The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

After finishing an archaeological dig in ancient Nineveh, Jesuit priest Lankester Merrin prepares to leave Iraq and return to the United States. A strange premonition, however, fills the elderly priest as he sifts through the recently collected artifacts and discovers an amulet bearing the head of Pazuzu, a demon of sickness and disease. Merrin leaves for home with an icy conviction that he will soon face an ancient enemy.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., film star and recently divorced mother Chris MacNeil has rented a home across the street from Georgetown University, where she is acting in a film. As she lies in bed preparing her lines for the following day, she hears strange rapping sounds from somewhere in the house. Other strange events soon occur, the most serious being her daughter Regan’s change in personality. Having found a Ouija board in the basement of the house, the eleven-year-old girl has contacted a “playmate” called Captain Howdy, who now physically abuses her. Medical tests prove futile in explaining Regan’s emerging violent behavior, and her mother remains unconvinced by psychiatric speculations: She knows that the “thing” in her daughter’s room is not Regan.

Although she professes no religious belief, she solicits the aid of a young Jesuit priest, Damien Karras—who is also a psychiatrist—and begs for an exorcism. Karras, tormented by a loss of faith and guilt resulting from his indigent mother’s recent...

(The entire section is 509 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As Douglas Winter writes, "In retrospect, the novel is noteworthy for what it is not: . . . its literary precedents are those of detective...

(The entire section is 443 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Exorcist, both book and movie, provides a wide range of discussion topics, related to character development, social and religious...

(The entire section is 469 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Doubtless, the extreme popularity of The Exorcist, both book and movie, is due to its connection to many social issues of its time,...

(The entire section is 1157 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like many vastly popular books, The Exorcist drew on different genres and added some new twists, for a result that was exciting but...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Some associations with The Exorcist run through Blatty's work. One of the characters satirically discusses exorcising another in...

(The entire section is 138 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

While The Exorcist was already a best-selling book, the motion picture version made it a cultural phenomenon. The motion picture,...

(The entire section is 709 words.)