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First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror,
epistolary novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date April 5, 1974
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 199
ISBN 0-385-08695-4
Followed by ’Salem’s Lot

Carrie is American author Stephen King's first published novel, released in 1974. It revolves around the titular character Carrie, a shy high-school girl, who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her. King has commented that he finds the work to be "raw" and "with a surprising power to hurt and horrify." It is one of the most frequently banned books in United States schools[1]. Much of the book is written in an epistolary structure, through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, and excerpts from books.

Several adaptations of Carrie have been released, including a 1976 feature film, a 1988 Broadway musical, a 1999 feature film sequel, and a 2002 television movie.


Publication history

Carrie was actually King's fourth novel[2] but the first to be published. It was written while he was living in a trailer in Hermon, Maine, on a portable typewriter (on which he also wrote Misery) that belonged to his wife Tabitha. It began as a short story intended for Cavalier magazine, but King tossed the first three pages of his work in the garbage.[3] Of King's published short stories at the time, he recalled,

"Some woman said, 'You write all those macho things, but you can't write about women.' I said, 'I'm not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.' So I got an idea for a story about this incident in a girls' shower room, and the girl would be telekinetic. The other girls would pelt her with sanitary napkins when she got her period. The period would release the right hormones and she would rain down destruction on them… I did the shower scene, but I hated it and threw it away."[4]

His wife fished the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to finish the story; he followed her advice and expanded it into a novel.[5] King said, "I persisted because I was dry and had no better ideas… my considered opinion was that I had written the world's all-time loser."[6] The book was dedicated to his wife, Tabitha: "This is for Tabby, who got me into it – and then bailed me out of it."

According to the audio commentary for the film version of Carrie, Carrie is based on a composite of two girls who were bullied and abused at school; one who went to school with him, and one who was his student. The young girl King went to school with lived down the street from him in Durham, Maine. In an interview with Charles L. Grant for Twilight Zone Magazine in April 1981, King recalled that,

"She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn't a religious nut like the mother in Carrie; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests … the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she'd bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she'd changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had every seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made worse fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold."

King says he wondered what it would have been like to have been reared by such a mother, and based the story itself on a reversal of the Cinderella fairy tale. He also told biographer George Beahm that the girl later "married a man who was as odd as her, had kids, and eventually killed herself."[7]

Carrie’s telekinesis resulted from King’s earlier reading about this topic. King also did a short stint as a high school English teacher at Hampden Academy, a job he eventually quit after receiving the payment for the paperback publishing sale of Carrie.

At the time of publication, King was working as a teacher at Hampden Academy and barely making ends meet. To cut down on expenses, King had the phone company remove the telephone from his house. As a result, when King received word that the book was chosen for publication, his phone was out of service. Doubleday editor, William Thompson (who would eventually become King's close friend), sent a telegram to King's house which read: "Carrie Officially A Doubleday Book. $2,500 Advance Against Royalties. Congrats, Kid - The Future Lies Ahead, Bill."[7] It has been presumed that King drew inspiration from his time as a teacher.[7] New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which, according to King's contract with Doubleday, was split between them.[8] King eventually quit the teaching job after receiving the publishing payment. The hardback sold a mere 13,000 copies, the paperback, released a year later, sold over 1 million copies in its first year.

King recalls, "Carrie was written after Rosemary's Baby, but before The Exorcist, which really opened up the field. I didn't expect much of Carrie. I thought who'd want to read a book about a poor little girl with menstrual problems? I couldn't believe I was writing it."[9] In a talk at the University of Maine at Orono, King said of Carrie, "I'm not saying that Carrie is shit and I'm not repudiating it. She made me a star, but it was a young book by a young writer. In retrospect it reminds me of a cookie baked by a first grader—tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom."

Plot summary

Carietta "Carrie" White is a 16-year-old girl from Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie's mother, Margaret, a fanatical Christian fundamentalist, has a vindictive and unstable personality, and over the years has ruled Carrie with an iron rod and repeated threats of damnation, as well as occasional physical abuse. Carrie does not fare much better at school. Her frumpy looks, lack of friends and lack of popularity with boys make her the object of ridicule, embarrassment, and public humiliation by her peers.

