Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Carrie

Go To
Carrie White — making people afraid to pick on "that girl" since 1974.

A novel of a girl possessed of a terrifying power.

Published in 1974, Carrie is the first published novel by author Stephen King.

High school outcast Carrie White has no friends at school and is endlessly tormented by her classmates and by her own mother, a raving Christian fanatic named Margaret. After being humiliated in the school shower while having her first period, Carrie learns that she possesses potent telekinetic powers which allow her to move objects and knock people down with her mind. After one of the shower bullies, Chris Hargensen, gets suspended and barred from the upcoming prom for the shower incident involving Carrie, she comes to blame Carrie for the situation and work out a suitable revenge.

In the meantime, Sue Snell (another one of the suspended bullies at the shower) feels bad about what she and her friends did to Carrie and asks her athlete boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom as a form of atonement. Chris finds out about this and sees an opening for one of the greatest pranks in school history: she and her friends will rig the ballots for prom queen so that Carrie wins, then dump a bucket of pig's blood on her head in front of the entire senior class and thus humiliate her on the best night of her life.


Considering Carrie's telekinetic powers, this goes about as well as one would expect it to.

While Carrie was a bestseller that launched Stephen King's career, today it's better known for its assorted adaptations in various mediums.

  • The 1976 film adaptation by Brian De Palma is by far the most famous of the bunch, and arguably had a greater impact than the book itself. Critics regard De Palma's adaptation as a landmark film, one of the best horror films of The '70s, and one of the best feature film adaptations of any of King's stories, to the point where King himself feels that it's better than the book. The film became a major success for United Artists, as it ended up making over $33 million at the U.S. box office on a budget of just $1.8 millionnote . The ending is notable for being perhaps the first use of a "shock" ending in a horror film, which has since become a staple of the genre. Film critics welcomed Carrie with immense acclaim (unusual for a horror film even today), which helped it gain a Hugo Award and two Academy Award nominations: one for Sissy Spacek for Best Actress, and the other a Best Supporting Actress nod for Piper Laurie.note 
  • Advertisement:
  • Lawrence D. Cohen (the writer of the 1976 movie) put together a musical adaptation in The '80s. After a limited run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in England that got a mixed reception, it debuted on Broadway on May 12, 1988 — where it met with scathing reviews. The $7+ million production quickly became one of the biggest flops in Broadway history, as the musical closed after only sixteen previews and five shows. It became infamous enough to inspire a book written about Broadway's worst to carry the title Not Since Carrie. A number of people, however, saw a lot of potential beneath the poor production and feel that it could've worked out if it had received some polish. A heavily overhauled, off-Broadway revival eventually happened. Fun fact - the original Broadway run had Margaret White played by Betty Buckley - who had starred in the 1976 film as the gym teacher.
  • The 1999 sequel The Rage: Carrie 2 starred Emily Bergl and Jason London, and had Amy Irving reprise her role as Sue Snell. Set over twenty years after the original film, it has a new teen outcast, Rachel Lang, use her powers to get revenge on a group of Jerk Jocks who had bullied her friend Lisa into killing herself, while Sue, now a guidance counselor who remembers what had happened before, tries to stop things from getting out of control. A Dolled-Up Installment (it was originally written as a standalone film called The Curse), it met a poor reception from critics and was mostly forgotten at the box office, though it does have something of a cult fandom nowadays.
  • A made-for-TV version was made in 2002, airing on NBC. This adaptation, written by Bryan Fuller and starring Angela Bettis, Patricia Clarkson, and Emilie de Ravin, stayed closer to King's novel than the 1976 film did — with the exception of the ending, which the creators intended to lead into an NBC series that never happened. The film mirrors the novel's use of after-the-fact articles to tell its story; most of the film takes place in flashbacks while the police interview what few survivors remain after Carrie's rampage. Despite its obvious low budget, blatant CG, and radically altered ending, this film has its share of fans, particularly for Bettis' performance as Carrie and for being Truer to the Text. In some way, this version could perhaps be compared to the 1997 Mini Series remake of The Shining in terms of trying to be more faithful to the source material, though King wasn't involved with this one.
