Carrie Recaps: Part Five
So, for the first time in a long time, I’m actually reading a new Stephen King book. No, not this one – Sleeping Beauties, his collaboration with his son Owen King that was out last month. And I’m actually…quite liking it? It’s been a long time since I’ve read and actually made it all the way through a new SK novel (and I actively fucking detested Mr Mercedes, the trope-ridden, punishingly uninteresting wreck of a “thriller” novel that it was), and I put it down to the fact that reading Carrie with this much of an eye to the writing style has reminded me how much I enjoy King’s writing style and I’m happy to indulge in it again. Anyway, on to another chapter!
We left off last week with Carrie being confined to a closet after talking back to her mother. As Carrie finishes up making a dress, she realizes that her mother – the woman who has forced years of violent abuse on her – is actually afraid of her after Carrie’s threat to use her telekinetic powers to harm her mother.
We then get into a bit of backstory on Margaret White, courtesy of an excerpt from one of the books written after the Carrie White incident at the end of the book. Specifically, it focuses in on an incident that indicates Margaret White may have had a miscarriage with a child concieved out of wedlock, casting an interesting new light on why she was so unnerved by what Carrie said to her; as well as obliquely threatening Margaret with her powers, Carrie more explicitly referenced that her mother had to have had sex and sexual desire at some point, and this segment underlines it. I like that Margaret may well find the thought of her daughter knowing that she had sex more disturbing that the thought that Carrie (as she mentions in her inner monologue, which still has no place in this allegedly epistolary novel, but anyway) literally threatened to tear the house apart at the seams. It speaks to the place of sex in that household, and in the book (and indeed the horror genre) in a broader sense.
We head back to school for the next scene, and Miss Desjardin, the gym teacher, is back: Stephen makes a point to note that her whistle is hanging between her “small breasts”, because it’s extremely important that you know that this woman don’t have that titty. Miss Desjardin is in the locker room again to chew out the girls for what they did to Carrie, and I know it doesn’t mean anything, but King mentions that she can’t get the image of “a wet napkin plastered squarely in the middle of [Carrie’s] pubic hair” out of her head, but it was a tampon that got stuck in Carrie’s pubic hair and I know it doesn’t mean anything but editors, what do we even pay them for?
This is also our first real encounter with Chris Hargensen, who talks back to Desjardin and calls her a bitch and really underlines her place as the villain of this book. Desjardin yells at them some more, and declares their punishment not up to scratch:
“”Unfortunately, Ewen is staffed completely by men in its administration wing. I don’t believe they have any real conception of how utterly nasty what you did was.””
I think this is interesting, because it’s basically the book acknowledging the fact that the cruelty of women – and the power of that cruelty – is undervalued and overlooked, not punished as harshly as it should be. Desjardin and indeed the rest of the girls acknowledge and understand how evil what they did to Carrie is, but the men (the men in positions of power, no less) don’t, and, as it turns out, they’ll pay for it.
Chris is furious with their punishment (a week’s detention in the gym), and declares that this incident isn’t over with yet; and of course, it isn’t. Sue turns up again, surprising herself with the “adult lifelessness” in her voice, and once again this reads just like a grown adult projecting rather than a teenager thinking, but moving on.
Another excerpt from one of the books about the Carrie White incident draws a comparison between researchers looking for incidents of telekenisis in Carrie’s childhood with searching for “the early incidents of masturbation in a rapist’s childhood”; the book acknowledges that it’s an imperfect analogy, but still, this made me pause. Up until this point, the book has dived between casting Carrie’s eventual outburst in an understanding light and depicting it as the violent unleashing of an inhuman monster; this particular comparison lands firmly on the latter side, of course, and it doesn’t come as part of the ostensibly neutral narration, but it still…yeesh. Comparing the revenge Carrie takes against her tormentors to the actions of a rapist just doesn’t sit right with the marginally sympathetic character (I honestly almost wrote Carriecter, because I’m in deep) King has been attempting to come up with till now. This passage is also the first time, I think, that we find out that Margaret White is dead post the Carrie White incident, which is an interesting juxtaposition with what else we found out about her this chapter – we know her past, and now we know her future, too.
We cut back to the school, where Chris Hargensen’s father is in to take up the headmaster on what Desjardin said to his daughter earlier in the week. Hargensen threatens to sue the school for verbal abuse, and the headmaster points out that his own daughter verbally abused Carrie White and that the school would not hesitate to throw that back in his face. And with that little dick-swinging contest over, we’re at the end of this week’s chapter!
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