Study Guide

Carrie

By Stephen King

Carrie Introduction

Your prom (or anti-prom protest activity of choice) was probably a night to remember. Or it soon will be. Prom is the promise of young love. First dances. Gorgeous dresses and handsome tuxedos. Chintzy cardboard decorations and bad soft-rock bands….

Everyone getting brutally murdered when the class punching-bag finally exacts her revenge.

Eek. We hope your prom is (or was) memorable for reasons other than that last one. But a bloody massacre is exactly what happens in Carrie.

Carrie White lives with her religious fanatic mother who believes that everything is sinful, but especially everything related to the body—breasts, menstruation, sex, you name it. On top of that, Carrie is relentlessly bullied in school.

When someone does a good deed and invites her to the prom, things are looking good for Carrie. That is, until a bucket of pig's blood is dropped on her head.

Finally sick of being the butt of every joke, Carrie uses her telekinetic powers to kill everyone who has ever laughed at her. And pretty much everyone else within killing range. Can ya blame her?

Carrie
was published in 1974 by Stephen King. It was the fourth novel King wrote, but the first one published, making it the first book in a growing library of novels by this master of the horror genre. You know, the guy who has probably kept you from sleeping at night at least once.

Really? You haven't heard of him? This is the same dude who wrote The Shining, It, Under the Dome, and pretty much every other book on your mother's bookshelf.

Carrie is far and above one of the most popular of King's stories, though. Probably because pretty much every high schooler has fantasized about getting back at the people who have given him or her a hard time. So, this novel has been adapted into three movies.

In 1979, Sissy Spacek played the title role (alongside a young John Travolta). In 2002, Angela Bettis had blood dumped on her on the small screen. And in 2013, Chloë Grace Moretz teamed up with Julianne Moore as one of the most dysfunctional mother-daughter duos ever seen.

There have even been two (yes, two) musicals (yes, musicals) about our telekinetic girl and the prom no one will ever forget.

We think this plethora of productions proves that Carrie has been relevant for over a quarter century now, and will probably continue to be for a very, very long time. As long as there are nasty teenagers—which really means, as long as there are teenagers—people will keep reading this book.

So go put your best dress or tux on, don a corsage, and set a date with Carrie.

What is Carrie About and Why Should I Care?

If you've ever been to school with other students—or you're a student now—chances are you've been bullied. Actually, chances are you've been bullied or you've been the bully (yikes). But either way, as the documentary Bully shows, peer abuse is rampant in schools today.

Unfortunately, the horrendous bullying in Carrie might seem all too familiar to you. But this book was written in an era before smartphones and YouTube. Which meant that people had to think of more creative ways of holding their bullies' accountable for their actions.

When our protagonist, Carrie, realizes she's got special powers, she decides to turn the tables on her attackers. Her approach is pretty extreme, we've got to admit. We here at Shmoop do not condone homicide, no matter how mean people are to you.

And we kind of wish Carrie wasn't still relevant today. It's incredible how far we haven't come since then. Maybe it's just human nature to be mean to each other? Sigh.

Carrie Resources

Websites

The Many Faces of Carrie
On Stephen King's creepily comprehensive website (okay, it's not that creepy, we just feel the need to use the word "creepy" when talking about him), you can see different covers of Carrie throughout the ages. You can also learn about King's inspiration for the story.

Movie or TV Productions

The Prom Date from Hell
Brian de Palma's 1976 version of Carrie focuses more on the horror aspect of the story… and 1970s fashions, of course. Grab your bloodstained bell bottoms and get ready to dance.

Carrie On
The 2013 version of Carrie, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry), has a bit more character development. YouTube and other details also update the story for a 21st-century audience, whee.

Small Screen, Big Cast
The 2002 Carrie TV movie is all but forgotten. Strange, given how many kind of famous actors were in it. It's got Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted) Emilie de Ravin (Lost), Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica), and Patricia Clarkson (everything). Also, it was written by Bryan Fuller, who did Pushing Daisies and Hannibal. So maybe you should check it out, huh?

Articles and Interviews

What Happened Next?
Sorry, there's still no Carrie sequel. But you can find out what Stephen King did with the advance money he got for selling Carrie in this interview.

Please Don't Stop the Music
Lawrence D. Cohen wrote the screenplay for both Carrie movies and helped write both versions of the Carrie musical. He must be really into this story.

Too Hot for School
Chloe Moretz has received criticism for being "too beautiful" to play Carrie. If King's Carrie had been beautiful, would she really have turned out to be Carrie?

Video

From Playboy to Publishing
In this interview, King discusses how Carrie helped him jump from the world of men's magazines (which are totally read for the articles and stories) to full-length novels.

Double Dose of Carrie
This video gives you two trailers for the price of one: a trailer for the 1976 Carrie and the 2013 Carrie. Sure, the price is $0.00, but that's still a lot of bang for your buck.

Audio

Sissy Speaks for Carrie
The audiobook version of Carrie (which was once available on cassette, it's so old) is read by Sissy Spacek, who plays Carrie in the 1976 movie. Coolio.

Mommy Dearest
Carrie may be scary, but her mom is the true terror of the novel. Click here to listen to writer Elizabeth Blair talk about how riveted she always was by Carrie's mother.

Images

Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Carrie has had some creepy book covers over the years, but this one takes the creepy-cake.

Who Wore It Better?
Okay, we're not talking about the dress; we're talking about pig's blood. Compare these shots of Chloe Moretz and Sissy Spacek. Who wore it better?

Telekinesis Not Included
Carrie action figures. Need we say more?

First Edition
This is what Stephen King looked like when he wrote Carrie. We can't even imagine what kind of unnatural material this suit is made of.