Carrie (novel)

Carrie (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Carrie
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover.
author = Stephen King
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Horror, epistolary novel
publisher = Doubleday
release_date = April 5, 1974
media_type = Print (Hardcover and paperback)
pages = 199 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-385-08695-4
preceded_by =
followed_by = ’Salem’s Lot

"Carrie" is American author Stephen King's first published novel, released in 1974. It revolves around the titular character Carrie, a shy high-school girl, who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her. King has commented that he finds the work to be "raw" and "with a surprising power to hurt and horrify". It is one of the most frequently banned books in United States schools [cite web |url= |title=The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 | |publisher=American Library Association |accessdate=2008-07-22 ] and the film version was banned in Finland. Much of the book is written in an epistolary structure, through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, and excerpts from books.

Several adaptations of "Carrie" have been released, including a 1976 feature film, a 1988 Broadway musical, a 1999 , and a 2002 television movie.

Publication history

"Carrie" was actually King's fourth novel ["I had written three other novels before Carrie..." King, Stephen, (2000) On Writing. Scribner Books. p. 77] but the first to be published. It was written while he was living in a trailer in Hermon, Maine, on a portable typewriter that belonged to his wife Tabitha. It began as a short story intended for "Cavalier" magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage. ["I did three single-spaced pages of a first draft, then crumpled them up in disgust and threw them away." King, Stephen. (2000) On Writing. Scribner Books. p. 76] Of King's published short stories at the time, he recalled,

"Some woman said, 'You write all those macho things, but you can't write about women.' I said, 'I'm not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.' So I got an idea for a story about this incident in a girls' shower room, and the girl would be telekinetic. The other girls would pelt her with sanitary napkins when she got her period. The period would release the right hormones and she would rain down destruction on them... I did the shower scene, but I hated it and threw it away." [ "Stephen King: 'I Like to go for the Jugular'" Grant, Charles L. "Twilight Zone Magazine" vol 1 no 1 April 1981]

His wife fished the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to finish the story; he followed her advice and expanded it into a novel. [Introduction to "Carrie" (Collector's Edition) King, Tabitha Plume 1991] King said, "I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas... my considered opinion was that I had written the world's all-time loser."citation |last=King |first=Stephen |authorlink=Stephen King |year=1980 |month=February |title=On Becoming a Brand Name |journal=Adelina Magazine |pages=44 ] The book was dedicated to his wife, Tabitha: "This is for Tabby, who got me into it – and then bailed me out of it."

According to the audio commentary for the film version of "Carrie", Carrie is based on a composite of two girls who were bullied and abused at school; one who went to school with him, and one who was his student. The young girl King went to school with lived down the street from him in Durham, Maine. In an interview with Charles L. Grant for ""Twilight Zone Magazine"" in April 1981, King recalled that,

"She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn't a religious nut like the mother in "Carrie"; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests ... the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she'd bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she'd changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had every seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made "worse" fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold."

King says he wondered what it would have been like to have been reared by such a mother, and based the story itself on a reversal of the Cinderella fairy tale. He also told biographer George Beahm that the girl later "married a man who was as odd as her, had kids, and eventually killed herself."cite book |title=Stephen King From A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work |last= Beahm |first=George |date=1998-09-01 |publisher= Andrews McMeel Pub. |location=Kansas City |isbn= 0836269144 ]

Carrie’s telekinesis resulted from King’s earlier reading about this topic. King also did a short stint as a high school English teacher at Hampden Academy, a job he eventually quit after receiving the payment for the paperback publishing sale of "Carrie".

At the time of publication, King was working as a teacher at Hampden Academy and barely making ends meet. To cut down on expenses, King had the phone company remove the telephone from his house. As a result, when King received word that the book was chosen for publication, his phone was out of service. Doubleday editor, William Thompson (who would eventually become King's close friend), sent a telegram to King's house which read: "CARRIE OFFICIALLY A DOUBLEDAY BOOK. $2,500 ADVANCE AGAINST ROYALTIES. CONGRATS, KID - THE FUTURE LIES AHEAD, BILL." It has been presumed that King drew inspiration from his time as a teacher. New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which, according to King's contract with Doubleday, was split between them. ["The Stephen King Companion" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel press 1989 pp. 171-173] King eventually quit the teaching job after receiving the publishing payment. The hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies, the paperback, released a year later, sold over 1 million copies in its first year.

King recalls, "Carrie" was written after "Rosemary's Baby," but before "The Exorcist", which really opened up the field. I didn't expect much of Carrie. I thought who'd want to read a book about a poor little girl with menstrual problems? I couldn't believe I was writing it." ["From Textbook to Checkbook" Wells, Robert W. Milwaukee Journal Sep 15, 1980] In a talk at the University of Maine at Orono, King said of "Carrie", "I'm not saying that "Carrie" is shit and I'm not repudiating it. She made me a star, but it was a young book by a young writer. In retrospect it reminds me of a cookie baked by a first grader—tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom."

Plot summary

The book uses fictional documents, such as book excerpts, news reports, and hearing transcripts, to frame the story of Carietta "Carrie" White, a 16-year-old girl from Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie's mother, Margaret, a fanatical Christian fundamentalist, has a vindictive and unstable personality, and over the years has ruled Carrie with an iron rod and repeated threats of damnation, as well as occasional physical abuse. Carrie does not fare much better at her school where her frumpy looks, lack of friends and lack of popularity with boys make her the butt of ridicule, embarrassment, and public humiliation by her fellow teenage peers.