At the beginning of the novel, Carrie has her first period while showering after a physical education class. Her classmates use the event as an opportunity to humiliate her. Led by Chris Hargensen, they throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her. The gym teacher Miss Desjardin happens upon the scene, she at first berates Carrie for her stupidity, but is horrified when she realizes that Carrie has no idea what has happened to her; she helps her clean up and tries to explain. Margaret shows no sympathy for her first encounter with what she calls "the woman's curse", as she had earlier given Carrie trouble about her "dirty pillows" (breasts) when Carrie wanted to buy a bra.

Miss Desjardin, still incensed over the locker room incident and ashamed at her initial disgust with Carrie, wants all the girls who made fun of Carrie suspended and banned from attending the school prom, but the principal instead punishes the girls by giving them several detentions. Chris refuses to appear for the detention, and is suspended and barred from the prom. She tries to get her father, a prominent local lawyer, to intimidate the school principal into reinstating her privileges. Carrie gradually discovers her telekinetic powers, which she has apparently possessed since birth, but had not had conscious control over after her infancy, though she remembers several incidents from throughout her life. Carrie practices her powers in secret, developing strength, and also finds that she is somewhat telepathic.

Meanwhile, Sue Snell, another popular girl, regrets her participation in the locker room antics. Her reflections on her own life and future reveal her to be as trapped as Carrie. She convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, one of the most popular and gifted boys in the school, to ask Carrie to the prom. Carrie is suspicious but accepts, and makes a red velvet gown. Carrie's mother won't hear of her daughter doing anything so "carnal" as attending a school dance. Carrie is determined to go; she wants a normal life and sees the prom as a new beginning.

The prom initially goes well for Carrie. Tommy's friends are welcoming and Tommy finds himself attracted towards her. However, Chris, still furious, devises a plan with her boyfriend Billy Nolan, a local thug, to humiliate Carrie. They fill a bucket full of pig's blood and suspend it over the stage. They rig Carrie's election as prom queen and Chris dumps the pigs blood on Carrie's head. Tommy is knocked unconscious by the bucket, and Carrie is soaked in pig's blood. Nearly everyone in attendance, even the teachers, begin pointing and laughing at Carrie. Carrie is finally pushed over the edge. She leaves the building in agonized humiliation, remembers her telekinesis, and decides to use it for vengeance. Initially planning only to lock all the doors and turn on the sprinklers, Carrie remembers the electrical equipment set up for the sound system—but turns the sprinklers on anyway. Watching through the windows, she witnesses the deaths of two students and a school official by electrocution, and decides to kill everyone, causing a massive fire that destroys the school and traps almost everyone inside.

Walking home, she undoes the lugnuts on each of the city's fire hydrants, so firemen can't put out the blaze, sets off a fire at a gas station, and electrocutes people with overhead power lines. A side effect of her telekinesis is "broadcast" telepathy, which causes the city's inhabitants to become aware that the carnage was caused by Carrie White, even if they do not know who she is. Carrie returns home to confront her mother, who believes Carrie has been possessed by Satan and that the only way to save her is to kill her. She stabs Carrie in the shoulder with a kitchen knife, and, in self-defense, Carrie kills her mother by stopping her heart.

Mortally wounded but still alive, Carrie makes her way to a roadhouse where she sees Chris and Billy leaving. After Billy attempts to run her over, she telekinetically takes control of the vehicle and wrecks the car, killing them both. Sue Snell, who has been following Carrie's telepathic "broadcast," finds Carrie collapsed in the parking lot. The two have a brief telepathic conversation. Though Carrie had believed that Sue and Tommy had set her up for the prank, Carrie realizes that Sue is innocent and has never really felt a real urge to humiliate her. However, in spite of all the traumatic and cruel events that have happened to Carrie, she never truly forgives Sue. Carrie then pleads for her mother and dies.

