Carrie is Stephen King’s first published novel that would later become a film directed by Brian De Palma (1976). This might be one of the most ingenious pieces of work by the master storyteller because it cuts into our deepest horrors with surgical precision. Analyzing the themes of the novel, it’s obvious why this might have been the first King produced. It’s about the dark side of believing in our most wonderful dreams. Its about the vulnerability of hope, and our deepest desires to be loved and accepted. It is about the universal nightmare of rejection.
The film itself does not show any real horror until the last 25 minutes or so, and this is plenty. The title character is a teenaged high school girl who has been tormented by her mother and her classmates relentlessly. She is a sensitive and meek soul who asks for nothing. She is unobtrusive and undeserving of the bombardment of ridicule and criticism she receives, but she remains sweet and harmless…until the end.
She simply has enough by the end of the film. The evil girls finally push her past her breaking point and she unleashes her rage using telekinetic powers for massacring everyone in sight.
We all understand this rage and feel that within us we have an awesome superpower that could crush all within our line of sight, and the truth is…we do. Mass shooters all share a commonality in that they believe in their own power to destroy, and are willing to indulge in it for the satisfaction of proving to others they can indeed “win”. Their superpower is that they are willing to pay the ultimate price to have the last word.
This is what is so completely horrifying about this particular bit of fiction. It brings to light our inherent vulnerability by demonstrating that even the meekest individual has the power to self-destruct and take the rest of us with them.
The other thing that is so horrifying and why it seems to be the perfect novel for a horror writer in the fledgling stages of their career, is that King unveils the fact that we are not just afraid of being destroyed by others—we are afraid we will be exposed and humiliated first.
Ultimately many of us fail to pursue our dreams because we fear losing our dream will be the impetus for the type of cataclysmic destruction that Carrie becomes engulfed by. We are afraid that if we dare to open ourselves and try something like becoming a novelist, we will be laughed at— just like Carrie. We may too step out on the awards stage falsely believing we’ve been truly loved accepted, only to find that it was all a trick designed to lower and humiliate us…”they really were laughing at me behind my back all along”…
We can’t help but fear that the moment we let the world in on our secret wish, we may be castrated. If we let the world know we do indeed need love, support, and acceptance, we immediately lose the power to protect ourselves.
This simply is not true however. Our most wonderful dreams are ours, and our only trouble occurs when we look to others to validate them. The moment we stop trusting ourselves and allow another person’s opinion of who we are and what we want define us, we always set ourselves up for humiliation.
If Carrie were able to develop a true sense of self-worth, her classmates would have never targeted her. Not to blame the victim, but Carrie all but wore a sign saying, “I’ll think of myself whatever you want me to if you’ll only not hurt me.” She gave her power away. If she had taken the humiliation at end of the film and embraced the true horror of what occurred, she would have found an indomitable emotional strength that would have made her unbreakable. If she had gone back to school that following Monday with her head held high, the sign on her back would say, “You can’t break me, so don’t bother trying.” That is what these events in our lives are for. We have to resist allowing these moments to define us in destructive ways, but instead let it prune away any false sense of self we have been marketing to others.
If you believe your dreams can be denied, then they will be. If you believe that another person can break you, then you will be broken. If you have enough self-worth to believe you may indeed live your dreams, then you will live them.