Margaret White

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For other people named Margaret White, see Margaret White (disambiguation).
Margaret White
First appearance Carrie
Last appearance Carrie
Created by Stephen King
Portrayed by Piper Laurie
Barbara Cook
Betty Buckley
Patricia Clarkson
Marin Mazzie
Julianne Moore
Gender Female
Occupation Laundromat worker
Family Ralph White (husband)
Carrietta White (daughter)
John Brigham (father)
Judith Brigham (mother)
Sadie Cochran (maternal grandmother)
Relatives Rachel Lang (stepdaughter; film sequel only)
Religion Fundamentalist Christianity

Margaret White (née Brigham) is a fictional character created by Stephen King in his first published novel, Carrie, where she is the main antagonist. She is the domineering, abusive, insane and fanatically religious mother of Carrie White, who has the power of telekinesis. She thinks almost everything, especially things to do with the female body and sex, is sinful.


In the novel, Margaret is an overweight and very ugly woman who always dresses in shapeless black clothing. She works full-time at a laundromat and has held her job for many years. She often maims herself during times of great stress. Once, Carrie dreamed that Margaret had given herself a hysterectomy after battling the devil. Born Margaret Brigham, her father was killed in a shootout and she began attending a fundamentalist church group. Her mother remarried and Margaret denounced them, believing that they were living in sin.

In 1960, she met her soon-to-be husband, Ralph White. Margaret later tells Carrie she had sex with Ralph before marriage. She wanted to kill herself afterwards and fell down the stairs to induce a miscarriage. After they married Ralph vowed that their indiscretions would never recur. But one night Ralph tried to seduce Margaret before being thrown out of the house. He returned drunk and had sex with her in a bizarre form of marital rape that Margaret both hated and enjoyed. This resulted in the conception of Carrie. Sometime after Carrie's birth, Ralph was killed while working at a construction site.

Margaret gave birth to Carrie while in her house, without medical assistance. Her relationship with her daughter was extremely abusive from the time Carrie was an infant. When Margaret caught Carrie suspending her bottle in midair, she thought she was a witch and would have killed her if not for Ralph's intervention. This deeply affected Carrie throughout the years, putting great strain on her. Whenever Margaret believed that Carrie had sinned, she threw her in a specially decorated closet to pray for forgiveness, usually leaving her there for several hours or even days.

Margaret believes that nearly everything is a sin and harbors very restrictive views on sexuality. She feels that only "loose women" develop breasts, or "dirtypillows", as she calls them; she feels that she herself developed breasts due to the way Carrie was conceived. When Carrie has her first menstrual cycle at the age of 17, Margaret refers to it as the 'Curse of Blood' and claims that it was brought on by some sort of sexual sin on Carrie's part. After berating Carrie, Margaret locks her in the "prayer closet" until it is time for bed.

When Carrie is asked to the prom by Tommy Ross, Margaret initially forbids it, but Carrie insists on this last opportunity to fit in and reinforces her demand with her telekinetic power. Once Carrie makes her own dress, Margaret insists that they burn it and pray for forgiveness, disapproving of the fact that it shows cleavage. Carrie then uses her powers to push her mother out of the room.

While waiting for Carrie to come home from the prom, Margaret loses all contact with reality, hiding a butcher knife beneath the folds of her dress. Once Carrie arrives home, having telekinetically destroyed the high school and much of the town after falling victim to a cruel prank, both are surprised to find out that they each intend to kill the other. Margaret attempts to stab Carrie in her shoulder. Carrie kills her mother by telekinetically slowing down her heart to a stop while Margaret recites the Lord’s Prayer.


1976 film[edit]

In the original film adaptation by Brian De Palma, Margaret is portrayed by Piper Laurie. The film version of Margaret is considerably more attractive than as depicted in the novel. She is in her early forties with relatively pleasant facial features, slim, and has wavy auburn hair worn in a somewhat flattering style. She also speaks with a slight Southern accent.

Her past was not explored as it was in the novel, and her husband Ralph was only mentioned briefly. Margaret claims that Ralph was carried away by the devil, but Carrie corrects her that he actually left her for another woman. As in the novel, Margaret reveals that she had sex with Ralph twice: once prior to marriage (after which she wanted to kill herself), and once more after they were married, when he was drunk and forced himself on her (she resisted, but confesses she enjoyed the act regardless), leading to the conception of Carrie.

