Have you ever read Stephen King’s novel Carrie?
If so: Good! Continue reading!
If not: Read the book, but do not read this post. I have many spoilers.
As with all of Stephen King’s books, Carrie is a dark story with dark themes and a dark ending. Carrie is not, by far, the most viscerally disturbing book King has written, nor is it the one that will keep you up late at night wondering if a cannibalistic clown is hiding under your bed. It is deep, yet simple, intricate, yet understandable.
This book was not about telekinesis, nor was it about matricide or killing hundreds of teenagers. This book was about bullies, hatred and cruelty, and the inevitable (metaphoric) result.
Carrie is horribly teased and made fun of by everyone at her school. They call her names, they make fun of her face, the things she says and the things she wears. But the abuse doesn’t stop at the school house gate, at home, her mother hates her just as much because Carrie is the spawn of a rape. Carrie’s mother’s fundamentalist Christian religion makes her feel required to abuse Carrie, locking her in closets, beating her, and denying her the kind of fun that any of us have.
At 16 Carrie is clinging to be just like everybody else, but it’s harder and harder for her as life gets more and more difficult. She begins to develop telekinetic powers at home that cause her mother to think she is a witch. A couple of other high school kids try to make her life a little bit better. They get her a date for the prom and she is put on the ballot for Prom Queen. Yet there are still people around her that are so full of hate and cruelty, that they just want to see her fail. Her mother is outraged when Carrie plans to go to the prom against her restriction and decides to hurt Carrie severely when she comes home. At the same time, a few cruel high school kids decide to humiliate Carrie by dropping pig’s blood on her at the prom.
When Carrie is humiliated in front of everyone, and everyone laughs, she decides to take her vengeance on them all. She sets fire to the school with all the prom-goers still in it, and then she went through the town blowing up every building with her mind. She eventually came home where her mother attempts to kill her. Carrie kills her mother by slowing down blood to her brain, but not before she is stabbed in the shoulder by her mother.
Carrie then goes and confronts the girl who orchestrated the pig’s blood. Carrie kills her as well, and then collapses and dies from loss of blood.
We usually don’t think about symbols or moral lessons in a Stephen King novel, but we should in Carrie. The story shows the result of cruelty and hatred. When mean-spirited people are allowed to do what they please, people get hurt. The things they do can drive people to do crazy things. Bullying can set a school on fire with hatred and cruelty.
But the story goes further, and is not just limited to schools. Mean people, and hatred toward people that are different can destroy a town. As an example, my ex-girlfriend once told me that her small home town in Virginia became polarized when an openly gay couple moved into town. This perfectly quaint and pleasant community set ablaze with gossip and cruel words just like the flames of Chamberlain, Maine in the story.
What we can take from Carrie is not that we should be afraid of people using psychic powers on us, but rather, we should be afraid of ourselves and what horrors we are capable of inflicting on a community by being mean to a single person. Bullying is never okay, no matter where you are, or what your age. That is the lesson of Carrie.