  • Another film adaptation was released in 2013. This version was directed by Kimberly Peirce (of Boys Don't Cry fame), written by playwright, Marvel Comics scribe, and Glee writer/co-producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and starred Chloë Moretz, Julianne Moore, and Judy Greer. It largely pulled elements from both the novel and De Palma's film; opinion on it is largely divided as to whether it should've been based more on the book or the movie. The overall reaction is that it's not bad, exactly, though it's still very much in the shadow of the original. A leaked script and several deleted scenes confirm that it was supposed to be more faithful to the book, but forty minutes of footage was cut and a lot was re-shot to bring it closer to a Shot-for-Shot Remake.

Don't confuse this work with the country singer (though her video for "Before He Cheats" is a homage to the film), or two other well-known fictional Carries.

Carrie contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: The principal seems to think that Carrie's name is Cassie, even after being told repeatedly by Miss Desjardin that he's wrong. Carrie's frustration with it eventually results in another display of her powers.
    The Principal: We're really sorry about this incident, Cassie...
    Carrie: IT'S CARRIE!
  • Accuser of the Brethren: Why Chris and Sue have their falling out in every adaption, Sue changes, Chris does not. If anything she gets far more evil than a standard Alpha Bitch.
  • The Ace: Tommy Ross is a good, brilliant student who is also an outstanding athlete, cool, mature for his age, socially conscious, kind, good looking, and well respected and liked by his fellow schoolmates. He's actually been scouted for the Boston Red Sox and declined because he wanted to finish college first. He's had a couple poetry chapbooks published as well.
  • Adults Are Useless: In the book, the principal and vice-principal are both well-meaning and see to it that Chris is punished for her actions, but this only causes Chris to plot even worse revenge. A few days before the prom, they discuss their fear that she's going to pull something, but are ultimately powerless to stop it. The other adults in Carrie's life are either apathetic to her plight (most of her teachers) or actively making her life worse (her mom). Even Miss Desjardin, the one person who tries to help her, fails her at the last moment by laughing at the prank along with everyone else.
  • The Alleged Car: Billy drives a rusty, beat-up, jacked-in-the-back '61 Chevy Biscayne with a broken headlight.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Chris with Billy, who is frequently described as a delinquent. He is the one who kills the pigs to get the blood for the prank. And even rapes Chris and threatens her life. In fact, Chris is in love with him because he's abusive to her.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The titular Carrie herself, shy, awkward, and totally naive to things as universally known as a woman's period. This is due almost entirely to her being raised by her zealous mother—as a child, the lessons Carrie's mother put into her head made her judge the other kids her age unfairly, and even though she's outgrown that as a teenager, she still has no idea how to act with other people. Needless to say, very few people have a nice word to say about her.
  • Alpha Bitch: Chris, one of the most iconic examples. Her first major scene has her ruthlessly taunting a terrified Carrie for not knowing what her period is, and refusing to apologize or even show remorse. She's so obsessed with torturing Carrie that she and her boyfriend Billy plan the infamous prank together.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Many characters get this treatment in-universe. The investigators suspect that Sue and Tommy were actually trying to set Carrie up for humiliation, which wasn't the case. Sue portrays Chris as the driving force behind the prank and says she manipulated Billy to do what she wanted, while the investigators put more blame on Billy, feeling that he took over the plan and did most of it himself. The truth seems to be somewhere in the middle, as Chris came up with the plan, but Billy is fully on-board with it and wants to wreck the prom for everybody.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: There really was (and still, just barely, is) a Christian sect opposed to all forms of sexual intercourse founded by a woman who went through a traumatic miscarriage. They were called the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, more commonly known as "The Shakers" because of their sacred dancing. The sect came to prominence in the 1780s and still exists today. Some might think that they would have quickly disappeared for obvious reasons, but they supplemented their non-replicating members through adoption and converts, and (unlike Margaret White) gave young adults they had raised a choice between staying and making a vow of celibacy or leaving with a donkey and some money to get a start in life. This is just one aspect in which the Shakers are/were unlike the character they may have inspired: since they were founded by a woman who believed herself the second coming of Christ, they insist on gender equality at all levels of Church hierarchy. Besides these surprisingly progressive views, they are also responsible for a slew of technological innovations (including many we take for granted), because their simple communal lifestyle demanded they manufacture and sell competitive goods to survive — and because while they believe in hard work, they also think work should be easy, a gift and a joy.