Upon learning of her daughter's telekinetic abilities, Margaret becomes convinced that Carrie is a witch, and recalls Exodus 22:18 from the Bible ("Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"), which interprets as charging her to purify Carrie by killing her. While Carrie is at the prom, Margaret snaps mentally; she is seen pacing in the kitchen, then beginning to chop a carrot with a butcher knife, and continuing to chop the cutting board even after the carrot rolls away. After Carrie returns home after unleashing her powers at the prom (killing almost everyone there), Margaret, who has lit thousands of candles all over the house, tells her about the night she was conceived by marital rape, then stabs her in the back with the butcher knife while leading her in the Lord's Prayer. As Carrie tries to crawl away, Margaret makes a cross motion with the knife and stalks her through the house with a delirious look in her eyes. She corners Carrie and raises the knife to strike again, but Carrie telekinetically flings various kitchen elements from the drawers at her, impaling her. Margaret dies in the same pose as the frightening statue of Saint Sebastian in Carrie's "prayer closet".

Laurie's performance in the original film was universally praised, earning her nominations for both the 1976 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture, a rare feat considering it was a performance in a horror film.

1988 musical[edit]

Betty Buckley as Margaret White, with Linzi Hateley as Carrie

In 1988, the property was adapted into a musical co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Margaret was initially portrayed by Broadway star Barbara Cook. Cook withdrew after three weeks of performances and was replaced when the show transferred to Broadway by Betty Buckley, who had appeared in the original film as Carrie's gym teacher.[1] In the musical, she is portrayed as much more complex and sympathetic character who genuinely loves and wants to "save" her daughter. Margaret even shows remorse after beating and locking Carrie in the prayer closet (cellar in the musical) after the shower incident. Her songs include "Open Your Heart," "And Eve Was Weak," Evening Prayers" and "I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance" (duets with Linzi Hateley as Carrie) and the solo "When There's No One." The lyrics of the first act finale imply the marital rape described in the novel, as Margaret recalls Carrie's father attempting to seduce her while they were dating, culminating on a night when "he took me and touched me; I tried to fight."

In the finale, Margaret meets Carrie on a shining white staircase descending from above, where she first comforts and then stabs her. Carrie then uses her powers to kill Margaret before crawling to the bottom of the staircase and dying herself.

Buckley recorded the song "When There's No One" for her 1999 album Betty Buckley's Broadway.[2]

Marin Mazzie portrayed Margaret in the revised 2012 Off-Broadway revival of the show, where Margaret's death scene was restaged to be more in line with the original novel's version of events.

Other versions[edit]

In the 2002 made-for-TV adaptation, Margaret is portrayed by Patricia Clarkson. Her appearance is more physically weak and she is always dressed in traditional clothes of drab colors. Her complexion is somewhat pale and she speaks in a firm but soft tone. Her past is only briefly hinted at; the film begins with her giving birth to Carrie in bed at home. Her husband isn’t mentioned. On prom night, Margaret tries once again to persuade Carrie not to attend, but is sent sliding out the door by Carrie's powers; Carrie warns her to "watch your fingers," preventing her from being harmed physically when the door slams shut. Margaret then leaves the house, and spies on her daughter as she leaves in a limo with Tommy, heading for the prom. Following Carrie's return from the massacre, Margaret steps into the bathroom while Carrie is still in the bathtub. She calls Carrie a witch and tries to drown her in the bathtub while reciting the "bedtime prayer." Carrie then kills Margaret by causing her heart to stop.

Julianne Moore played Margaret in a new adaptation of the novel.[3] Moore's Margaret was very similar to Clarkson's, but took her self-harm to a new extent with breaking her skin using sharp objects and scratching herself until she bled. She was also portrayed as much less attractive than any previous actress' Margaret, as she looked constantly tired, her eyes were sunken, her complexion was sallow and her hair was always a terrible mess. Moore's performance was met with generally positive response.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Skal, David J. (1993). The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. Penguin Books. pp. 366–7. ISBN 0-14-024002-0. 
  2. ^ "Betty Buckley on record". Betty Buckley: The Official Website. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  3. ^ "Chloe Grace Moretz celebrates 16th birthday with star-studded bash". WMAR-TV-ABC News.