Monster Monday: Carrie White

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Our Monday Monster today is Carrie White, the character created by Stephen King. Though not his first book, Carrie was Stephen King’s first published novel; written in an epistolary structure, incorporating newspaper and magazine articles, letters and excerpts regarding Carrie’s destruction.

Carrie White is a high school student who develops a telekinetic ability at a crucial time in her life. After a series of traumatic events, Carrie loses control of her ability and kills hundreds of people. A monstrous act, but it can be argued that circumstances led her down a dark path. A path which turned her into the monster.

That’s not to say I’m excusing her behaviour, but you have to wonder what would have happened if she’d developed her skills earlier, or if she’d had a nurturing upbringing. Of course that wouldn’t have made for the same novel – it certainly wouldn’t have been banned! In some ways, things were stacked against her from the start. Her own creator disliked her, though he came to understand and even pity her.

There is evidence throughout the novel that Carrie is a sweet-natured, somewhat naive girl. She suffers abuse at the hands of her mother, Margaret, a religious zealot, and is locked in a closet for hours. The persecution is relentless. Carrie is forced to pray for such sins as listening to inappropriate music, and made to wear clothes which only accentuate her awkward social position. When her mother learns of her abilities, she tells Carrie she is cursed and being punished by god.

At school she is mocked and bullied mercilessly. A familiar story, but this time with deadly results. One of the bullies (Sue) has what appears to be a crisis of conscience, and persuades her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. What Sue’s true motivations are is open to interpretation, but the olive branch leads to a catastrophic event.

One of Carrie’s classmates (the main instigator of the bullying) decides to play a cruel prank and drops a bucket of pig’s blood on Carrie during the prom. When the bucket falls and knocks out Carrie’s date, things go from bad to worse. Carrie snaps and goes on a murderous rampage, killing her classmates and leaving a path of destruction in her wake. Once home, her mother adds fuel to the fire. She accuses Carrie of being the devil, and stabs Carrie with a butcher’s knife – hitting a major artery. In retaliation she stops her mother’s heart. The story ends in Carrie’s death.

To my knowledge, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but besides the sequel in 1999 and a musical in the eighties, there have been three movie adaptations. A television movie in 2002, the infamous 1976 movie starring Sissy Spacek, and the ‘reimagining’ of the classic tale in 2013.

Do you have a favourite interpretation? What do you think about Carrie White? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. I’m a big Stephen King fan and I love this book and character. You end up with a “Well, you asked for it…..” feeling at the end. It’s almost satisfying, though we don’t want to admit it, thus condoning the violence.

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    1. I think Carrie connected with a lot of people and her character evoked strong emotions – certainly a powerful empathy by the end of the story. I also remember feeling a deep sadness, that she’d been pushed so far down a dark path that she became a monster. Perhaps the very thing she feared, considering the hell she lived through with her mother. I’m totally with you. I’ve always felt a connection to the character and this book 🙂

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  2. Carrie and Firestarter basically influence everything I write. King also wrote a story about a sniper on a college campus in the same period, and of course, there’s It. He returns to this theme about rage, bullying, and, and young protagonists quite a lot.

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    1. He does indeed. I’m a fan, and his style has influenced me in a lot of ways too. It, is one of my favourites (though it’s hard to choose). And Carrie stayed with me a long time after first reading the novel.

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        1. Totally with you there, Rose. In a strange way he helped me through my childhood, because nobody takes you out of your head quite like King! I devoured his books. He has a unique way of looking at the world and seeing right to the heart of the matter.

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  3. That movie (the one with Sissy Spacek) haunted me! But what haunted me more was the way her mom treated her. But there are many things to think about in that tale. It’s funny — a lot of people just think of King’s work as horror, and it can be. But there often is deep psychology and much to think about. Great post!

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    1. Thanks 🙂 And you’re absolutely right. King is the master of building suspense – his understanding of the human psyche is phenomenal. I, too, was haunted by Sissy’s portrayal. She gave the character a whole new dimension!

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