  • Ambiguous Disorder:
  • And the Adventure Continues: In contrast to all of the adaptations, the book ends with a distant letter from another woman saying that her young daughter has telekinetic powers.
  • Arc Symbol: Blood, as a representation of power, violence and death.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Flex", for Carrie when she practices her telekinesis.
    • "Pig's blood for a pig", for Billy, solidifying his Teens Are Monsters status.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Sue tries to justify not apologizing to Carrie since Tommy never apologized to a bully he beat up, Tommy asks her, "What did the sad silly bitch [Carrie] ever do to you?".
  • Artistic License – Education: Most schools have qualifications that a candidate for prom queen must meet, such as being a model student, actively involved in school activities, and well-liked by the student body. There is no way that Carrie would have qualified, so the book says that the school only votes for the male candidates, and their dates are just along for the ride (it's mentioned that the girls think this is sexist).
  • Artistic License – Religion: Used deliberately. Many of the passages Margaret quotes are not found in any translation of any of the holy texts of Christianity.note 
  • Auto Erotica:
    • Tommy and Sue have sex in the backseat of Tommy's car.
    • Billy and Chris also have sex (or at least, a sexual encounter) in his truck, though there's has a more nonconsensual undertone to it.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Following the prank, Carrie's..reaction begins at the prom in the gym and spreads. It doesn't take long before the entire "ballroom" is a mess of blood and fire.
  • Beautiful All Along: Carrie cleans up rather nicely when she's allowed to. Tommy himself, when having a conversation with her, is surprised to see that she's actually very pretty underneath her poor posture and refusal to make eye contact. It's also said that telekinesis burns up a lot of energy, so it's possible that using more of her powers slimmed Carrie down a little before the prom.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Played with by Carrie. Not only does the prank at prom seriously mess her up, she remains that way for the rest of the story. However, some people argue it makes her look more striking and distinctive.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Sue panics that she's going to end up as a Stepford Smiler suburban wife, possibly to Tommy, which is partly why she stands up for Carrie. So she gets Tommy to go to the prom...and she'll never be a Stepford Smiler again.
    • Carrie's worst nightmare before prom is that she'll have to go back to living with Margaret, gaining weight and getting lonelier and lonelier. The prom doesn't just kill Carrie and Margaret, it also burns down most of Chamberlain.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Carrie spares Miss Desjardin, her gym teacher, from her wrath in the original novel and a few of the adaptations. Carrie can recognize, even in her madness, that Miss Desjardin was at least trying to help her, even if she indirectly made Carrie's bullying worse.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Chris and Billy, the Alpha Bitch and her sociopathic boyfriend. Chris wants to play the pig's blood prank on Carrie because Chris got in trouble for tormenting her. Billy? He just thinks it's fun.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Margaret White and the Chris/Billy couple—though Margaret and the teen lovers never meet one another, they all serve as the book's main antagonists and the main sources of Carrie's troubles.
  • Blessed with Suck: Margaret knows or suspects that Carrie has a special "gift", and makes her suffer for it (among other reasons). When Carrie finally unleashes her full powers, she causes so many deaths that the whole world resents her deeply.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents:
    • Carrie gets a bucket of pig's blood dumped on her after being elected prom queen in a mean-spirited prank by Chris. It turns out to be the final straw, as Carrie snaps afterwards.
    • Some of the other students also get blood on them from the bucket, but more particularly, Carrie does a variety of this when she drenches everyone locked inside the gym with water. This starts a major fire, killing them all.
  • Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: Prom dress, but close enough. Carrie is soaked with pig's blood following Chris' prank, and though it's obviously a non-visual image in the novel, all film and television adaptations has the haunting image of Carrie wreaking her revenge in her bloody dress. Not to mention that the dress is red in the book, but all adaptations lighten the colour to pink so as to make the blood splattering have more effect.
  • Bloody Handprint: Carrie leaves one of these on Miss Desjardin's shorts during the shower incident, being under the impression that she is bleeding to death during her first period. (Momma never told her about "That Time of the Month", feeling that menstruation is caused by sin.)
  • Book-Ends:
    • At the start of both the book and the movies, Carrie gets her first period and promptly freaks out at the sight of her blood. At the climax, the period she had previously becomes the least of her worries.
    • In the book, the opening scene is of Carrie getting her first period. At the end of the book, Sue Snell starts menstruating right after she comforts the dying Carrie. Like Carrie's first period in the beginning, this one is significant; Sue had previously been wondering if she was pregnant due to her missing her period. This can happen due to stress, but it's implied that Carrie is responsible for whatever caused her to start menstruating again.
  • Bucket Booby-Trap: Chris's big revenge: dumping a bucket of pig's blood with Billy on Carrie as she and Tommy are being crowned. It works, Carrie is humiliated, and Chris gets her laugh. It all goes downhill from there.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Chris and the rest of Carrie's Jerkass classmates didn't know what she was capable of until it was far too late. Her mother, on the other hand, did know... and not only kept right on treating her in the same old way, but actually treated her worse, calling her a witch. In the novel, it's mentioned that Margaret's grandmother had the same talent, and Margaret knew about it.
    • In the book, there is a flashback from Margaret, involving her own grandmother (Carrie's great-grandmother). The woman would display her telekinesis and cackle madly. She'd also gone completely senile at an early age before dying of a heart attack. It's shown that she was a pretty frightening figure for Margaret to grow up with, which is probably why she ended up being a crazy religious fanatic. It's subtle but gives her a very slight Well-Intentioned Extremist view.
  • Callousness Towards Emergency: Everyone in the gymnasium laughs at Tommy getting hit with the metal bucket due to the cartoonish sound-effect it creates. This is only averted after Josie from the band playing at the Prom yells for someone to call an ambulance, and Norma narrates that everyone realized Tommy might be a goner.
  • Canon Welding:
    • Margaret White works at the Blue Ribbon laundry company. This is the same company Bart Dawes of Roadwork was also employed by, and one of the company's locations had their speed ironer become demon-possessed in The Mangler. It's unlikely that these were all the same locations.
    • Also, depending on how literally one wants to take it, Margaret White is said to have "fought the Black Man", which could also be said as "The Dark Man". Did she have an encounter with Randall Flagg, and could this be what drove her so insane? More likely however is that 'The Black Man' might refer to H. P. Lovecraft's Nyarlathotep, who is specifically called 'The Black Man' in "The Dreams in the Witch House".
  • Cassandra Truth: Mild example. Carrie was told about menstruation before she got her first period, but she dismissed it as another attempt to prank her. After the process is explained to her, she retroactively remembers she's heard expressions referring to periods.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: An unusual in-universe example. Tommy Ross is described in one of the articles as the "Lee Harvey Oswald" who set the events in motion, by asking Carrie to prom.
  • Child by Rape: How Margaret White claims Carrie was conceived.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Albeit one that goes horribly, horribly wrong. Carrie begins as naive and sheltered, bullied by the other girls and just wanting some happiness in her life. Over the course of the story, she embraces her supernatural powers, comes out of her shell a little, and even manages to stand up to her mother. Unfortunately, her stronger spine means that the prank on her at the prom is the final straw, and Carrie unleashes her rage upon the school and the town at large.
  • Confessional: Margaret White has one in her house, where she locks Carrie in periodically. It is decorated with horrifically vengeful images of God and Jesus.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: In the book, Sue and Tommy are blamed by the media for having planned the prank and driven Carrie over the edge, even though they had only played an incidental and fairly unwitting role in such.
