Being a gothic horror novel, ‘Carrie’ has influenced American culture as it made people see the dark side of the mind of those who get bullied. Though the story is fictional, its elements of realism push the mind of its reader to the extreme. Due to how well the book articulated its themes in the life of its characters, ‘Carrie’ was regarded as an excellent first book for Stephen King.
Ostracization is a primary theme in ‘Carrie’ as it sets the events surrounding Carrie’s life. The novel dived into the life of an ostracized girl, Carrie, who had no friends since she was little. A primary fault for Carrie being a social reject in her school was her mother, who was a religious fanatic. Though Carrie wanted to experience life like an average girl, she could not because her mother destroyed her social life; this led to her getting ostracized by her peers.
Even when Carrie tried her best to fit in, she still got rejected; this only added to her torture. An adverse effect of Carrie’s ostracization was her not even knowing how the female body works. She was so cut off from the real world that she thought she was dying after getting her period for the first time. Stephen King’s choice of fanatical religion as a primary cause for Carrie’s ostracization created a backlash in his book. It led to issues with religious groups who felt he pushed the limits on religion and took it too far.
The Dangers of Fanatical Religious Beliefs
Religion was one of the most important themes in ‘Carrie.’ In the novel, Carrie had a fanatically religious mother who believed that many human parts of human nature were sins. Margaret was born into an average family. However, she showed signs of a mental issue, and those issues got channeled into the form of religious fanatism. Margaret’s fanatism influenced Carrie’s life as it cut her off from the real world.
After she got her first period and asked her mother for answers, Margaret began quoting false scriptures that never existed in the bible; this gave an insight into the fact that Margaret believed that anything related to blood had to be evil and from Satan. Carrie suffered because of her mother’s fanatism and guilt.
The Quest for Revenge
‘Carrie’ made sure to dive deep into the mind of its main character as it showed everyone a girl who wanted to be loved, respected, and feared. One thing Carrie wanted was to have revenge on the people who tormented her. With her arch-nemesis being Chris, Carrie wanted to exert the worst kind of vengeance on her. Carrie’s mind was far from innocent; this made her feel like a terrible sinner as part of her mother’s fanatism was present in her.
In the story, Carrie longed for revenge. After discovering she had the power of telekinesis, Carrie felt overjoyed as she knew she had powers that could protect her from the dangers of her peers. After the incident at prom, Carrie snapped, and that was when all her emotions of hate and revenge came flooding back in.
One overlooked theme in ‘Carrie’ is mental health. In the novel, Carrie and her mother lack a healthy mental life. Carrie got tormented by her mother, who seemed to be far from reality; this forced Carrie into social ostracization and limited mental capability. Margaret was a woman who seemed to believe in only her twisted form of religion, a form of religion that did not exist. Her myopic view on religion got passed on to her daughter, and after Carrie resisted, Margaret used subjugation to break her.
Guilt is a theme that coursed through the minds of some characters in ‘Carrie.’ Sue felt guilty for what she did to Carrie while in the shower room, and her feeling of guilt caused the entire story of Carrie’s demise. Though Sue tried desperately to atone for her sin and make Carrie’s life better, she ended up making her life worse; this made Sue a passive antagonist in Carrie’s life.
Analysis of Key Moments
- Carrie gets ridiculed by girls who throw tampons at her after getting her first period while in the shower room.
- Miss Desjardin, the gym teacher, places the girls on punishment, and after their leader Chris protests, she gets banned from prom.
- Sue, one of the girls who laughed at Carrie, tries to atone by telling her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie to prom.
- Carrie discovers she has telekinetic powers.
- Carrie agrees to go to prom with Tommy.
- Chris and her boyfriend, Billy, decide to exert revenge on Carrie by filling pigs’ blood in two buckets.
- Carrie and Tommy get crowned as prom king and queen.
- Chris pours pig blood on Carrie, and everyone laughs at her.
- Tommy dies after the bucket falls on his head.
- Carrie locks her classmates inside the school and unleashes terror on them by electrocuting and burning them to death.
- Carrie’s rage extends to all of Chamberlain as she delivers a telepathic message to Chamberlain’s citizens and then rains hell on them by destroying buildings and killing people.
- Carrie returns home to confront her mother, who calls her a spawn of Satan. She stabs her in the shoulder with a knife.
- Carrie stops her mother’s heart, killing her.
- Sue tries to meet Carrie by following her telepathic message.
- Carrie finds Chris and Billy on the road and drives their car through a wall, killing them.
- Sue finds Carrie in the parking lot and tries talking to her, but Carrie tries to hurt her, thinking she knew about the plan to humiliate her.
- Carrie forgives Sue.
- Carrie dies.
- A state of emergency is declared in Chamberlain as the death toll reaches four hundred people.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language
‘Carrie’ is an exceptional novel whose story got propelled by Stephen King intricately. With a harsh and vengeful tone, Stephen King sets the reader’s mind to become attuned to love the main character and hate everyone that hurt her. The story gets euphoric when Carrie begins to unleash terror on her classmates, and even though the reader feels bad for the innocent people of Chamberlain, they get forced to side with the main character who suffered the most. When Carrie dies, the tone employed by the novel is one of melancholy, sadness, and the feeling of completion of Carrie’s life.
The epistolary style of writing adopted by Stephen King made ‘Carrie’ eerily realistic as Stephen King used different people’s perspectives to narrate the events of Carrie’s life and death. The book featured both first and third-person perspectives. However, it uses an omniscient narrator for most of its story.
There is a rich use of figurative language in ‘Carrie.’ From describing her mother to describing her power and those she hated, there is a rich use of Simile and Metaphors in the novel. Stephen King also pushes the story’s narrative with the gruesome explanation of terrible events; this employs Hyperbole.
Analysis of Symbols
Telekinesis is an ability that Carrie had from childhood. The ability to move objects and control things represented Carrie’s desire to control her life. Telekinesis became the only thing Carrie felt was hers, and she used it to exert the revenge she wanted.
Blood is a primary part of the tale of Carrie as her life circled it. Blood represented an entity that Carrie knew she was never going to escape. After getting pigs’ blood poured on her, Carrie realized that her life would never change no matter how hard she tried to be happy.
Getting elected as prom queen was the worst event of Carrie’s sad life as she got forced to experience the brutality of how no one cared about her. Becoming prom queen was a realization for Carrie, and even after she felt that being crowned would be one of her best memories, it became the sole memory she dreaded.
What is the primary theme of ‘Carrie?’
The primary theme of ‘Carrie’ is ostracization. Carrie desperately used everything she learned to fit in. However, no matter how hard she tried, she was always rejected by her peers. ‘Carrie’ shows how bullying affects the mind of young adults and shapes them to become enemies of society.
What genre is ‘Carrie?‘
The primary genre of ‘Carrie’ is horror. However, the novel also tended towards the young adult fiction genre as it used elements of fantasy and fiction in character building. ‘Carrie’ brings out the best of horror from a relatable teenage perspective; this made the novel popular among young adults.
Did Sue from ‘Carrie‘ get pregnant?
In the final pages of the novel, it got revealed that Sue was late on her period; this leads to the conclusion that she was indeed pregnant with Tommy’s child.
Is ‘Carrie‘ a feminist novel?
Stephen King, on publication, admitted that ‘Carrie’ was a feminist novel. Even though its ending was tragic, the story followed Carrie as she transformed from a young girl into a woman.