Carrie (novel)

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First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Country USA
Language English
Genre Horror
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
April 5, 1974
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 199
ISBN 978-0-385-08695-0

Carrie is an American epistolary novel and author Stephen King's first published novel, released on April 5, 1974, with an approximate first print-run of 30,000 copies.[1] Set in the then-future year of 1979, it revolves around the eponymous Carrietta N. "Carrie" White, a misfit and bullied high school girl who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who torment her — in the process, causing one of the worst local disasters in American history. King has commented that he finds the work to be "raw" and "with a surprising power to hurt and horrify." It is one of the most frequently banned books in United States schools.[2]

Much of the book is written in an epistolary structure, using newspaper clippings, one of which specifically discusses a "rain of stones" allegedly caused by an adolescent Carrie triggered by her telekenetic abilities. The novel also provides magazine articles and personal letters hinting evidence and possible proof of telekinesis as well as several excerpts from the people who were involved or associated with Carrietta White directly or indirectly. These interviews piece together the story of Carrie and tells how Carrie used her wild talent to destroy the entire fictional town of Chamberlain Maine, one night while exacting revenge on her cruel classmates after she was unwillingly made the principal subject of a so called "prank" at her senior prom.

Several adaptations of Carrie have been released, including a 1976 feature film, a 1988 Broadway musical, a 1999 feature film sequel, a 2002 television movie, and a 2013 feature film remake.

The book is dedicated to King's wife Tabitha: "This is for Tabby, who got me into it – and then bailed me out of it."

King's 1979 novel The Dead Zone mentions the book in connection with a fire at another high school prom.


Lead-up to the Prom[edit]

Part I – Blood Sport

For all her life, Carrietta "Carrie" N. White has been the victim of abuse from her mentally unstable fundamentalist Christian mother Margaret White, who broke away from mainstream Christianity and founded her own religion (of which she and Carrie are the only adherents). Margaret's beliefs are so strict that Carrie is denied the luxury of sleeping with a pillow at night or taking showers as Margaret believes showers are ungodly; Carrie is only allowed to take baths. Margaret has also isolated Carrie, cutting her off from the outside world and sabotaging Carrie's chances of having any type of social life or normal future. To discipline her Margaret frequently locks Carrie in a small closet for hours on end where she is ordered to pray for such transgressions including filling her mind with sinful things like fashion, celebrities, going to summer camp (where she is bullied so severely she is forced to leave early) and listening to rock music. To keep her repressed, Carrie is forced to wear unbecoming and outdated clothes and forbidden to wear red; as Margaret believes red is the "Devil's color". Carrie also has a severe acne problem, which her mother tells her is a punishment from God. Carrie doesn't fare much better at school; she has been the school's scapegoat and outcast since first grade and because of her mother's ways, Carrie is an easy target for the type of cruelty that adolescent individuals can inflict upon each other. At the beginning of the novel, Carrie, a sixteen year old senior at Thomas Ewen Consolidated High School in fictional Chamberlain Maine, has her delayed first period while showering in the locker room after gym class. Carrie is terrified, having no prior knowledge of menstruation, she believes she is internally bleeding to death. Instead of sympathizing with the frightened Carrie, her female classmates taunt and mock her mercilessly, as they throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her. Carrie is aided by the school's physical education teacher named Rita Desjardin, who realizes Carrie is oblivious to the concept of menstruation. To calm the frantic girl down, Miss Desjardin slaps Carrie across the face; at the same time a light bulb in the shower explodes and a rack of baseball bats falls over, spilling the bats onto the floor. When Margaret finds out about the incident, she severely scolds Carrie and forcefully beats her with a Bible, claiming that she has committed the original sin of becoming a woman and has been punished for it with the "curse of blood". Afterwards Margaret locks Carrie in the closet to "pray for forgiveness."

