Carrie Recaps: Part Two

by thethreepennyguignol

First off, thank you so much to everyone who read the first recap last week and offered their support, comments, or interpretations and experiences with Carrie; it’s awesome to know that people are as excited about this as I am, and it’s been really informative to hear other people’s takes on the character of Carrie and the book in general. Without further ado, on with the next recap!

We pick up where we left off last time, with Carrie being granted permission to go home by her headmaster. There’s a really great little character detail here, as King, describes the ashtray that Carrie moves with her powers after the headmaster gets her name wrong – “it was Rodin’s Thinker with his head turned into a receptacle for cigarette butts.” It’s just such a perfect beat, summing up the pseudo-cultural character of the headmaster (and how he wants to be seen by people) in an exceptionally clever way in just a few words (and makes a stark difference from the gym teacher being introduced with reference to her lack of tits in the last chapter). I might have issue with Stephen King’s pacing and characterization at some (many) points, but frequently he pulls out these little turns of phrase that remind me just what an awesome grasp on language he has and how effective it is when he deploys that in succinct little moments like this.

He excuses Carrie, and she leaves the office after telling her gym teacher that “they’ve always laughed” at her. The headmaster and Miss Desjardin discuss what just happened, and once again we’re back to another esteemed edition of Stephen King Doesn’t Know How Periods work-

” ‘She got her period. Her first period. In the shower.’

Morton cleared his throat again and his cheeks went pink. The sheet of paper he was sweeping with moved even faster. ‘Isn’t she a bit, uh-‘

‘Old for her first? Yes. That’s what made it so traumatic for her […]”

Sigh. Look, I just have a hard time believing that Miss Desjardin, as someone who got periods herself and as someone who has worked with teenage girls as her job for at least a reasonable amount of time, finds it notably odd that Carrie started her period at sixteen.

The headmaster and Desjardin discuss Margaret White, Carrie’s mother, and her tenure at the school, where she was suspended for beating another student after catching them smoking. Again, I like this character beat for Margaret: she’s the most explicit antagonist in the book, but for these two characters who only really know her as Carrie’s mother, she’s just a collection of stories of kookily religious fanatacism. She’s not their problem. Like so many adults in the Stephen King-verse, acknowledging the obviousness of the truth – that Margaret White is emotionally crippling her own daughter and using religion as the stick to do it with – is simply More Trouble Than It’s Worth.

Desjardin goes on to discuss the incident with the girls tormenting Carrie (“Maybe-there’s some kind of instinct about menstruation that makes women want to snarl,” she explains, which is such a profoundly strange sentence that I had to go back over it a couple of times to figure out what he was trying to say and, again, sounds like a cis dude failing to grasp or unwilling to learn women’s relationships to their own bodies), and the scene draws to a close. We jump to Carrie walking home, still suffering from cramps from her period, and thinking about what’s just happened.

Now, this is an interesting scene in retrospect, because when I first read the book I assumed Carrie made it out of the story alive. But she doesn’t, obviously, so this section feels a little out of place with the epistolary nature of the novel thus far. It’s not that I don’t like it – in fact, I think this is probably the best-written section of the book so far, as Carrie’s attempts to reconcile the awfulness she’s had inflicted on her by society with the religion her mother has promised her will deliver justice for everything wrong with the world – but it’s plucked directly from her internal monologue. With her unable to share this with anyone after the fact, how does it find it’s way to the book? Other prose sections generally feature at least one person who survives the book and could theoretically have laid out the sequences to the unseen author, but this one doesn’t. I still like it, but I’m not sure it fits. Anyway!

We run through a selection of the ways that Carrie has attempted to escape from underneath the crushing influence of her mother and her religion, and the ways that these attempts have been thwarted by the people around her – from bullying at a church camp that she saved for herself to refusing to pray at school after being ruthlessly mocked for it the first time she tried.

One of the things I love about this section is how fucking angry Carrie is – she wants people to actively suffer, calls them horrible names in her head, truly yearns to inflict harm and damage on them and their property. She’s not some martyred soul who lets the unending cruelty of those around her wash off her back. She’s mad, and she attempts to invoke her powers to destroy the property of a neighbour she dislikes as she goes by. She’s taking the violence that’s been meted out against her, by her community, by her family, by her religion, and letting it curdle into violence within her. It makes perfect sense. When the world has only treated her with cruelty, it would be unrealistic if she responded with anything other than rage, taking on the wrathful justice that her religion has told her is not just morally acceptable, but actively embodied by the God she has had thrust on her her entire life.

And this, in some ways, it what makes the book a somewhat feminist novel: because instead of acting as women should, with magnanimous acceptance, she reacts with anger and violence, the very traits that she’s been told by her religion and her society that she should reject, that make her a sinner. There’s a whole other debate about whether or not aggression and traditionally masculine traits are desirable forms of problem-solving just because their pasted on a female character but, for the time it was written, Carrie embodying this level of sheer unapologetic fury at the way she’s been treated feels cathartic. Her period can be read as the pinpoint for this anger her womanhood (or at least this cis-centric interpretation of it) is what instigates her embracing of her powers and allowing them to come to fruition. Carrie’s mother tried to keep her body, her womanhood, from her, and it’s only when she becomes astutely aware of her status as a woman that she is able to take control of the abilities she’s capable of.

We jump to a newspaper article – that’s so beautifully, carefully overwritten by King in a parody of the kind of voluminous feature pieces that populate papers after a tragedy like the one that takes place at the end of the book – detailing an encounter with a younger Carrie where her powers had started to become apparent. Carrie is fascinated by her neighbors’ naked breasts (implied to be because her mother has worked so hard to hide bother her body and Carrie’s own from her), and with some titties, that seems as good a point as any to leave this (slightly more positive) recap on!

Please join me next week – and if you’re looking for more horror-related writing, check out my American Horror Story recaps. And, as ever, if you enjoy my work and would like to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon!