Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book 65: Carrie

Carrie by Stephen King

The back of the novel described this as a horrifying tale. It’s hard to be truly horrified or scared by a story that has since become so famous as a novel and in its film version that everyone knows the story. Having read several Stephen King novels, it is definitely easy to tell that this is his first. I liked the way he interspersed the story with reports from later on, inserting excerpts of books that have been written on the subject of Carrie White and the event. Obviously, even if I didn’t know the ending ahead of time (granted, I’d seen the movie so the ending I knew was slightly different from the novel ending which was much more destructive), I would have had a lot of foreshadowing and foreboding although without foreknowledge it probably would have helped build the tension.

As I said, it is obvious that this is King’s first novel. He used parentheses to denote thoughts which I didn’t really like that much. He also messed up a few minor details as far as time line such as when Carrie’s mom said, “I was going to kill you but Ralph wouldn’t let me” when it had long been established that Carrie’s father died before her birth.

I know there has been much criticism of King and misogyny, especially in this novel. Given that this was written in the ‘70s, I’m not sure if King is any worse than anyone of his contemporaries may have been. He does describe teenage girls as vicious, and much worse when it comes to tormenting a misfit than boys and also makes comments about how menstruation brings out the worst in women, which I think is bullshit. Carrie was incredibly conflicted, both hating and loving her mother. She desperately wants out of the life she has but doesn’t know how. When she first discovers her powers she seems ready to use them for destructive purposes very early – when she is afraid that her date might not show up, her first response is that she will tear up the house. Perhaps King was simply using this to demonstrate how much built up rage Carrie had suppressed just waiting for that final straw to push her over the edge. For the most part, King turns Carrie into a victim of her upbringing and her surroundings – her mother was crazy (how very Freudian – let’s blame the mom), and the children tormented her, often due to things her mother had forced her to do. I think that part is rather accurately done, the way group mentality and conformity cause help lead to Carrie’s isolation and outsider status. However, while it is easy to feel pity for Carrie, she isn’t necessarily a very likable character – however, as said before, who can blame her for having an “I’ll show them” kind of attitude after years of abuse?

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