At the beginning of the novel, Carrie has her first period while showering after a physical education class. Carrie, terrified, has no understanding of menstruation as her mother never told her about it. Her classmates use the event as an opportunity to humiliate her. Led by Chris Hargensen, they throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her. When gym teacher Miss Desjardin happens upon the scene, she at first berates Carrie for her stupidity but is horrified when she realizes that Carrie has no idea what has happened to her. She helps her clean up and tries to explain. Carrie's mother shows no sympathy for her first encounter with what she calls "the woman's curse."

Miss Desjardin, still incensed over the locker room incident and ashamed at her initial disgust with Carrie, wants all the girls who made fun of Carrie suspended and banned from attending the school prom, but the principal instead punishes the girls by giving them several detentions. When Chris, after an altercation with Miss Desjardin, refuses to appear for the detention, she is suspended and barred from the prom and tries to get her father, a prominent local lawyer, to intimidate the school principal into reinstating her privileges.

Carrie gradually discovers her telekinetic powers, which she has apparently possessed since birth, but had not had conscious control over after her infancy, though she remembers several incidents from throughout her life. Carrie practices her powers in secret, developing strength, and also finds that she is somewhat telepathic.

Meanwhile, Sue Snell, another popular girl who had earlier laughed at Carrie, begins to feel remorseful about her participation in the locker room antics. With the prom fast approaching, Sue convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, one of the most popular boys in the school, to ask Carrie to the prom. Carrie is suspicious but accepts, and makes a red velvet gown. Carrie's mother won't hear of her daughter doing anything so "carnal" as attending a school dance, as she believes that sex in any form is sinful, even after marriage. She also reveals that she knows about Carrie's telekinetic powers, which she considers a form of witchcraftndashit seems that they appear every third generation in her family. Carrie, however, is tired of hearing that everything is a sin. She wants a normal life and sees the prom as a new beginning.

The prom initially goes well for Carrie. Tommy's friends are welcoming and Tommy finds himself attracted towards her. Chris Hargenson, still furious, devises her plan with her boyfriend Billy to humiliate Carrie —they fill a bucket full of pig's blood and suspend it over the stage. They rig Carrie's election as prom queen and Billy dumps the pigs blood on Carrie's head. Tommy is knocked unconscious by the bucket and dies within minutes, and Carrie is soaked in pigs blood. Nearly everyone in attendance, even the teachers, begin pointing, and laughing at Carrie, and taking pictures for the yearbook, and school paper. Carrie is finally pushed over the edge. She leaves the building in agonized humiliation, remembers her telekinesis, and decides to use it for vengeance. Initially planning only to lock all the doors and turn on the sprinklers, Carrie remembers the electrical equipment set up for the sound system—but turns the sprinklers on anyway. Watching through the windows, she witnesses the deaths of two students and a school official by electrocution, and decides to kill everyone, causing a massive fire that destroys the school and traps almost everyone inside.

Walking home, she burns almost all of downtown Chamberlain by breaking power lines and exploding gas stations. A side-effect of her telekinesis is "broadcast" telepathy, which causes the city's inhabitants to become aware that the carnage was caused by Carrie White, even if they do not know who she is. Carrie returns home to confront her mother, who believes Carrie has been possessed by Satan and that the only way to save her is to kill her. Revealing that Carrie's conception was a result of what may have been marital rape (although she admits she enjoyed the sex), she stabs Carrie in the shoulder with a kitchen knife, but Carrie kills her mother by stopping her heart.

Mortally wounded but still alive, Carrie makes her way to a roadhouse where she sees Chris and Billy leaving. After Billy attempts to run her over, she telekinetically takes control of the vehicle and wrecks the car, killing them both. Sue Snell, who has been following Carrie's telepathic "broadcast," finds Carrie collapsed in the parking lot. The two have a brief telepathic conversation. Though Carrie had believed that Sue and Tommy had set her up for the prank, Carrie realizes that Sue is innocent and has never really felt a real urge to humiliate her. Carrie then forgives Sue, and dies.


*The first adaptation of "Carrie" was a feature film of the same name, released in 1976. Screenwritten by Lawrence D. Cohen and directed by Brian De Palma, it starred Sissy Spacek as Carrie, along with Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, John Travolta and William Katt. It is regarded as a watershed film of the horror genre and one of the best film adaptations of a Stephen King work. [cite web |url= |title= DVD Review: "Carrie" |accessdate=2008-07-22 | |publisher=Blogcritics Magazine |date=2006-05-01]

*In 1988, a Broadway musical of the same name starring Betty Buckley, Linzi Hateley, and Darlene Love closed after only five performances and 16 previews, leading to it being viewed as one of the biggest Broadway flops of all time.

*A sequel titled "" was released in 1999, based on the premise was that Carrie's father had remarried and had another daughter with telekinetic powers. Sue Snell, the only survivor of the prom, also appears, now a school counselor.

*In 2002, a made-for-television movie was released, starring Angela Bettis, Emilie de Ravin and Patricia Clarkson.

*Playwright Erik Jackson acquired Stephen King's consent to stage a non-musical spoof, which premiered off-Broadway in 2006 with female impersonator Keith Levy (also known as Sherry Vine) in the lead role. [cite web |last=Wood |first=Rocky |authorlink=Rocky Wood |title=Eric Jackson Interview | | date= | url= |accessdate=2008-02-27]


External links

* [ Official website for "Carrie" the Musical]
* [ A book review of "Carrie"]
* [ Identification characteristics] for first edition copies of "Carrie"

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