The horrifying events are covered thoroughly in the national press. A blue-ribbon commission is set up to investigate the "Black Prom", concluding that it took place under a set of circumstances that are unlikely to happen again. Numerous magazine articles and books contradict the commission's findings, notably The Shadow Exploded by David Congress, which compares the destruction of Chamberlain to the John F. Kennedy assassination in the impact it's had on society; and My Name is Susan Snell, a personal account by Sue, whom the commission portrayed as partly responsible for the plot to humiliate Carrie. These and other writings warn that it would be a huge mistake to forget Carrie or what she did. Telekinesis and the "TK gene", now known to be real, becomes the subject of several scientific studies. Miss Desjardins, blaming herself for not doing more to help Carrie, resigns from teaching. The school principal, Henry Grayle, also resigns. At the novel's end, Chamberlain is a virtual ghost town, and a Tennessee woman named Amelia Jenks writes a cheery letter to her sister Sarah, mentioning her little daughter's playful telekinetic tricks.



  1. ^ "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". American Library Association. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  2. ^ "I had written three other novels before Carrie…" King, Stephen, (2000) On Writing. Scribner Books. p. 77
  3. ^ "I did three single-spaced pages of a first draft, then crumpled them up in disgust and threw them away." King, Stephen. (2000) On Writing. Scribner Books. p. 76
  4. ^ "Stephen King: 'I Like to go for the Jugular'" Grant, Charles L. Twilight Zone Magazine vol 1 no 1 April 1981
  5. ^ Introduction to "Carrie" (Collector's Edition) King, Tabitha Plume 1991
  6. ^ King, Stephen (February 1980), "On Becoming a Brand Name", Adelina Magazine: 44 
  7. ^ a b c Beahm, George (1998-09-01). Stephen King From A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Pub.. ISBN 0-8362-6914-4. 
  8. ^ "The Stephen King Companion" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel press 1989 pp. 171–173
  9. ^ "From Textbook to Checkbook" Wells, Robert W. Milwaukee Journal Sep 15, 1980
  10. ^ "DVD Review: Carrie". Blogcritics Magazine. 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  11. ^ Wood, Rocky. "Eric Jackson Interview". Retrieved 2008-02-27. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Carrie (1974) is the first published novel by Stephen King about a shy high-school girl who uses her newly discovered telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who tease her.

  • She wished forlornly and constantly that Ewan High had individual - and thus private - showers like the ones at Andover or Boxford. They stared. They always stared.
  • Everybody's guessed/That baby can't be blessed/'Til she finally sees that she's like all the rest.
    • From one of Carrie's notebooks.
  • Yet although she had swum and she had laughed when they ducked her (until she couldn't get her head up any more and they kept doing it and she got panicky and began to scream) and had tried to take part in the camp's activities, a thousand practical jokes had been played on ol' prayin' Carrie and she had come home on the bus a week early, her eyes red and socketed from weeping, to be picked up by Momma at the station, and Momma had told her grimly that she should treasure the memory of her scourging as proof that Momma knew, that Momma was right, that the only hope of safety and salvation was inside the red circle. 'For straight is the gate,' Momma said grimly in the taxi and at home she had sent Carrie to the closet for six hours.
  • And Tommy was, of course, Popular. As someone who had been Popular all her life, it had seemed written that [Sue] would meet and fall in love with someone as Popular as she.
  • The word that [Sue] was avoiding was expressed To Conform in the infinitive, and it conjured up miserable images of hair in rollers, long afternoons in front of the ironing board in front of the soap operas, while hubby was off busting heavies in an anonymous Office;..."
  • Jesus watches from the wall, but his face is cold as stone. And if he loves me - as she tells me - why do I feel so all alone?
    • Carrie's poem in English class.
  • Your pimples are the Lord's way of chastising you.
  • "Red," Momma murmured. "I might have known it would be red".
    • Commenting on Carrie's dress.
  • Boys. Yes, boys come next. After the blood the boys come. Like sniffing dogs, grinning and slobbering, trying to find out where that smell is. That...smell!
  • But sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions. It's what you say when you spill a cup of coffee or throw a gutterball when you're bowling with the girls in the leage. True sorrow is as rare as true love.
  • Carrie's mother: "I can see your dirtypillows. Everyone will. They'll be looking at your body. The Books says-" Carrie: "Those are my breasts, Momma. Every woman has them."
  • God had turned His face away and why not? This horror was as much His doing as hers.
  • Late at night I keep thinking: if I had only reached to that girl, if only, if only.
    • Miss Desjardin in her note to the principal.

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