The next day, Miss Desjardin orders the girls who tormented Carrie to serve a boot camp style detention in the gym for one week. The ringleader, Chris Hargensen (the most beautiful and popular girl in school) stubbornly refuses to attend and is suspended for three days. She is also banned from Ewen High's prom. Another girl, Sue Snell, feels remorse for her prior actions and offers to become Carrie's friend. Meanwhile, Carrie gradually discovers that she might possess telekinetic energy, but chooses to keep it a secret. With prom fast approaching, Sue convinces her boyfriend Tommy Ross (a popular and handsome jock) to ask Carrie to prom, as a chance for her to finally fit in. Carrie is hesitant at first but happily accepts Tommy's invitation. When Carrie informs Margaret about her prom offer Margaret strictly forbids Carrie from attending, but Carrie uses her telekenetic abilities to help stand up for herself and tells Margaret that she is going to the prom, with or without her permission.

After being banned from prom, Chris's hatred for Carrie intensifies. When she learns that Carrie will be attending and not her, she and her boyfriend, Billy Nolan (the leader of a dangerous gang in Chamberlain) hatch a plan to humiliate Carrie in front of the entire student body. Chris has Billy viciously slaughter two pigs at a nearby farm and drain their blood into two buckets. Billy then rigs the buckets over the school's stage on a rafter beam safely hidden out of sight. On prom night, Carrie is harassed by Margaret who begs for her not to leave the house. Margaret even begins hurting herself, trying to manipulate Carrie to stay home, burn the dress she has made (a homemade gown of crushed red velvet) and pray with her. Carrie regects her mother's pleas and arrives at the prom escorted by Tommy. She is nervous at first, but everyone begins treating her equally and with respect. Soon, Carrie begins enjoying herself and Tommy becomes romantically attracted to her in secret. Meanwhile, Sue is at home, continually worrying about what's happening at the prom, and fretting about the fact that her own period is late which leads her to believe she might be pregnant with Tommy's baby.

The Catastrophe[edit]

Part II – Prom Night

May 27, 1979: Chris and Billy arrive unseen at the school during the prom. Billy gives Chris strict instructions, telling her that they need to flee immediately and lay low once she pulls the string to dump the blood; warning her that they are committing a serious assault that could put them both in prison if they are caught. Chris worries that Carrie's votes might not be enough, but with help from one of Chris's friends, the contest is rigged with phony ballots, increasing the chances of winning. Tommy and Carrie are announced King and Queen and are ushered to their thrones on stage. Chris and Billy lurk outside, once they hear the school song play this gives Chris the cue to pull the string, releasing the two buckets. As planned, the buckets tip over and Carrie and Tommy are unexpectedly drenched in rotting pig blood; seconds later one of the buckets falls on Tommy's head, knocking him out cold. The prank is followed by a rain of cruel laughter, including the teachers and chaperones. Carrie, overcome with humiliation, attempts to run out of the gym (unaware that Tommy had nothing to do with the prank) but before she makes it to the exit she is deliberately tripped by someone in the crowd and falls, causing the laughter to grow even louder. Outside, weeping on the front lawn of the campus, Carrie's mind finally snaps, and she decides then and there to seek her revenge and make her tormentors pay for what they have done. Carrie telekinetically seals the gymnasium doors (severing someones finger in the process) and while peering into the windows from the outside she activates the sprinkler system. Carrie uses her powers to break the backstage power cables and allows them to crackle on the wet stage, and two students on the platform are immediately electrocuted to death. Carrie then telekinetically uses the cables like slithering snakes, and throws them on the wet ground below, killing many of the prom goers as volts of electricity painfully run through their bodies. The sparks from the cables cause the prom's mural to catch fire and the flames quickly spread onto the entire gym. Carrie leaves everyone trapped inside (including the unconscious Tommy) to surely die. Before moving on she opens all the fire hydrants near the campus to prevent the fire from being put out. Only a handful of people escape, including Ms. Desjardin, Tina Blake, and Norma Watson, who chronicles her experience at the prom in a news article. Carrie walks home through the town, leaving behind a path of death and destruction in her wake: opening gas pumps at service stations, letting gasoline spill, flooding the streets; destroying gas mains to create explosions, igniting several wildfires that burn down the local shops and businesses; pulling down several power lines that burn and electrocute hundreds of innocent bystanders in the gas soaked streets. During all of this chaos, Carrie is said to be completely catatonic and even smiling. Also, Carrie let loose a side effect of her abilities: "broadcast telepathy," which means that anyone within a certain radius of the disaster area suddenly found themselves learning about the destruction at Ewen High and downtown Chamberlain. They also learned from this telepathy that it was "Carrietta White" causing the destruction, even if they did not know who Carrie was. Meanwhile Sue, hearing the town whistle go off from her home, rushes to Ewen High and watches it explode, destroying a portion of the town. By this point, the majority of Chamberlain is ablaze.

