Stephen King’s Carrie
After reading Gerald’s Game, I was particularly curious about Stephen King writing with a female protagonist. I liked his characterization of Jessie Burlingame, and I wondered where else in his catalogue did he write using a female protagonist? Less than a moment later, I remembered Carrie, which he had written 17 years earlier. How could I forget the iconic image of the prom queen covered in pig’s blood?
I had seen the movie many moons ago, but had not read the book. I decided to grab a copy at my local second-hand bookstore and find out for myself how King presented Carrie and her horror story.
From the moment I started it, I liked it. It is told in snippets of narrative mixed with quotations from court documents, academic essays and first-person biographies. King outlines the story from three angles: the public, shown through the documentation following the destruction of a town by a teenage girl’s telekinetic power; the friends and family surrounding the protagonist Carrie’s life, shown through anecdotes from their eyes as they go about their day creating the perfect storm for Carrie’s betrayal and revenge; and the protagonist Carrie, located at the heart of the action and torment.
I was raised in households with varying degrees of right-wing Christian religious fervor, so Carrie’s story of being raised by an ascetic, judgemental, punishing, sadist of a mother who feels justified in her cruel actions by her Christian devotion and faith is not unrealistic to me. Neither was the high school bullying. The pleasure of Carrie was in watching the protagonist take punch after punch from her inner voice, her mother and her peers, and seeing it fuel her rebellious reaction until she rained down fire on all of them.
The Carrie narrative is iconic, and King, rightly so, is an icon. The book far outweighs the movie, mostly, for me, by casting. I had to revise my image of Sissy Spacek from very early on in the book, which I was glad to do. I much preferred King’s more awkard, angst-ridden teenager who reminded me more of Rae in My Mad Fat Diary than anything close to Spacek.
I am happy to continue my exploration of King’s portrayal of female protagonists. Perhaps Dolores Clairborne next, or Misery … is that one told by the writer or the kidnapper? Off to the bookstore!
King, Stephen. Carrie. Penguin Group, 1975.