First published back in April of 1974, ‘Carrie’ introduced the world to the now legendary horror author Stephen King. The novel was in fact King’s fourth full length tale to be penned, but the first to see publication. The tale initially began life as a short story for Cavalier magazine, but after scrapping the first three pages, King decided to transform the tale into a full length novel. The book later became one of King’s most well-known and revered novels and initiated the early steps towards the author's global success.
Carrie White is a nervous teenager who lives with her overbearingly Christian mother - Margaret White. Carrie’s upbringing has been a sheltered one, kept ignorant to the facts of life by her fanatical mother. When Carrie experiences her first ever period in the changing rooms at school after her P.E. lesson, she becomes hysterical at the sight of this unknown bleeding. Having been the schools social outcast ever since she first attended Ewen High School, the other pupils’ immediate reaction to the unfolding drama is to torment and humiliate the distraught girl.
Deeply upset by the ordeal, Carrie is sent home to her Mother who punishes the girl for what is a clear sign that she has diverted from the righteous path and fallen into temptation. Scared and bewildered, Carrie holds her trauma deep inside of her. But the pain and suffering that is inside of Carrie is manifesting into telekinetic powers that Carrie is now slowly becoming aware of. Powers that Carrie realises she is beginning to learn to control.
Meanwhile, the school is preparing for the social event of the year - the end of the year ball. Feeling guilty for her part in the recent bullying of Carrie, Sue Snell decides to give her the chance to have the night of her life. A night where Carrie can finally feel special and accepted. But still reeling from being banned from the end of year ball for the part she played in the bullying of Carrie, Chris Hargensen decides its time Carrie got what she deserves. After all, it’s all her fault that this happened…
The novel is interestingly constructed with an epistolary structure whereby the bare storyline is written in a standard third person narration, with various insightful sources of information contributing to the plot such as scraps of newspapers, snippets of psychological essays and law reports are inserted throughout the tale for the reader to draw a fuller picture of the events. These inserts are sprinkled throughout the novel, shifting the reader’s perspective from the main timeline of the tale to that of the passages which reflect upon the events in very detached hindsight. This technique cunningly builds on the mounting suspense of the tale, with a constant glimpse of the inevitable carnage to come.
King’s characterisation is truly superb throughout the tale; skilfully creating the intricate and in-depth personalities for each of the characters involved. King toys with the reader's emotional connections with Carrie, beginning the story with a clear projection of sympathy and rage at the way the poor girl is treated. However, as the tale progresses, King carefully juggles with a wealth of emotions, twisting and turning the reader’s connection with our leading protagonist, until conflicting emotions bombard the reader from all angles. This clever literary device is one of the principal underlying strengths of this magnificent horror story.
The grand finale is just that - grand in all its gory glory! King builds and builds on the suspense of the novel, until finally all hell breaks loose and the storyline bursts with the action filled drama of it all. All the stoppers are well and truly pulled out, with a final sequence of events that throws everything on its head and keeps the reader perched on the very edge of their seat until the ultimate conclusion. The outcome is as monumental as it is horrifying. The reader is left with an array of feelings, from sadness to triumph, shock to relief; but with an overwhelming feeling of a dramatic loss.
This is truly a powerful and masterfully written piece of fiction, which plays on the reader’s heartstrings, to turn and devour these very same emotions in the final stages of the book. Haunting and gripping until the very last page, this is one that will leave you gasping as you finish.
The tale was later adapted for film in 1976 by Brian De Palma. Although the adaptation was successful and stuck closely with the novel’s storyline, the film does fall short on the impact of the underlying tension that runs throughout the tale, as well as considerably taming down the dramatic finale.
The novel runs for a total of 222 pages.
© DLS Reviews