Carrie Recaps: Chapter Ten

by thethreepennyguignol

As we draw closer to the holiday season, it seems about time to step back and look at what’s important: family, friends, appreciating the good in our lives, and catching up on all of my Carrie recaps so far. On with the latest installment!

We left off last time with Billy and his mates collecting the pig’s blood for the prank (“prank”) they’re planning to pull on Carrie at the prom. I honestly went into this pretty cheery and ready to have some fun this time around, but literally the second sentence of this chapter, as Carrie puts on her prom dress for the first time, is:

“She had bought a special brassiere to go with it, which gave her breasts the proper uplift (not that they actually needed it) but left their top halves uncovered.”

Sigh. Look, I don’t want to be a brat about this, but firstly, Stephen King made a big deal about how saggy Carrie’s tits were in the first chapter (you know, the one where he frequently compared her to a literal farm animal), and two, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’re going to get three paragraphs strung together that don’t crowbar in some reference to titties. It’s so unnatural! I get that Carrie is starting to learn her body for the first time so maybe, maybe, she might be more aware of the way her breasts look than other women of her age, but Jesus Christ it’s a stretch, and every time it just makes me feel the way I do when a guy two beers in leans across the table at the bar with a conspiratorial smile on his face and announces “I’m a boob man”. Like, great, thanks: you were saying? I’m trying not to read in to much into Stephen King’s near-constant wet-lipped descriptions of the breasts of teenage girls, but he is making it difficult.

Anyway. Carrie’s mother rocks up and tells her that they’re going to burn the dress because it’s too provocative for Carrie to wear to prom. When Carrie refuses, Margaret claws at her face till she bleeds and Carrie uses her power to remove her from the room. Now, I do like Margaret as a villain, but she is a whole lot of a character, there’s no arguing with that. Sometimes, in scenes like this, her religious fervor just feels…almost parody? Not quite, as King has just managed to offer enough background and justification for her actions to keep them vaguely hooked into the reality of this book, but he’s toeing the line more and more and it’s not what Carrie needs, especially when the other ostensible villain, Chris Hargensen, is so thinly and poorly drawn, as we discussed last week.

After a brief diversion into a book discussing Carrie’s telekinetic powers, we’re at prom night, as Carrie pins on her corsage and wonders if Tommy is actually going to pick her up. I like the contrast here, of her crazy powers and the simplicity of a girl wondering if her prom date is really going to turn up. Carrie considers what her life might be like if Tommy doesn’t turn up, and imagines it as a lifetime dedicated to her mother and her fanaticism. Now, this segment does mirror Sue’s worries earlier about being trapped in stasis in this town for the rest of her life, and I wish the book delved a little more into the things that the two of them have in common. Sue is at her most interesting when she’s contrasted with another character (Tommy, Chris), and it’s in her connections to other people that King makes Carrie into a real person and not the livestock he depicted her as in the earlier chapters.

Carrie tests her powers, which she notes have not abated, and eventually Tommy turns up to collect her. She goes to greet him and they stand in the doorway looking at each other for a while, until she asks Tommy if he likes her:

“He said: ‘You’re beautiful.’

She was.”

This pissed me off. Because these sections, ostensibly from Carrie’s POV, tend to dither between what she personally thinks herself and a more omniscient narration (seriously, the POV/narration in this book is a state), and there are two possible interpretations here: that Carrie believes she is beautiful because Tommy tells her so, or that the book thinks that she’s only beautiful because Tommy tells her so. The former makes sense, but the latter is infuriating and highly possible. Ugh.

We go to Chris’ POV, where she is in a bar with Billy – she thinks about their relationship, about the fact that she believed he would rape her if she had not willingly slept with him earlier in the week. She also considers her previous and lengthy sexual experience, and I’m not saying that King intended for the villainous high school girl to be the one with extensive sexual experience and the innocent, well-meaning one (Sue) to be a one-man woman, but that’s certainly how it turned out and it’s wildly depressing to me that this trope was around in the seventies and is still pretty much just as prevalent now. Sigh.

Anyway, that’s us this time around – if you liked this recap and want to read more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon and, as ever, thanks for tuning in!