The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
Carrie is Stephen King’s first published novel, for which he received a $5,000 advance. With this book, he showed his interest in telekinesis and children, two motifs that characterize much of his fiction. The protagonist of the book, Carrie White, is almost eighteen and is a senior in high school.
King divides the novel roughly into two halves, “Blood Sport” and “Prom Night.” In the first half, King introduces his method for telling the story, which is to write much of the story as anyone might, but with the inclusion of fictional newspaper stories and books written after the events of his book. This experimental technique adds objectivity to an understanding of what happens and makes clear that telekinesis remains mis-understood and may exist in some form.
In “Blood Sport,” the reader encounters gangly and unpopular Carrie White while she takes a shower at school after gym class. While in the shower, she starts to menstruate for the first time, causing all the other girls to jeer at her and bringing out Carrie’s power. The gym teacher intervenes, wondering how it is that a girl her age had never menstruated before and why her parents had never discussed it with her. When Carrie mentions the incident to her mother, a fundamentalist, she forces Carrie into a closet to pray for her sins.
The reader learns of telekinetic acts, including a rain of stones on the White house, and future reactions from Carrie’s...
(The entire section is 517 words.)
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Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Carrie is a clear, often harsh account of a young girl’s attempt to fit into the social life of her high school. In spite of the constant pranks played upon her by her classmates, Carrie White holds some hope that she will be accepted. Carrie is a retelling of the Cinderella story, allowing readers to witness the transformation of “ugly” Carrie White into the queen of the prom, escorted by the most handsome boy in school. Like Cinderella, Carrie is forced back into her real world at the end of the ball. Unlike Cinderella, however, Carrie is not rescued by the handsome prince at the conclusion of her story, and the tale ends tragically.
The history of Carrie White and the eventual destruction of Chamberlain, Maine, is told through the manuscript invention technique. Stephen King creates newspaper articles, scientific studies, and even a long autobiographical work called My Name Is Susan Snell in order to tell the events presented in Carrie. This technique, one often used by horror writers, lends credibility to the supernatural events that occur in the story.
All that Carrie White wants is to no longer be a social outcast or ugly duckling. Because of her physical appearance and her mother’s strange behavior, however, Carrie has little chance of seeing her dream become a reality. Margaret White is a mentally unstable woman and an extreme fundamentalist who sees sin everywhere. She attempts to keep...
(The entire section is 593 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
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Beahm, George, ed. Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews McMeel, 1998.
Blue, Tyson. The Unseen King, Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1989.
Magistrale, Tony. Hollywood’s Stephen King. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
Magistrale, Tony. Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1988.
Reino, Joseph. Stephen King: The First Decade, “Carrie” to “Pet Sematary.” Boston: Twayne, 1988.
Spignesi, Stephen J. The Essential Stephen King: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels, Short Stories, Movies, and Other Creations of the World’s Most Popular Writer. Franklin Lanes, N.J.: New Page, 2001.
Underwood, Tim, and Chuck Miller, eds. Kingdom of Fear: The World of Stephen King. New York: New American Library, 1986.
Vincent, Ben. The Road to “Dark Tower”: Exploring Stephen King’s Magnum Opus. New York: NAL Trade, 2004.
Wiater, Stanley, Christopher Golden, and Hank Wagner. The Stephen King Universe. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 2001.
Winter, Douglas E. Stephen King. The Art of Darkness. New York: New American Library, 1984.