Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

50 years of Carrie: A reflection on Stephen King and his impact

April marks the fiftieth anniversary of Stephen King’s novel “Carrie.” Released on April 5, 1974, Carrie was a formative book for King as a writer because it was his first full-length novel and arguably what brought him popularity. Two years after the release of the novel, Carrie was adapted into a film by director Brian De Palma. With the release of the film, King’s novel gained enormous popularity, with sales shooting up to four million copies. The impact that Stephen King has had on not only horror as a genre but upon art and storytelling as a whole is incredible. An astounding 86 movie adaptations of his novels have been made, most notably Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining,” the multiple adaptations of the novel “IT” and “Misery.” Although he is most known for being a horror author, he has also been behind the stories outside the genre. Both the movies “Stand by Me,” (dir. Rob Reiner) and “The Shawshank Redemption,” (dir. Frank Darabont) which are in no way as horror but are instead defined as coming of age and drama respectively, were adapted from short stories written by King. 

In honor of “Carrie”’s fiftieth anniversary, I want to tell my own story of what Carrie means to me. Stephen King as an author has been incredibly influential in my personal life. His novels first caught my attention when I saw my dad reading “Cujo” on the beach. With its frightening cover with the sharp teeth of a rabid dog tearing into a fence, the book immediately drew me in. However, “Cujo” was not the first King book I read. I (unsurprisingly due to the article I am writing) read “Carrie.” The book opens with an unforgettable scene where the main character (Carrie) gets her first period while in the shower after gym class. Frightened by the sudden blood and unaware of the anatomical phenomenon, Carrie begins screaming that she is dying. Her classmates, who assume that she is insane for not knowing what a period is, begin to ridicule and attack her for her naivety. This opening scene is unforgettable to many because of the jarring commentary that it makes on girlhood and the experience of those deemed unpopular by their classmates. However, what makes this scene all the more fascinating is the fact that it almost stopped King from finishing “Carrie” entirely. In interviews he has told the story about how when he wrote the first three pages of “Carrie” he decided to throw it out after fearing that the material would read strangely  to female readers as he was a man writing about a girl’s first period. However, after stumbling upon it in the trash, his wife Tabitha took out the pages and put them back on his desk. It’s fascinating to think that the content was what made King almost not write the rest of the book. A scene that made him so uncomfortable turned out to be one of the most memorable in his novels and really set the tone for the rest of “Carrie.” However, another striking thing about the novel is its character-driven plot. This concept of the characters driving the action instead of vice versa became one of the most recognizable characteristics about King’s novel. In his novel “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” King discusses why he choses a character driven plot: “Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.” His philosophy to choose character over plot has been extremely successful, judging by the amount of books he has sold since the release of “Carrie.”

While the backstory of Carrie and the analysis of its writing techniques were not clear to me at the time as a seventh  grader. I believe the character-driven plot is what kept drawing me back to Stephen King.  After being drawn in by “Carrie,” I consumed an incredible amount of Stephen King over the next few years of my life with novels like “Pet Semetary,” “On Writing,” and “The Mist” being my favorites. 

There are hundreds of reasons why I would recommend Stephen King novels to someone who has yet to read one but “Carrie” is definitely in the top three reasons why.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *