Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Book Review: Carrie by Stephen KingCarrie is the novel that quite literally changed Stephen King’s life. Rescued from King’s trash basket by his wife Tabitha, Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to ever make the printed page. It is the story of social misfit Carietta White. Carrie’s father died before she was born and so she has been brought up by her mother who is a fanatical Christian. It is fair to say that poor Carrie hasn’t had the most stable of home lives and, with pictures of the tortured and bleeding Jesus hanging from the walls, the White bungalow sounds like a place where Church meets House of Horrors. Margaret White even has a special church-like cupboard to lock her daughter in whenever Margaret feels that Carrie has some sins that she needs to get down on her knees and repent. So that is Carries home life. Not very good is it?

If anything, things are worse for Carrie when she is at school. She has no friends and seems to be that child (all schools seem to have one of these) who is the brunt of just about every nasty trick that her school-not-mates can come up with. There is something a little different about Carrie though. She was born with the gift of telekinesis—a gift which, she is not really aware of until she reaches a late puberty; and which soon becomes a curse for those who have maltreated the young girl.

Like a few of King’s later works, Carrie is written without any chapters. And just like in those other works the absence of chapters is never really missed. A lot of the story is told to the reader in retrospect, in the form of excerpts from fictional documents like clippings from newspapers, transcripts from scientific papers and reports and a book written by one of the few people who survived ‘Prom Night’—Sue Snell. Ironically if it was not for Sue Carrie would never have been at the prom in the first place.

Carrie is a great book, but there is a lot more to it than just the story itself (if you look a little deeper). King mentions a little about this in his non-fiction book Danse Macabre and the things he mentions would have gone right over my head had I not read that book too. The story stands alone though; it is just interesting to think about the comments it makes on society etc.

One thing that I did notice, without needing any help, was how much hypocrisy there is about the Margaret White character. Here we have a woman who—praise the lord!—loves Jesus, and yet can quite easily justify to herself the idea of murdering her own daughter. Where is ‘Turn the other cheek’, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ and most especially ‘THOU SHALT NOT KILL!’

Carrie’s father is also remembered, in the story, as a man who went to work with a bible in one hand and a gun in his lunch pail. Again: where is ‘THOU SHALT NOT KILL!’ It is an ironic fact that, in the real world, it is a golden rule of most religions that a person should not kill his fellow man, or woman, and yet how many wars are over religion? How many people have killed for their blessed religion? It’s mad! None of this really belongs in a review of Carrie, I suppose, but I mention it only to make the point that, if you do read Carrie (or re-read it) it is worth looking at what is, perhaps, being said underneath the story. The same thing can be said of lot of other books as well.

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