  • Corpsing: In the book, this is how everyone, even Miss Desjardin, laughs at Carrie when the pig's blood coats her because it's so bizarre and out there. Their timing couldn't have been worse, as it triggers Carrie's Rage Breaking Point.
  • Creator Cameo: Carrie's 7th Grade English teacher is called Edwin King; Edwin is Stephen King's middle name.
  • Deadline News: The Associated Press bulletin from Chamberlain goes silent after Carrie opens a gas main in the middle of town, which takes only a spark from a lit cigarette a few minutes later to send the offices of the town's newspaper up in flames.
    "There were no more AP reports from Chamberlain. At 12:06 AM, a Jackson Avenue gas main was opened. At 12:17, an ambulance attendant from Motton tossed out a cigarette butt as the rescue vehicle sped towards Summer Street. The explosion destroyed nearly half a block at a stroke, including the offices of the Chamberlain Clarion. By 12:18 AM, Chamberlain was cut off from the country that slept in reason beyond."
  • Deadly Prank: It ends up being this for not only the entire senior class, but the whole town, as Carrie follows up killing her schoolmates by going on a rampage through her town, killing hundreds of people. Even before then, however, the bucket intended for Tommy doesn't turn over and instead hits him square on the head. He's already dead by the time the gym explodes. Even if Carrie hadn't had supernatural powers, the prank would have likely resulted in at least one person being killed or critically injured.
  • Death by Mocking: And how. After the students laugh at Carrie, she promptly goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that leaves several people dead.
  • Delinquents: Billy and his friends. Case in point, breaking into someone's farm and slaughtering their pigs for the prank.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: A variation: instead of Carrie saying this, it's Miss Desjardin who does so for her as she punishes the class for humiliating Carrie in the shower. Subverted in that the girls (other than Sue) don't learn a thing from it — in fact, it makes Chris want to humiliate Carrie even further.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Yes, some of Carrie's classmates had been treating her unfairly, but her murderous rampage throughout the town is never justified. Instead, it is considered disproportionate.
    • This is set in motion by another example, namely Chris pulling the elaborate prank on Carrie in retaliation for getting punished for bullying her in the showers.
    • Chris had previously put a firecracker in a girl's shoe because she had a cleft lip.
  • Domestic Abuse: How Margaret treats Carrie, and how Billy treats Chris. Margaret regularly forces Carrie into the confessional, beats her if she gets out of line, and guilt-trips her if she does not obey. Billy also slaps and insults Chris several times, but she is unfortunately kind of into it.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Margaret's reaction to learning about Carrie's powers is to call her a witch, quoting the appropriate Bible verse on the subject. Carrie's reaction to this is to use those powers to essentially hold Margaret hostage until prom. Margaret doesn't learn her lesson.
  • Downer Ending: Carrie kills her mother at the end, then dies from a combination of overuse of her power and her own injuries. Also, the few survivors appear to be traumatized, especially Sue.
  • Dying Town: The town of Chamberlain becomes one of these in the aftermath of Carrie's rampage, well on its way to becoming a Ghost Town, as starkly reported in "The Legacy of TK: Scorched Earth and Scorched Hearts," one of the articles that make up the book's epilogue:
    The over-all impression is one of a town that is waiting to die. It is not enough, these days, to say that Chamberlain will never be the same. It may be closer to the truth to say that Chamberlain will simply never again be.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The novel ends with a letter written by a Tennessee woman called Amelia Jenks describing the telekinetic powers of her two-year-old daughter Annie, who can make marbles move by themselves. Fortunately she's more sensible about it, although she knows this means Annie takes after her own Grandma. The old lady pulled off some amazing stunts with her powers, but had "heart spells". The novel's final words "I bet she'll be a worldbeeter [sic] someday."]
  • Evil vs. Evil: Carrie vs. Margaret and her bullies in general. Carrie at first starts out as the sympathetic hero, but her revenge on them all crosses the line from reasonable to miles beyond ruthless, to the point where she's killing and mind-raping people she's never met before.
