Carrie Recaps: Part Eight

by thethreepennyguignol

We’re back! And I have some recommendations for you, if you’re tuning in for another one of my internationally ignored Carrie recaps: first, Alias Grace, the new Netflix miniseries that was out last week, is one of the most bloody brilliant things I’ve ever seen and looks into the historical treatment of women in a just fascinating and moving fashion, which should be right up your street if you’re looking for something that handles women a little more consistently than this book. In the movie world, Joachim Trier’s new movie Thelma got it’s release this week, and the dreamy, violent, woman-centric coming-of-age story is extremely Carrie-esque but with less references to tits. So now you have your required reading for the week, let’s put on Wig in a Box and get into recap number eight!

We left off last time with Carrie about to confront her mother with the news that Carrie is planning on going to prom with Tommy. Carrie’s mother, unsurprisingly, is unhappy, but Carrie begs her to let Carrie go:

“I want to try and be a whole person before it’s too late[…]”

I find this line interesting, because it ties into what Sue has been intimating all the way through the book: that the way people see her is directly tied to her humanity, to her very existence. Here, Carrie begs her mother to let her go to the prom with Tommy so people will actually see her as a person.

Margaret White throws tea in Carrie’s face, and orders her to the closet to pray, announcing that she knew that when Carrie started her period the boys would not be long to follow. It’s worth noting the kind of language Margaret uses here, to describe what she sees as the blossoming of Carrie’s sexuality and womanhood:

“After the blood the boys come. Like sniffing dogs, grinning and slobbering, trying to find out where that smell is. That … smell! […]’In cars. Oh, I know where they take you in their arms. City limits. Roadhouses. Whiskey. Smelling … oh they smell it on you!'”

Because Margaret White is the villain of this book, more so than Carrie is, and thus we’re meant to view the way she connects Carrie’s period to her culpability in what Margaret sees as evil (engaging in sex acts) as incorrect and cruel, and yet, more than once, King himself connects the beginning of Carrie’s period with her supernatural powers and following lack of humanity. I’m not saying that the book wants us to be on Margaret’s side here, just that some of the previous framing of Carrie and her puberty has been framed in a way that’s more sympathetic to her mother’s point of view than perhaps intended.

Carrie tells her mother that she doesn’t want the life her mother lives after she uses her powers to smash a pie tin against a wall; Carrie’s mother backs down, or seems to, and leaves Carrie to continue work on her dress. Carrie considers the fact that Tommy doesn’t love her and is only doing this as some kind of penance – I  like this section, because it touches on how well-versed Carrie is in guilt and penance after years at the hands of her mother, and thus understands and accepts why Tommy is doing what he is, which makes sense with what we know of Carrie so far and the way she views the world through the filter of her mother’s aggressive religiosity.

We’re back to the high school next, with the principal and his deputy discussing the fact that the former’s threatening of Daddy Hargensen seems to have worked at getting his daughter, Christine, to back down. When the deputy mentions that the principal doesn’t seem delighted about this, the principal admits that Carrie is going to prom. The deputy asks who she’s going with – he guesses at another school outsider and we get this description of someone I would have one thousand percent dated in high school:

” He weighed perhaps one hundred pounds soaking wet, and the casual observer might be tempted to believe that sixty of it was nose.”

Sounds dreamy and I wish I was kidding. Anyway, they both express fear that Chris Hargensen is planning something in retaliation for being banned from the prom, and then we’re into a very lengthy section excerpted from one of the books written after the White incident detailing exactly how the telekenesis gene is passed down throughout families, and how it came to manifest itself in Carrie.

Now, look, I’m of the strong belief that explaining shit in a horror context is a direct route to making it way less unsettling; take a look at stuff like The Blair Witch Project or Haunting of Hill House for examples of stories that depict things that just are and are all the more spooky for it. I find in many King books that he can’t find the space between explaining and overexplaining: either something is so mysterious as to be bafflingly oblique or so thoroughly plunged by the story’s end that there is not a corner of room for imagination left. I don’t neccesarily think this section ruins Carrie or anything, but it’s relatively dull and it just doesn’t add much to the story in a meaningful way. I get it, some people love their lore and all that and I can get behind that in a sci-fi or fantasy setting, but when it comes to horror, it’s fine for things to just be.

The chapter closes out on Sue and her friends setting up for the prom at the end of the week, and Sue internally patting herself on the back for the hard work she’s done for the prom. As her friends begin to question her on the whats and the hows about the Carrie/Tommy situation, it seems like a good time to leave of – for a particularly juicy recap next time around.

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