Carrie (Stephen King 1974)


Carrie is Stephen King’s first novel, and also one of his most famous. This in part due to the numerous adaptations over the years, of which the most notable is the 1976 film adaptation. The novel follows the titular Carrie White, a 16 year old girl who lives with an abusive mother. She develops telekinesis, all while dealing with the bullying from her classmates. After Sue Snell, one of the bullies, starts to feel remorse and convinces her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom. There Chris Hargensen, the main bully, rigs the vote for her to become prom queen only to drop a bucket of pig’s blood on her, accidentally killing Tommy in the process. Carrie snaps and goes on a rampage, a large number of people.

Carrie is an example of what is known as an epistolary novel, a novel told through a series of documents such as letters, newspapers etc. In the case of Carrie the novel is told through newspapers, interviews and transcripts amongst other things. I am a huge fan of epistolary style storytelling, so I was very pleased to see it in Carrie. The fragments of sources work well since it makes the work feel real, almost as if it’s something which actually happened. This helps keep the supernatural events in a realistic lights. When the rampage at the end happens it still feels real, which is a huge testament to Stephen King’s skill as a writer.

In terms of characters, I feel as though the characters are a bit stereotypical and in some cases act as extreme examples of said stereotypes. Chris is an extreme example of your stereotypical school bully. She is extremely mean and practically exists for the purpose of causing suffering to others. As a consequence she is a very bland example of the villain.. Likewise I can’t Carrie’s mother Margaret White seriously at all for similar reasons. She is an extreme fundamentalist Christian who is so extremely insane that it overshadows the rest of her character. Sue Snell, is a bit generic, as is her boyfriend Tommy Ross. Carrie however is well developed and doesn’t embody any real stereotypes. This is good considering the book revolves around her and because the story revolves around examining her reasons for going on her rampage at the prom.

There was also also with story logic that I picked out, or rather something that didn’t add up in my head. Upon first reading the book I found myself asking one specific question, why the hell did Sue Snell decide to make her boyfriend go out with Carrie to the prom. Yeah, she felt guilty and Carrie totally had a crush on him but I don’t understand why she would do that when she is dating the guy. Surely it would hurt Carrie more if she learned Tommy was actually dating Sue? Upon reading it again I still found myself asking the same question, as to me Sue’s given reason just wasn’t good enough. There was no way she would actually be doing Carrie any long term good by making Tommy go to the prom with her.

The strangest thing about Carrie is that despite the over the top cruelty and hardship possibly going above and beyond that an ordinary person might experience in real life, the work still feels realistic and relevant even today.  Even though a lot of the characters can be excessively cruel or do things that don’t quite make sense, not a lot of this matters since the story revolves around Carrie and she is developed well enough. As a whole, Carrie has proven itself as a work that transcends the decades. This is one of the strongest first novels I have ever read beyond a shadow of a doubt.

SCORE: 4/5



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