|1st Edition cover image from Carrie by Stephen King|
Like many readers, I’ve admired Stephen King for years. His talent inspires me, and I really consider him a Titan of modern American literature.
As a teenager and young adult, I read many of his novels, including the biggies It and The Stand. However, I had never read his first novel, Carrie.
I had seen the original movie, which blew me away. The viciousness of the girls struck me as so true to life.
Upon reading the novel, I discovered that Carrie was a masterpiece of a first novel. It is SO deep. The novel strikes at the heart of so many big issues.
One of the most obvious is how extreme Christianity makes Carrie’s mother hate all sexuality. Indeed, she hates womanhood entirely. Her fervor reflects the well-known attribute of Christianity that glorifies the denial of the flesh. Sexuality, particularly female sexuality, is sinful. This warped belief is at the heart of the novel, and the story bears the message that this misguided hatred is deeply destructive.
Another theme in Carrie is more conventional. It’s the link between puberty and the unlocking of power. It’s not just demonstrated through the supernatural telekinetic ability of Carrie. This concept is also shown in the character of Christine who motivates her boyfriend through sex to kill pigs and gather their blood for the awful attack on Carrie at the school dance. Furthermore, another character, Sue, also convinces her boyfriend to ask Carrie to the dance. He does it to be nice, but there is the undercurrent of sex as reward. He will do things to make Sue happy because he loves her but also because she has sex with him.
As for the writing in the novel, it is daring, especially for a first novel. Segments within the novel have an inner stream of consciousness voice overlapping with the outer narrative. Sometimes it’s a bit challenging to follow, but when it clicks, it’s quite brilliant.
This showed the power of King’s writing skill. He made me experience the contradictions between inner thoughts and spoken words. It made me reflect on how this must go on with all of us almost all the time.
The design of the novel is also intriguing. Although it is a horror story, there is very little suspense or surprise. The story weaves a documentary with the live-action story narrative that lets the reader see what really happened. The novel literally contains constant spoilers that tell you what will happen and who will die. The horror arises from knowing what will happen and wishing it won’t but still being compelled to see it through to its completion.
Carrie is a great novel, and especially impressive as a first novel. It is pure Stephen King – a vivid, thought-provoking page-turner.
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