I am reading Stephen King’s book titled, On Writing. I was surprised to learn that he didn’t like Carrie, the character that is- it’s clear he was ecstatic over the money he earned from that blockbuster. He writes, “I didn’t much like the lead character. Carrie White seemed thick and passive, a ready-made victim.”
He goes on to mention that Carrie is based on two real girls from his high school. He reports with no emotion that both these girls were dead by the time he began writing Carrie in his early to mid-twenties. One passed during an epileptic seizure. The other took her own life shortly after the birth of her second child. He ends the chapter with:
“I never liked Carrie, that female version of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold but through Sondra and Dodie I came at last to understand her a little. I pitied her and I pitied her classmates as well, because I had been one of them once upon a time.”
I find this interesting for two reasons: 1. It appears the young Stephen King was a bit of a bully himself. 2. Carrie, the story, shows maybe he didn’t quite to terms with his own participation in tormenting the two girls from his past. So, he ended his story by turning this tortured girl into a mass murderer.
It seemed to me that if there were ever a case where a temporary insanity plea would have stuck-Carrie White’s telekinetic killing spree after the prom would have been it. She wasn’t like Harris and Klebold because she didn’t plan to hurt anyone. That poor girl was tormented at home by her religious fanatic mother and then subjected to her classmates’ cruelty at school. She had no safe place. Just when it seemed her luck was changing and she was actually having a good time at the prom with the most popular boy in school -who in the book was a writer- go figure, she gets covered in a vat-full of pig’s blood. It would take a very strong person to not go over the edge after that.
To be completely honest, my tendency to cut this anti-heroine a break might be because I was no stranger to bullying in Junior High. Seventh Grade was a very hard year for me. I was always different than other kids. I didn’t dress like anyone else. Had I worn the requisite jeans-boots-sweatshirt uniform of the time and permed my hair, I might have looked like everyone else but I still wouldn’t have fit in. I was more interested in the Middle Ages than Culture Club (Was it spelled Kulture Klub on the album?) Anyway… kids can always sniff out who is different. And for some reason, the tendency is to mock that person.
Thankfully, I wasn’t a “thick, ready-made victim.” Although, I did plenty of feeling sorry for myself, I did fight back – as my friends, Sylvia and AnnMarie like to remind to this day. When I couldn’t take any more abuse, I got into the habit of smacking my tormentors upside the head with my pocketbook. Mr. C, my homeroom teacher, never said a word. He seemed hip to what was going on and probably figured that these mean boys deserved it.
Oddly enough, the jocks were highly amused by my method of defense. After a while, it seemed like it was less about making fun of me than it was about getting me to wallop them. It was like a bizarre badge of honor to be hit by my bag. I got so used to this that I barely looked up from whatever I was reading. At the moment of abuse, I’d reach behind me, pull my long-strapped purse off the back of my chair, whack the offending party and then hang it back up again.
I wonder if either of those girls from Stephen King’s High School had smacked him with her purse, would Carrie still have been written? Hmmm…