Study Guide

Carrie Guilt and Blame

By Stephen King

Guilt and Blame

[Miss Desjardin] hardly would have admitted the pleasure the act [of slapping Carrie] gave her, and she certainly would have denied that she regarded Carrie as a fat, whiny bag of lard. (1.51)

These are the kind of thoughts that you don't expect a teacher to have, because they'd never admit to having them. But Stephen King was a teacher, and we bet he had similar thoughts. Maybe he, like Miss Desjardin, feels guilty about them as well?

"That passes," Miss Desjardin said. Pity and self-shame met in her and mixed uneasily. "You have to… uh, stop the flow of blood." (1.65)

Here's a formula for you scientific types: pity + self-shame = guilt. But Miss Desjardin doesn't seem to totally understand why she feels guilty here. It's like she wishes she could have been around to mother Carrie better… or like she could have just waved a magic wand and made the whole school, and the whole world, better somehow.

"There are times," [Estelle Horan] says, "when I wonder if I might have caused [the rain of stones]." (1.176)

Here, Estelle takes responsibility for the rain of stones, which Carrie caused to threaten her mother. But her Carrie and Momma were arguing because Carrie saw Estelle sunbathing topless, so it's no wonder she feels responsible. However, the real blame lies with Estelle's mother, who put Estelle in the yard in a bathing suit just to bait Carrie's mother. Do these women never grow out of their petty teenage ways?

"I did a not-so-good thing today." (1.277)

Sue has a difficult time admitting that bullying Carrie was wrong. She has an even more difficult time trying to figure out how to atone for her bullying, and this line marks the beginning of that struggle.

"That goddamned Carrie White! I wish she'd take her goddam holy joe routine and stuff it straight up her ass!" (1.515)

Chris Hargensen bullies Carrie relentlessly. But she seems to blame everything on Carrie, as though it's Carrie's fault that she's just so completely bully-able. Do you think Chris will ever take any responsibility for her actions?

"Hardly anybody ever finds out that their actions really, actually, hurt other people!" (1.586)

Do you think this is true? By the end of Carrie, Sue Snell seems to be the only one who realizes that her actions hurt Carrie… and caused Carrie to hurt others. Of course, pretty much all of the people who hurt Carrie are dead now.

We know that Carrie was the victim of her mother's religious mania. (2.37)

Carrie most certainly was the victim of her mom's craziness. But does that exempt her from blame for murdering so many people?

[Billy] thought about wiping the buckets […] Kenny's prints would be on them, Don's and Steve's as well. But it was better not to. Maybe they would have a little surprise on Saturday morning. (2.187)

Billy Nolan doesn't just get excited about dumping blood on Carrie. He also gets excited about trying to pin the blame on his friends. That's pretty messed up.

[Carrie] is the girl they keep calling a monster. I want you to keep that firmly in mind. The girl who could be satisfied with a hamburger and a dime root beer after her only school dance so her momma wouldn't be worried. (2.197)

Sue tries to put things into perspective here. It's pretty easy to blame Carrie and call her a monster after everything she did, especially if one of your family members died in the carnage. But Sue tries to remind us that everyone has a story.

The words that rose to [Carrie's] lips were: I don't blame anyone any more. She bit them off. It was a lie. She blamed them all and always would, and she wanted more than anything else to be honest. (2.261)

Carrie doesn't seem like she will ever be able to forgive her bullies for what they've done to her. Is this because she's a teenager, and she's just living in the moment, or is this because she knows they've done irreparable damage to her?

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