Friday, October 4, 2013

Sara's Library: Carrie

Carrie by Stephen King
Doubleday 1974

Summary from Goodreads: "The story of misfit high-school girl, Carrie White, who gradually discovers that she has telekinetic powers. Repressed by a domineering, ultra-religious mother and tormented by her peers at school, her efforts to fit in lead to a dramatic confrontation during the senior prom."

With the new film version coming out, I wanted to read Mr. King's first novel.  I have seen the 1976 film version directed by Brian De Palma countless times over the years, and while I was familiar with the story, the details are sufficiently different enough to make for an entertaining read.

Rather than being a waif as portrayed by Sissy Spacek, in the novel, Carrie is an overweight, acne-prone girl who would likely be tormented for those facts alone.  That she is the naive, painfully shy child of the local religious nut only exacerbates the teasing.  The teenage girls are depicted as relentlessly cruel; one dreads what might have befallen Carrie in today's viral YouTube culture.  

Only three characters are depicted with any sort of positivity: Sue, Miss Desjardin, and Tommy.  However, the two females both question their motivations, discovering that it is not altruism that drives them to help the unfortunate Carrie, leaving only Tommy as an unstained saintly martyr.

Throughout the narrative, articles from newspapers and academic papers about the prom night incident appear.  If someone avoided all pop cultural references to Carrie for the last thirty years, the end would still be somewhat anti-climatic with the heavy-handed foreshadowing present in these articles.  Honestly, I felt they came off as a bit pretentious and distanced the narrative too much from Carrie's perspective of events.  As an anti-bullying piece, it would have been strengthened had the focus been only Carrie, as the reader would have been able to feel her pain more keenly and thus better able to empathize with her.  

All in all, the story continues to resonate today.  I'm quite interested to see what the new Kimberly Pearce film does, considering the setting has been updated to the present and bullying has taken on an entirely new shape online.  

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