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Transcript of Carrie
takes place in the fictional town of Chamberlain, Maine. It is a quaint town, the sort where everybody seems to know everybody. It is also fairly isolated, like traditional Gothic novels, causing the help sent by other towns during the fiery destruction to be in vain. Contrastingly, however, the action does not happen around an abandoned or old house/church/castle. Most of the action occurs at the high school. At the end of the book, Chamberlain is left in ruins and eventually becomes a ghost town.
Gothic novels tend to have a specific tone, set by the language and many different elements.
The Element of Romance
Classic Gothic novels almost always have romance as a key factor in the storyline, whether it be a one-sided lust or a forbidden relationship between lovers. In
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
, for instance, Claude Frollo's obsession with Esmeralda is the cause of the main conflict. Other romances are showcased as well, all contributing to the plot. While there are romantic relationships in
, none are prominent. The book focuses on Carrie (Sue and Chris' relationships are not gone into in depth, nor are they significant) and her misfortune.
and other books i've read in the past (i.e.
City of Bones
) I think most "Gothic" novels these days lean towards being either horror or supernatural. Some of the Gothic elements are usually there (suspense, romance, doom) but they're interpreted in new ways, to put a new spin on things; because these types of books have been written for a very long time. No modern book is really Gothic. Even if a book contained all the elements, the writing style nowadays is far from the descriptive and elongated sentences of the Gothic style.
by Stephen King
, Carrie's mother, is an unstable women and extreme fundamentalist with practices it seems she invented on her own, such as praying for forgiveness in the closet. She physically abuses her daughter in accordance to her religious views and tells women in bathing suits that there is a place in hell for them. Her controlling demeanor over Carrie is similar to that of the oppressive male (i.e. Claude Frollo in
) in Gothic novels. Again, written in a later time than Gothic novels, the tyrant role is seamlessly filled by a woman, reflecting the mentality of the modern day; that no specific roles are set for women and men.
An element commonly found in Gothic novels is overwrought emotions, and while it is also present in this novel, there is a slight difference. I think the emotions and actions taken in response to them are more justified, and believable, in modern books.
Carrie's reaction to the pig blood being dumped on her is extremely drastic, yet it is understandable, in a weird way. The buildup of abuse, starting the day she was born (when her mother planned to kill her), put her on an edge at all times, and then the power to hurt someone else for a change was there, and she took it.
Additionally, all emotions (mostly sorrow and anger) in classic Gothic novels are over-the top, while the only feeling that seems a bit exaggerated in
Carrietta "Carrie" White
, a social outcast since the first grade, could appear as the modernized "damsel in distress" at the very beginning of the book. She is abused physically by her mother and bullied by her peers at school. After developing her telekinetic powers, however, she begins to stand up for herself; going to the prom despite her mother's obsessive views on it being a sin. At the prom, a stupid prank by Carrie's main bully, in which Carrie is again the punch-line of, is the final straw and puts her over the edge. She takes advantage of her telekinesis to get her revenge, massacring over 400 people. It was not common in Gothic novels for the helpless female to become the violent monster (also a regular Gothic character), but it is done in this book, perhaps showing the development of gender equality during this time period.
From helpless girl to killer:
"Her expression of complete unbelief was too genuine, too full of dumb and hopeless horror to be ignored or denied." (17)
"Like Samson in the temple, she could rain destruction on their heads if she so desired. (i am not afraid)" (90)
"She rolled over on her back, eyes staring wildly at the stars from her painted face. She was forgetting (!! THE POWER!!) It was time to teach them a lesson." (178)
"[Margaret] began to beat Carrie's back, her neck, her head. (50)"
"[3 year old Carrie] lying half in the closet and half out of it, seeing black stars dance in front of everything, a sweet, faraway buzzing, swollen tongue lolling between her lips, throat circled with a bracelet of puffed, abraded flesh where Momma had throttled her and then Momma coming back... holding Daddy Ralph's long butcher knife. (92)"
"Momma leaned forward, and the knife came down in a shining arc. (188)"
"Morton gave the girl the yellow slip. 'You can go now, Cassie,' he said magnanimously. '
That's not my name!
' she screamed suddenly." (21)
"[Carrie's] eyes bulged crazily, her mouth, filled with spit, opened wide. '
' she screamed. Momma hissed like a burned cat. 'Sin!' she cried." (58)
"The explosion destroyed half a block at a stroke, including the offices of the Chamberlain
By 12:18AM, Chamberlain was cut off from the country that slept in reason beyond." (179)
"It was reliably reported by several persons that a rain of stones fell from a clear blue sky ..." (9)
"She paused halfway up the stars and FLEX, the doors all slammed shut under the concentrated force she directed at them." (210)
While the book chooses to explain Carrie's telekinesis scientifically with theories of gene mutations, this can be easily interpreted as an element of the supernatural. Gothic novels usually leave this element unexplained, or explained with a wildly magical explanation (i.e. ancient prophecies, witches), but Stephen King opted for a more science-fiction and modern approach to it.
Because Carrie is written in the epistolary style more than half the time, ranging from newspaper articles to interview transcripts, the language, and therefore tone, is not suspenseful in the least. It is highly informative some of the time, and others, very real and informal. The setup of the book (the epistolary excerpts are not chronological, Carrie's telekinesis is recognized in the first few pages) also causes the writing to be anticlimactic, which contrasts the traditional Gothic style greatly.
An Atmosphere of Mystery and Suspense
Mysterious Noises and Bad Weather
Generally, Gothic novels have a lot of mysterious noises, such as unexplained creaks and knocks. Bad weather (metonymy for gloom, despair) like howling winds and thundering storms are also common. Neither are strong elements in
, though. This has to do with the setting (both area and time) as most of the action happens around the high school in the spring.
is not Gothic. Bits and pieces of Gothic elements (general setting, characters, the supernatural) are found here and there, but it really is more horror than anything. It is also an unique case, because of its format. The epistolary format takes a lot away from the suspense and the style overall. I think the book would seem more Gothic if it was written all in first-person, because then the reader could experience the events along with the narrator. The settings perhaps would also be improved if it were in first person. Stephen King obviously had his reasons for writing Carrie the way he did, and it created an interesting horror novel.
second independent reading assignment - Felicia Sit (1-3)