.” 

   Is she psychotic or what? I think Mrs White ends up being Carrie’s biggest enemy, really. She is reason enough to read the novel, and the main source of horror, for both Carrie and the reader. 

SPOILER –  There was one incongruity which I couldn’t help noticing. Carrie’s father is mentioned as being dead before Carrie is born, but there’s a scene in which Mrs White admits that she tried to kill infant Carrie and that it was Mr White who stopped her. I guess King got himself tangled up a little there, with all the flashbacks and everything. – END SPOILER

   All in all, a very captivating story delivered with a deft writing style. Now I can’t wait to watch the horror unfold on the screen. 

   Sincerely,
     Lady Disdain 
   
   

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6 thoughts on “"Carrie" by Stephen King

  1. Wonderful review, you are right about these kind of vicarious experiences that can resonate with the reader. I haven't read Carrie, yet. I'm a big King fan myself, he has a way of utterly drawing me into his stories and as you say, thinking about them after I've finished reading. I've seen the film version of Carrie, and her mom is terrifying. I can only imagine she's worse in the novel. Interesting observation about Mr White.

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  2. Yes, he makes me forget that I'm reading which is an experience I always crave with books. I can't wait to see it – looks just as chilling as the book. There are releasing a new one next year, apparently, with Chloe Mortez.

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  3. I read On Writing by Stephen King and loved it – he described Carrie quite often amongst all of the books he discussed. I'm not a huge fan of horror but reading your review has made me slightly more inclined to check it out, so thanks for that…

    Also, ugh, that scene with her mom. What a trigger. Well-written and terrifying simultaneously.

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  4. I definitely need to read more of his stuff – especially his earlier works.

    Yeah, apparently “Carrie” was his first published novel which I didn't know going in, so I'm guessing it has an extra specialness for him. He intrigues me!

    Haha, horror isn't for everyone, but if you do check it out, I'm sure it'll pull you in.
    I know – she was the scariest thing in the book.

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