  • Fanservice Pack: In-universe example. Estelle Horan (Carrie's neighbour in her childhood) recalls Margaret White calling her 'the Whore of Babylon' for sunbathing in her garden. She wore a rather modest one piece swimsuit. In defiance, her mother then bought a much skimpier bikini for her to wear.
  • Female Misogynist: Margaret White - the evils of women and female sexuality is one of her favorite subjects. She's so against sexuality, in fact, that she thought that sex with her own husband was sinful. It's implied that this comes, in part, from troubled relationships with her own mother and grandmother.
  • Fiction Isn't Fair: Carrie may be sympathetic, but the prank, being laughed at, and losing her mother all in one night takes away all her sanity and turns her into a monster. Even her happiest ending (the 2013) film is only such because she seems a little at peace dying with her mother.
  • First Period Panic:
    • Carrie is humiliated when she gets her first period in the gym showers during her senior year of high school. She initially thinks that she is bleeding to death, and instead of helping her, her classmates jeer and tease her. She causes a lightbulb to explode, signalling the growth of her telekinetic powers.
    • Her mother is a religious fanatic with a pathological fear of sex and sexuality, such that Carrie wasn't informed about menstruation at all, much less that it's a natural process that every girl and woman goes through.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Mention is made of how the "Carrie White affair" and proof of the existence of psychic powers has affected the scientific community's long-held preconceptions. While most scientists have accepted this new reality, it's mentioned that those at Duke University, among others, continue to reject it as a hoax even after the government's official report on what happened supported their existence.
  • Foil: Sue and Chris. Both initially bullied Carrie, but their reactions to the shower incident and its aftermath are opposite: Sue feels guilty, stops bullying Carrie, and tries to make amends with the help of her boyfriend, while Chris is unrepentant, blames Carrie for the withdrawal of her prom privileges, and plots a cruel revenge with the help of her boyfriend. As a result of the shower incident, Sue sacrifices her night at the prom voluntarily, while Chris has it revoked.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In the first half of the book, the narration lets us know that there will be a tragedy and that at the very least Margaret White shall be dead (but not Sue Snell).
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, Sue talks to the owner of a teen hang-out who complains that his pacemaker keeps electrocuting him. He says that he hopes Sue's friends don't have to find out what that's like...
  • For the Evulz:
    • Sue flat-out states that Chris's only motive for the prank was "the complete and total destruction of Carrie White."
    • The boys who help Billy butcher the pigs don't know about the prank. They're just doing it for this reason, and to inconvenience the farmer.
  • Freak Out: Carrie's—after the prank and being laughed at and humiliated—is one that kills a lot of people and leaves the entire world dumbfounded.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad
    • A lot of those stupid teenagers at the prom might have lived had they not found Carrie's utter humiliation so hilarious. Or tripped her as she ran out the door.
    • An interview with one of the survivors of the whole thing reveals that it was one of those situations where it was either laugh, cry or go crazy. Some people in Real Life tend to laugh in awkward situations. Combine contagious laughter and mob psychology and you get one horrible situation all around.
  • Freudian Excuse:
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Carrie goes from a shy girl in an abusive household to a mass murderer in the course of one night.
  • The Fundamentalist: Carrie's mom is a particularly psycho version of this trope, who is extreme to the point of insanity. Margaret White makes the Westboro Baptist Church look downright progressive. She thinks sex, even within marriage, is sinful and that women develop breasts if they "weren't raised right". She didn't even tell Carrie about menstruation, because she thinks it is God's punishment for sinful thoughts.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Telekinesis seems to be this way, considering Carrie, Margaret's grandmother, and Amelia's daughter are all female.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Chris' plan. She did humiliate Carrie just as she wanted, but it kicks off a Freak Out that would later result in dozens of people—including herself—being killed and traumatized.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Inverted. Tommy and Sue are more sympathetic, and the first time they do it is painful for Sue - only getting better after a couple of times. Billy and Chris however are the villains, and Billy essentially rapes Chris for their first time - and she loves it. It's also said that Margaret White enjoyed when Ralph raped her, although she was still unhappy about it.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Billy seems motivated only by general disdain for everyone around him. It's clear that his preferred target is Carrie, but he ultimately wants to ruin the prom for whoever wins, regardless of who it is. When setting up the prank, he thinks to himself that he would find it just as funny if Chris was the target of the pig blood, and later tells her directly that he would have done it to her if he could.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sue Snell at the beginning of the story. After tormenting Carrie with the other girls, she decides that she wants to make it up to her by having her boyfriend take Carrie to prom, and even tells Chris to leave Carrie alone. That said, the book—and even Stephen King himself—leaves it ambiguous whether she had a genuine change of heart or was just guilty/embarrassed for what she did. At some points it seems that she isn't sure herself.
