Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 516
Supernatural elements aside, Carrie is a story to which anyone who has felt estranged from a group can relate. This seemingly simple story contains several parallel themes that create its underlying complexity and conflict: the difficulty encountered when trying to become a member of a group, the problems associated with standing up to negative peer pressure, and the results of extreme emotional strain for a young person. Carrie is a good, contemporary example of initiation literature, in which the reader witnesses a character’s growth out of the innocence of childhood into the more complex world of adulthood.
Carrie White is representative of the many young people who are denied entry into the peer group socialization required for satisfactory completion of the maturation process. In order to develop into a well-adjusted adult, a young person must be included into the group dynamic. Carrie makes every attempt to fit in, but her appearance and her backwardness resulting from the bizarre actions of her mother will not permit her to fit in. Carrie has been taught that life is sinful, and she approaches each event in her life with great trepidation and tries to make her mother proud of her bravery and strength.
As she begins to mature and develop the human need for peer acceptance, however, Carrie starts to question her mother and her mother’s values. This clash of values places Carrie at odds with her mother, but she is still not accepted by her peers. Even as she actively attempts to free herself from her mother’s emotional apron strings, the majority of her peers continue to distance themselves from her. With each failed attempt at gaining acceptance, Carrie becomes more emotionally fragile.
Another aspect of the peer acceptance dynamic operating in Carrie is demonstrated by Susan Snell’s fall from grace when she decides that perhaps she and her cohorts have gone too far in their mistreatment of Carrie. Even more disturbing to Susan’s friends is the extent to which she is willing to go in putting the situation right: She persuades Tommy Ross to escort Carrie to the prom, where the couple are elected king and queen. Because of her defense of Carrie White and her condemnation of the way in which the other students have treated her, Susan is ostracized, shunned by those who had been her friends.
Because of the excessive amount of emotional and psychological pressure that she is put under by her mother and her peers, Carrie eventually loses control and lashes out with the only weapon that she has at her disposal, her telekinetic powers. Many beginning readers may become caught up in the excitement of Chamberlin’s destruction, but the more experienced reader will recognize that the center of the story is the destruction of Carrie White by her environment. As media coverage has disclosed, young people such as Carrie often react with extreme violence when they reach their emotional breaking point. Carrie is an important work of literature because it attempts to probe the psychology of young people who are on the threshold of adulthood.
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