After stopping at a nearby Cathedral to pray and confess her sins, Carrie comes home still covered in blood (much of it being her own now) and confronts a crazed Margaret, who had been waiting for her return. Margaret claims that she had conceived Carrie due to marital rape after her late-husband, Ralph White, came home drunk from the local roadhouse.

When Margaret stabs Carrie in the shoulder with a butcher knife to "save" her soul (believing she is possessed by Satan himself) she hits an artery. This causes Carrie to bleed heavily. In return, Carrie kills her mother by telekinetically stopping her heart, giving Margaret a heart attack. Mortally wounded and becoming weaker, Carrie wanders aimlessly with Margaret's knife still hitched deep in her shoulder. She makes her way to the local roadhouse where her father once drank at. Chris and Billy, who happen to be making love inside the establishment, receive word from Billy's friend Jackie Talbot of what has happened to Chamberlain. Billy, who has become somewhat disenchanted with Chris on account of the prank and is now revolted by her, makes plans to flee to California, telling Chris he might take her with him but secretly intending to abandon her instead. They exit the roadhouse just as Carrie arrives, and Billy attempts to run her down with his car. However, Carrie telekinetically wrestles the oncoming vehicle and sends the car crashing into the roadhouse, instantly killing both Chris and Billy and destroying the building. Carrie then collapses in the parking lot, exhausted from blood loss.

Not much later Sue arrives on the scene and finds Carrie in the burning lot. Carrie, weak and dying from her wounds, has a conversation telepathically with Sue, blaming her for the prank. After scanning Sue's mind, she realizes that Sue had nothing to do with it and set her up with Tommy to make amends for the locker room incident. Carrie cries out for her mother and dies in Sue's arms. Sue also experiences Carrie's death personally due to their brief psychic connection minutes prior. As Sue walks away to get help, she feels blood running down her thighs and screams in anguish. Whether Sue's vaginal bleeding was a side effect of telepathically speaking with Carrie or just a coincidence is unknown.

The Aftermath[edit]

Part III – Wreckage

Four months later, Chamberlain has become a virtual ghost town. By then, 440 people (including 67 of Ewen High's seniors) are confirmed dead, with 18 more still missing. The "Black Prom" becomes one of the worst disasters in American history and is considered a national tragedy nearly worse than the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After interviewing the survivors of the prom, scientists begin to take telekinesis seriously, and schools across the country start to crack down more on bullying and empathize to students on the wrongness of cruelty towards other classmates. Before Carrie's burial, an autopsy is performed that strangely reveals unusual formations in the cerebrum and cerebellum of Carrie's brain.

Miss Desjardin and Principal Henry Grayle (who were both one of the few lucky ones who survived) are consumed with regret, sadness and guilt for not being better authority figures and are ashamed of themselves and their roles in the disaster. With Chamberlain forever tainted, so are their careers as both resign their positions for good and retire from the teaching business (Desjardin states she'd rather commit suicide than teach again). In 1986, seven years after the tragedy, Sue writes a memoir of her traumatic experience and involvement with Carrie titled My Name Is Susan Snell, which warns the reader not to forget about the events that took place in Chamberlain or else something like it may happen again.

The book closes with a letter written by a hillbilly woman in Tennessee whose baby daughter is developing incredibly strong telekinetic abilities as well. However, unlike Margaret White, she expresses fascination with her daughter's natural abilities, and predicts that her daughter will become a "real world-beater someday".

