King, S. (1974). Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. 9780385086950
Stephen King’s Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power relates the story of Carrie White, a telekinetic (the ability to move things remotely with only the mind) teenage girl, who has been pushed too far by her peers and her mother’s cruel treatment of her. The story is related through third person narrative as well as multiple reports and testimonies.
Opening with a news report of how rocks fell from the sky onto the house where three year old Carrie and her beyond fundamentalist mother, Margaret White, lived, the reader sees Carrie’s first telekinetic act. Later on in the novel, the reader is told of how Margaret would punish Carrie by shoving her in a closet for long periods of time and subject her to praying for forgiveness.
Then, the story slips into third person narrative and brings the reader to a teenaged Carrie showering after gym class with the other girls. Carrie has long been made to endure the harassment of the other students for the odd way her fanatical mother has reared her and for being beyond awkward. Ringleader and mean girl Chris Hargensen instigates group terrorization of Carrie in the locker room. Even the nice, pretty Sue Snell gets in on the act. Carrie becomes so upset she breaks the locker room light bulb, showing another instance of her telekinetic ability.
Being caught by their coach, Miss Desjardines, these girls are punished for their mistreatment. Chris balks and is further punished by not being able to attend the Spring Ball/ Prom. Sue feels guilty for her part and convinces her popular boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom. When Carrie accepts Tommy’s invitation, she still wonders what joke her peers will pull on her. Defying her mother, she attends the prom. All is well for Carrie until the inevitable proves to be the last straw and the somewhat dormant power within Carrie takes over the rest of the night and the town.
Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power is a story that produces fear in the reader. The reader asks, “How many people have hurt Carrie?” and “What is Carrie going to do to them?” In this case, Carrie and her telekinetic ability are the monster of the story. She is very human and has been hurt too many times. She has a paranormal ability of telekinesis and she is tired of taking people’s garbage. In essence, she is a woman scorned by her peers. Yet, Carrie is absolutely sympathetic. She has been pushed over the edge not only by her mean peers but by her insane mother. Perhaps this is fantastical for readers who have been at the wrong end of a cruel joke.
Also, with the reports and testimonies and the narrative entwined, the reader knows some sort big action will take place and it will be very bad. Early in the novel, it is mentioned that only a few people survived and that serious investigations were taking place after the climatic event.
The Devil is referred to often by Carrie’s mother, Margaret, as The Black Man. According to Margaret, Carrie’s frightening power comes from The Black Man. While Margaret won the battle with The Black Man, Carrie lost because she was telekinetic and attending the Prom in a dress showing off too much of her body. This novel definitely contains violence, gore, sex, and foul language. Ultimately, it presents the dark underbelly of human behavior. The reader not only sees this in Carrie but all of those around her.
I chose Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power for a number of reasons. Stephen King is referred to as the King of Horror and I thought I should read something by him other than The Green Mile. Additionally, I had tried to read this book as a high school senior but I did not manage to finish it at the time. Another reason was that I remembered seeing the movie and feeling as though Carrie was justified in what she did. I even saw this as a morality play or a cautionary tale (as many horror stories and urban myths are) as to why one should not mistreat peers in high school.
While I enjoyed the narrative parts of the book and I especially appreciated Sue Snell’s first person narration in other sections, I did not like research and investigative reports. In this respect, I prefer the movie. I felt like I was watching a soap opera when it had been interrupted by a breaking news bulletin on one of the soap opera character’s reasons for being an alcoholic. I had to keep myself from skipping these parts in favor of the narrative. In addition, I was distracted by what I found to be King’s sarcastic tone throughout the book. A recurring thought for me was that “While I am reading this book, Stephen King is laughing all the way to the bank.” Nonetheless, I do see that King is a great writer in that he evokes fear and loathing so well. I now question whether Carrie was justified in what she did.
After warning patrons about the research reports (only because they irritated me) and the sex and violence, I would recommend Carrie; a novel of a girl with a frightening power to fans of horror and perhaps fantasy. To me, it seemed like a fantasy for anyone who has been slightly mistreated at school or felt that his/her parents were unfair to him/her. That could be a whole lot of people.
Two Out of Five Pearls