Banned Books Week: “Carrie” by Stephen King Review

King’s First Book Remains an Important Cautionary Tale

Stephen King’s breakthrough novel “Carrie” is a relatively short book that details several days in the life of teenager Carrie White and explores the perspectives of several characters around her.

Over the course of the novel, Carrie, who is the frequent target of bullying at her high school, begins to show signs of puberty at a relatively late age, much to her own social disadvantage. As the torment grows worse and worse, she begins to notice inexplicable things happening around her that she is seemingly controlling.

The novel explores life in a small town full of prejudiced people who are set in their ways. Carrie’s identity as a misfit, and her subsequent growth in power, serve as a metaphor for the conflict that ensues when someone seen as an outsider challenges the status quo.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the novel does not end happily for many characters, and almost all end up suffering dire consequences for the way they mistreated Carrie White, who goes from being a soft-spoken, shy young girl, to her hometown’s worst nightmare.

Many of the themes in this novel are in support of inclusion and kindness, and feminism is an especially important part of this book, but the controversial subjects of graphic violence, underage sex, language and drug use made this book one of the most commonly banned books in the 1990s.

The book could also be seen as a critique of Christianity. Carrie’s mother is a devout Christian who does not stray from Christian teachings under any circumstances. She views anything not explicitly permitted by the Bible as satanic and unacceptable.

While the content of “Carrie” may turn away some readers, and the representations of orthodox Christianity may conflict with the beliefs of many, the content deserves the benefit of the doubt because it all serves to make the story more profound.

The book does not glorify any of the actions taken by the characters within. Instead the book takes an honest look at the many forms abuse can take within a small community. Religion, sexuality, language and violence are all different flavors of abuse that Carrie experiences.

Carrie’s mother is not an evil person because she’s a Christian. She’s evil because she uses Christianity as a tool to torment her daughter, and to keep total control over her.

In the context of the history of Banned Books, this example serves as a reminder that touchy subject matter does not have to be offensive if it’s approached from a place of honesty. King draws on many of his own experiences growing up in a small town to better inform the story, which keeps his content from making too many assumptions.

While drawing on some fantastical elements, “Carrie” retains its status as a cautionary tale against bullying that remains relevant today. The lessons of sensitivity and understanding feel especially important in an era dominated by social media and divisiveness.