Study Guide

Carrie Appearances

By Stephen King


Carrie stood among [the girls] stolidly, a frog among swans. She was a chunky girl with pimples on her neck and back and buttocks, her wet hair completely without color. (1.8)

Okay, we get that Carrie is not conventionally attractive, but she seems to be the only girl in the school who is less than perfect. Is Chamberlain, Maine just Dawson's Creek under a different name?

"[Carrie] was such a pretty girl." (1.185)

Estelle says this as though she believes that pretty people can't be evil. She's clearly never seen American Psycho. Pretty people are the scariest.

[Carrie] thought her legs were actually pretty. […] She could stop the chocolates and her pimples would go down. They always did. She could fix her hair. Buy pantyhose and blue and green tights. […] The price of a bus ticket, a train ticket. She could be, could be, could be—Alive. (1.255-1.256)

Carrie seems to think that her life would be totally different if she were more attractive. Giving herself a makeover would be an escape from her old life.

[Carrie] hated her face, her dull, stupid, bovine face, and vapid eyes, the red, shiny pimples, the nests of blackheads. She hated her face most of all. The reflection was suddenly split by a jagged, silvery crack. (1.166-1.267)

Whoa, Carrie really hates herself, huh? Well, she mostly just hates how she looks. Do you think she'd dislike herself so much if the other kids didn't make fun of her? Is her lack of conventional beauty the root of all her problems, or is there more to it than that?

"Did any of you stop to think that Carrie White has feelings? Do any of you ever stop to think? […] You think she's ugly. Well, you're all ugly." (1.413)

Miss Desjardin tells it like is. She thinks that all the high school girls are so focused on outward appearances that it's making their inner selves pretty darn repulsive. We're inclined to agree.

[Tommy] saw for the first time (because it was the first time he had really looked) that [Carrie] was far from repulsive. (1.601)

When Tommy really looks at Carrie, he sees that she's actually not physically ugly. Surprise, surprise. But to Tommy (and all his shallow friends), Carrie's lack of ugliness somehow means that she is actually a good person. Are all people this focused on appearances? Do we always assume that someone is good if they dress well, for example, and bad or lazy or dumb, if they don't?

"Your pimples are the Lord's way of chastising you." (1.684)

Yikes. Okay. Now we get why Carrie is so hung up on her physical appearance. Her mother reminds her that appearance is equated with her godliness… or lack thereof. And if an ugly girl is a sinner, then a beautiful girl must be pure and saintly. Does that make Gwenyth Paltrow God?

Frieda was in an orange tulle concoction, and looked a little like a tuba. (2.139)

That's not a flattering comparison. Is it just human nature to want to (nastily) judge other people's appearances? Do we do this because we feel like we're in competition with each other? And if so, what are we competing for?

The applause swelled. […] It was all happening too fast. [Carrie's] legs were trembling under her and suddenly, even with the comparatively high neck of her gown, her breasts (dirtypillows) felt dreadfully exposed. (2.368-2.369)

Carrie is always self-conscious of her appearance, but on stage, everyone is looking at her. So when she knows that all of her classmates are analyzing her appearance up there, she feels terrified.

A week after the tornado of '54 had cut its path of death and destruction through Worcester, the air was filled with the sound of hammer, the smell of new timber, and a feeling of optimism and human resilience. There is none of that in Chamberlain this fall. The main road has been cleared of rubble and that is about the extent of it. The faces that you meet are full of dull hopelessness. (3.7)

Chamberlain appears to be a ghost town after Carrie whips through it. Why do you think they didn't rebuild the place? Wasn't Carrie's revenge just as much an act of God as the tornado was?

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