Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 517
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 classmates who survived her wrath. A primary character is Sue Snell, who does not go to the prom. She asks her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie instead. Chris Hargensen has been refused prom tickets for not taking the prescribed punishment for the taunting of Carrie, and she asks several local dropouts to get revenge on Carrie. Ignoring her mother’s requests, Carrie goes to the dance with Tommy Ross, and through a rigged balloting, they are elected king and queen of the prom.
At the moment of crowning, Chris and an accomplice, Billy Nolan, pull strings that drench Carrie in blood and drop a bucket on Tommy Ross’s head. The injury will kill Ross, though no one knows it at the time. Everyone laughs at Carrie, and she leaves. She goes home to her mother, who is waiting to kill her because she is tainted with the curse of blood. In a remarkable telekinetic scene, Carrie kills her mother and goes back downtown to the school, destroying gas stations and causing massive fires on the way. When she reaches the school, she telekinetically bolts the doors, trapping most of her schoolmates inside. They are destroyed through electrocutions and fire. Carrie dies of wounds inflicted by her mother and, King suggests, because she wanted to. He adds a kind of epilogue, “Wreckage,” that collects information on the aftermath: 440 dead and resignations from administrators and teachers at the school.
The last paragraphs come from a letter from a relative of Carrie White. They chillingly indicate that in Tennessee there is a little girl, age two, who can make things move without touching them.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 593
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 Carrie locked away from all contamination; she does not even explain the meaning of Carrie’s menstrual periods to her.
When Carrie experiences her first menstrual period and thinks that she is dying, the girls in her gym class have even more ammunition with which to barrage the already fragile Carrie. Because of the cruel joke that they play on Carrie in gym class, the girls are punished by having their prom privileges taken from them. Believing this punishment overly harsh, they plot the ultimate revenge against Carrie. One girl, Susan Snell, thinks that the gang has gone too far and tries to make things better for Carrie. She persuades her own boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to escort Carrie to the prom.
Carrie’s preparation for and anticipation of the prom are further darkened by her mother, who fears that Carrie will fall into a situation that will lead to her destruction. Mrs. White, trying to convince Carrie that going to the prom is unwise, uses harsh punishment on her daughter. Carrie’s determination is not lessened, however, and her supernatural powers gain strength as a defense mechanism.
Carrie White and Tommy Ross are chosen queen and king of the prom, the first step in Carrie’s final humiliation at the hands of her angry classmates. As they sit in their place of honor, Carrie and Tommy are drenched with blood from a bucket placed above their heads; the bucket falls and strikes Tommy, fatally injuring him. At this point, Carrie is unable to control her emotions and uses her supernatural powers to retaliate against everything that has made her life unbearable: her classmates, her town, and her mother. With her powers, Carrie traps the prom goers in the gym and sets it on fire, walks through town destroying all that reminds her of her torment, and goes home to kill her mother. Carrie eventually dies from a stab wound suffered during this final fight with her mother. The only survivor is Susan Snell, the one girl who tried to be a friend to Carrie; she records many of the events told in the novel.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 181
Beahm, George, ed. The Stephen King Companion. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews McMeel, 1989.
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.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support