Carrie marked an important time in the world of literature, as it was Stephen King’s first published novel. With this story of bullying and insane religious fundamentalism and revenge, the face of modern horror would be changed forever. I had read Carrie a long time ago but, in an effort to finally read my way through King’s prodigious catalog, I find myself experiencing this harrowing tale all over again.
Stephen King’s uncanny understanding of the human condition is on full display with Carrie. The depiction of the way that Carrie was bullied by her classmates is, unfortunately, even more relevant today than it was 46 years ago. It is disturbingly easy to place Carrie White in a modern day setting, and understand how her story would result in the same way. Likewise, Carrie’s mentally unstable mother is a lamentably accurate depiction of some individuals who have revealed their true nature due to the current pandemic.
I really enjoyed the way in which King presents the idea of telekinesis, and how the reader discovers it alongside Carrie. I feel like the excerpts from interviews and book and research really helped to make the story feel more realistic. There were times when these interludes felt like a hindrance to the narrative, as occasionally aspects of the story were spoiled, but overall I thought it was a good choice. The idea that people would try to sweep something like telekinesis under the rug and discount its reality also felt quite accurate, as human beings are constantly suspect of things they don’t understand.
Carrie is definitely not without its issues, and some of them are more glaring than others. King utilizes some very racist and sexist language here, and whether or not that is a product of the time in which Carrie was written is up for debate. Regardless, it’s hard to read these things in 2020 and not take some offense to them. The way King describes women, and his casual approach to sexual assault, is disturbing to say the least. Likewise, his use of racial slurs and mention of offensive historical minstrel shows is also disconcerting.
Overall, Carrie is a good novel, and even more impressive as a debut. It is competently written, and achieves the frightening result that King was aiming for. This is one of those stories that stays with you and reminds you to be always be kind. Carrie is, sadly, a timeless examination of human depravity and the horrors achievable by a person pushed to their absolute limit.