Study Guide

Carrie Women and Femininity

By Stephen King

Women and Femininity

All the girls in the shower room were shocked, thrilled, ashamed, or simply glad that the White b**** had taken it in the mouth again. Some of them might also have claimed surprise, but of course their claim was untrue. (1.4)

With these words, Stephen King characterizes girls—at least the girls in Chamberlain, Maine—as cruel tormentors who act without any regard for the consequences of their actions. He almost seems to suggest that those consequences will be well deserved… whenever or however they may come.

[Miss Desjardin] tried twice to explain the commonplace reality of menstruation, but Carrie clapper her hands over her ears and continued to cry. (1.79)

Menstruation is a perfectly natural occurrence for women—almost as a rite of passage into adulthood. But it can be scary if you don't know what's happening to you, or if you have no support. Sadly, Carrie falls into both of those categories. We're not sure what terrifies Carrie more here: the fact that she's bleeding, or the fact that she's becoming a woman. Her mother really hates women. Sigh.

"I'm living in a glass house, see. I understand how those girls felt. The whole thing just made me want to take [Carrie] and shake her. Maybe there's some kind of instinct about menstruation that makes women want to snarl, I don't know." (1.129)

Miss Desjardin wonders if women are biologically inclined to want to attack one another. Is this just sexist claptrap from Stephen King? Or do people (especially women) never outgrow their aggressive, animalistic tendencies?

"And God made Eve from the rib of Adam." (1.331)

Momma believes that women should be subjugated to men. She believes that men make women weak and wicked. But she thinks this is women's rightful place in the world; women, according to Margaret, are fundamentally evil. No wonder it scares her so much when Carrie starts to develop some personal power of her own, including a more mature sexuality and telekinesis. Both of these assets give her some control over men.

"Unfortunately, Ewen [High] is staffed completely by men in its administration wing. I don't believe they have any real conception of how utterly nasty what you did was." (1.420)

Miss Desjardin takes it upon herself, as a woman, to punish the school bullies in a way that will actually affect them: she revokes their prom privileges. Unfortunately, her punishment doesn't come to pass for many of the girls. She gets overruled by the men in charge. Go ahead and shake those feminist fists, Shmoopers. Now's a good time.

"The boys would tease Carrie for a little white and then forget, but the girls… it went on and on and on and I can't even remember where it started any more." (1.582)

Sue seems to believe that girls make for even nastier bullies than boys… or, at least, girls take bullying harder than boys do. Do you think she has a point?

I thought God had visited me with cancer; that He was turning my female parts into something as black and rotten as my sinning soul. (2.773)

Most women see pregnancy as a miracle. Since Margaret White hates being a woman so much, she sees pregnancy as some sort of evil punishment for giving in to her desire for sex. Eek.

The TK gene may be recessive in the female, but dominates only in the female. (1.759)

Stephen King lets us know that only women can be telekinetic. Why? To show that women can have some power too—even if most men get to be in positions of power, like at Ewen High? Or is he trying to make us scared of women with power? Is he suggesting that we need to be nice to women so that they don't develop their power? The questions are endless.

Some of the girls claimed [the idea of a prom King and Queen] was sexist, the boys thought it was just plain stupid and a little embarrassing. (1.816)

Everything in this story is rigidly divided along gender lines. All boys behave one way; all girls behave another. Even opinions on the prom are exclusive to each gender.

Still our Annie is awfull pretty & her eyes are as brite as buttons. (3.26)

The writer of the novel's final letter, Melia, seems to think that cute girls are harmless. After reading the rest of Carrie, we're not so sure she's right about this one.

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