Publication history[edit]

Carrie was actually King's fourth novel[3] but the first to be published. It was written while he was living in a trailer, on a portable typewriter (on which he also wrote Misery) that belonged to his wife Tabitha. It began as a short story intended for Cavalier magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage.[4] Of King's published short stories at the time, he recalled,

Some woman said, 'You write all those macho things, but you can't write about women.' I said, 'I'm not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.' So I got an idea for a story about this incident in a girls' shower room, and the girl would be telekinetic. The other girls would pelt her with sanitary napkins when she got her period. The period would release the right hormones and she would rain down destruction on them… I did the shower scene, but I hated it and threw it away.[5]

His wife fished the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to finish the story; he followed her advice and expanded it into a novel.[6] King said, "I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas… my considered opinion was that I had written the world's all-time loser."[7] Carrie is based on a composite of two girls Stephen King observed while attending grade school and high school.[8]

She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn't a religious nut like the mother in Carrie; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests … the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she'd bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she'd changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had ever seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made worse fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold.

King says he wondered what it would have been like to have been raised by such a mother, and based the story itself on a reversal of the Cinderella fairy tale. He also told biographer George Beahm that the girl later "married a man who was as odd as her, had kids, and eventually killed herself."[9]

Carrie’s telekinesis resulted from King’s earlier reading about this topic. At the time of publication, King was working as a high school English teacher at Hampden Academy and barely making ends meet. To cut down on expenses, King had the phone company remove the telephone from his house. As a result, when King received word that the book was chosen for publication, his phone was out of service. Doubleday editor William Thompson (who would eventually become King's close friend), sent a telegram to King's house which read: "Carrie Officially A Doubleday Book. $2,500 Advance Against Royalties. Congrats, Kid - The Future Lies Ahead, Bill."[9] It has been presumed that King drew inspiration from his time as a teacher.[9] New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which, according to King's contract with Doubleday, was split between them.[10] King eventually quit the teaching job after receiving the publishing payment. The hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies; the paperback, released a year later, sold over 1 million copies in its first year. In King's book, On Writing, he mentions that he wrote all of Carrie in only about two weeks.

King recalls, "Carrie was written after Rosemary's Baby, but before The Exorcist, which really opened up the field. I didn't expect much of Carrie. I thought, 'Who'd want to read a book about a poor little girl with menstrual problems?' I couldn't believe I was writing it."[11]


See also[edit]

  • The Fury, a 1976 novel with a similar premise and its 1978 film adaptation, also directed by De Palma.
  • Push, a 2009 film with a similar premise.


  1. ^ Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work, George W. Beahm, pg. 29
  2. ^ "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2008-07-22. (dead link)
  3. ^ "I had written three other novels before Carrie…" Stephen King, (2000) On Writing. Scribner Books. p. 77
  4. ^ "I did three single-spaced pages of a first draft, then crumpled them up in disgust and threw them away." King, Stephen. (2000) On Writing. Scribner Books. p. 76
  5. ^ "Stephen King: 'I Like to go for the Jugular'" Grant, Charles L. Twilight Zone Magazine vol 1 no 1 April 1981
  6. ^ Introduction to "Carrie" (Collector's Edition) King, Tabitha Plume 1991
  7. ^ King, Stephen (February 1980). "On Becoming a Brand Name". Adelina Magazine: 44. 
  8. ^ On Writing, Stephen King
  9. ^ a b c Beahm, George (1998-09-01). Stephen King From A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Pub. ISBN 0-8362-6914-4. 
  10. ^ "The Stephen King Companion" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel press 1989 pp. 171–173
  11. ^ "From Textbook to Checkbook" Wells, Robert W. Milwaukee Journal September 15, 1980
  12. ^ "DVD Review: Carrie". Blogcritics Magazine. 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  13. ^ Wood, Rocky. "Eric Jackson Interview". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  14. ^ "Carrie Remake Moving Forward". Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  15. ^ Puchko, Kristy (May 14, 2012). "Julianne Moore And Gabriella Wilde Board Carrie Remake". Cinema Blend.
  16. ^ Fleming, Mike (March 27, 2012). "MGM Formally Offers Lead Remake Of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ To Chloe Moretz". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  17. ^ "Carrie". Metacritic. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  18. ^ Phillips, Michael (October 17, 2013). "'Carrie' remake is a bloody good time". Fandango. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  19. ^ Joe Neumaier (October 17, 2013). "'Carrie': movie review". Daily News. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  20. ^

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