Carrie White is a mousy, shy, repressed girl who is mercilessly teased by her fellow classmates. Her mother is a religious fanatic who walks around in a black cape and imposes her rigid restrictions on Carrie. After Carrie unexpectedly has her first period in the school showers, she is teased... read more
The book uses fictional documents, such as book excerpts, news reports, and hearing transcripts, to frame the story of Carietta "Carrie" White, a 17-year-old girl from Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie's mother, Margaret, a fanatical Christian fundamentalist, has a vindictive and unstable... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The book uses fictional documents, such as book excerpts, news reports, and hearing transcripts, to frame the story of Carietta "Carrie" White, a 17-year-old girl from Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie's mother, Margaret, a fanatical Christian fundamentalist, has a vindictive and unstable personality, and over the years has ruled Carrie with an iron rod and repeated threats of damnation, as well as occasional physical abuse. Carrie does not fare much better at school. Her frumpy looks, lack of friends and lack of popularity with boys make her the object of ridicule, embarrassment, and public humiliation by her peers.
At the beginning of the novel, Carrie has her first period while showering after a physical education class. Her classmates use the event as an opportunity to humiliate her. Led by Chris Hargensen, they throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her. The gym teacher Miss Desjardin happens upon the scene, she at first berates Carrie for her stupidity, but is horrified when she realizes that Carrie has no idea what has happened to her; she helps her clean up and tries to explain. Margaret shows no sympathy for her first encounter with what she calls "the woman's curse", as she had earlier given Carrie trouble about her "dirty pillows" (breasts) when Carrie wanted to buy a bra.
Miss Desjardin, still incensed over the locker room incident and ashamed at her initial disgust with Carrie, wants all the girls who made fun of Carrie suspended and banned from attending the school prom, but the principal instead punishes the girls by giving them several detentions. Chris, after an altercation with Miss Desjardin, refuses to appear for the detention, she is suspended and barred from the prom and tries to get her father, a prominent local lawyer, to intimidate the school principal into reinstating her privileges. Carrie gradually discovers her telekinetic powers, which she has apparently possessed since birth, but had not had conscious control over after her infancy, though she remembers several incidents from throughout her life. Carrie practices her powers in secret, developing strength, and also finds that she is somewhat telepathic.
Meanwhile, Sue Snell, another popular girl, regrets her participation in the locker room antics. Her reflections on her own life and future reveal her to be as trapped as Carrie. She convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, one of the most popular and gifted boys in the school, to ask Carrie to the prom. Carrie is suspicious but accepts, and makes a red velvet gown. Carrie's mother won't hear of her daughter doing anything so "carnal" as attending a school dance. Carrie is determined to go; she wants a normal life and sees the prom as a new beginning.
The prom initially goes well for Carrie. Tommy's friends are welcoming and Tommy finds himself attracted towards her. Chris, still furious, devises her plan with her boyfriend Billy to humiliate Carrie. They fill a bucket full of pig's blood and suspend it over the stage. They rig Carrie's election as prom queen and Chris dumps the pigs blood on Carrie's head. Tommy is knocked unconscious by the bucket, and Carrie is soaked in pig's blood. Nearly everyone in attendance, even the teachers, begin pointing, and laughing at Carrie, and taking pictures for the yearbook, and school paper. Carrie is finally pushed over the edge. She leaves the building in agonized humiliation, remembers her telekinesis, and decides to use it for vengeance. Initially planning only to lock all the doors and turn on the sprinklers, Carrie remembers the electrical equipment set up for the sound system—but turns the sprinklers on anyway. Watching through the windows, she witnesses the deaths of two students and a school official by electrocution, and decides to kill everyone, causing a massive fire that destroys the school and traps almost everyone inside.
Walking home, she undoes the lugnuts on each of the city's fire hydrants, so firemen can't put out the blaze. She also undoes the gas pumps at a downtown station, and a carelessly tossed cigarette sets off another fire. When people come out into the street to see what's going on, Carrie looses some power lines to electrocute them, although again, a few people escape. A side effect of her telekinesis is "broadcast" telepathy, which causes the city's inhabitants to become aware that the carnage was caused by Carrie White, even if they do not know who she is. Carrie returns home to confront her mother, who believes Carrie has been possessed by Satan and that the only way to save her is to kill her. Revealing that Carrie's conception was a result of marital rape (although she admits she enjoyed the sex), she stabs Carrie in the shoulder with a kitchen knife. In self-defense, Carrie kills her mother by stopping her heart.
Mortally wounded but still alive, Carrie makes her way to a roadhouse where she sees Chris and Billy leaving. After Billy attempts to run her over, she telekinetically takes control of the vehicle and wrecks the car, killing them both. Sue Snell, who has been following Carrie's telepathic "broadcast," finds Carrie collapsed in the parking lot. The two have a brief telepathic conversation. Though Carrie had believed that Sue and Tommy had set her up for the prank, Carrie realizes that Sue is innocent and has never really felt a real urge to humiliate her. Carrie then forgives Sue, and dies.
The horrifying events are covered thoroughly in the national press. A blue-ribbon commission is set up to investigate the "Black Prom", concluding that it took place under a set of circumstances that are unlikely to happen again. Numerous magazine articles and books contradict the commission's findings, notably The Shadow Exploded by David Congress, which compares the destruction of Chamberlain to the John F. Kennedy assassination in the impact it's had on society; and My Name is Susan Snell, a personal account by Sue, whom the commission portrayed as partly responsible for the plot to humiliate Carrie. These and other writings warn that it would be a huge mistake to forget Carrie or what she did. Telekinesis and the "TK gene", now known to be real, becomes the subject of several scientific studies. Miss Desjardins, blaming herself for not doing more to help Carrie, resigns from teaching. At the novel's end, Chamberlain is a virtual ghost town, and a Tennessee woman named Amelia Jenks writes a cheery letter to her sister Sarah, mentioning her little daughter's playful telekinetic tricks.