Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 466
King’s first novel was slow in catching on. Once it had done so, however, it grabbed readers and critics alike, and a major motion picture was made from it in 1976. The novel uses the experimental technique of created books, reports, wire service copy, and other material, in some cases supposed to have been published ten years after the events of Carrie. These accounts tend to objectify the seemingly impossible events in the novel.
In choosing paranormal activity as one of the subjects of his novel, King realized that it had to be worked in slowly, yet quickly enough so the reader would have an idea what to expect. The incident of stones raining down on the White house is discussed fairly early, but only later do readers learn that Carrie was angry at her mother and showed her anger in that way. Similarly, when Carrie is at school, her telekinetic responses to her humiliation and, later, her response to a principal who cannot get her name right are minor events, almost accidents. Carrie does not know the extent of her powers. She is able to control them expertly, however, by the time she agrees to go to the prom with Tommy Ross, over her mother’s objections. Carrie forces her mother to sit down while she sews her own dress.
The real force of Carrie’s telekinetic powers comes after the prom, when Carrie’s mind seems to operate independently of her body. She has been drenched in pig’s blood, and Tommy Ross has been killed by one of the buckets hitting his head. Even at that moment, though, Carrie does not strike back, unlike in the film version. She goes home to be comforted by her mother, who is waiting to kill the “witch child.” Carrie is forced to kill her mother in self-defense. With nothing left of her life and nothing to look forward to, she goes back to the school for revenge. Her attack on the town seemingly is a test of the strength and control of her powers. Blinded by her mission, she seems to recognize none of the people stuck at the gas stations that she ignites.
King allows a few students and the gym teacher to escape the conflagration. Sue Snell had not gone to the prom, and she finds Carrie unconscious in the school parking lot, having just destroyed the car of Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan. As readers learn from My Name Is Sue Snell, Sue’s account of that night, she saw into Carrie’s mind and found mostly darkness.
At the book’s conclusion, the White house is destroyed, and the town has become a tourist attraction. King ends on a note of warning that telekinesis is not a toy but something very dark.
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