  • The Hero Dies: While it's hard to call Carrie herself a heroine, it counts as such in the sense that she's the main character. Averted in the 2002 film.
  • Heroic RRoD: Carrie herself has one of these in the end after killing her mother, from a combination of shock, blood loss, and sheer overuse of her power which caused her heart to give out, although it's not really heroic. Also, it's heavily implied, including a medical analysis during one of Carrie's early practice sessions, that all telekinetics will eventually succumb to this because telekinesis puts great strain on the heart and lungs.
  • Hidden Depths: In universe, other students are amazed to learn Carrie made her own prom dress. This becomes more of a revelation in later adaptations when this ability becomes far less common for the average teenage girl.
  • High School: The majority of the novel takes place at Carrie's high school, and it includes such archetypes as Alpha Bitch Chris, popular jock Tommy, and the outcast Carrie herself.
  • High-School Dance: The prom itself where the infamous prank happens. Everyone's looking forward to it, so much so that Mrs. Desjardin threatening to not let the girls go for what they did to Carrie really makes them shut their mouths.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Tommy and Sue are given this treatment in-universe after the "Black Prom", with much of the public thinking of them as assholes who set off Carrie's rampage.
    • Carrie gets this as well in-universe. While she is a Villain Protagonist if you think about it, the reader knows she's a Tragic Monster. However the press surrounding the event presents her as a one-note villain, as Sue denounces a film adaptation for treating her this way.
  • Hope Spot: The whole story is like one giant hope spot due to the Foregone Conclusion osmosis of the narrative. You know Carrie has powers, you know Chris is setting up a cruel prank, you know it's going to set her off and end horribly for everyone. But.. she looks so happy for the first time ever. And she thinks her fantasies about independence and a normal life really might come true.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Carrie's blood-filled Freak Out happens on prom night.
  • In the Blood: One of the book's Scrapbook Story elements consists of clippings from books and scientific papers discussing the genetic and biological origins of telekinesis. Telekinesis is something that shows up in Margaret's family every third generation.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: On prom night, Sue finds herself considering the possibility that Tommy might fall for Carrie, and she doesn't seem to have much of a problem with it. Tommy's last thoughts before the prank is pulled (that he's come to love both of them) suggest that this might have been the case.
  • I Was Quite a Looker:
    • Carrie's former next door neighbor remarks what a pretty child she was and her reaction to seeing Carrie's high school photo was "what did that woman [Margaret] do to her?".
    • This also applies to Margaret. Interviews with people from her past and records indicate that she used to be a very beautiful young woman, but her physical appearance began to degrade when her mental stability did the same.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • When Sue tries to defend herself by saying that she eventually stopped throwing tampons at Carrie, Chris points out that it's a pretty lame excuse.
    • Chris's father also points out that a teacher should not swear at her students, and the principal admits that she was reprimanded over the incident.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Morton doesn't relate to his students that well and keeps getting Carrie's name wrong, but is indignant about how the bullies treated her in the shower, and firmly supports Principal Grayle's stand against Chris's father. He even suggests that he'll quit if Chris's father gets Grayle fired.
  • Karmic Death: For Carrie's bullies themselves at the end, especially Billy and Chris. Years of their bullying and tormenting leads to them being painfully and horribly killed in Carrie's rampage. Carrie also lampshades that she's doing this to Margaret.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: As Carrie is running off the stage, crying, one of her bullies trips her, and everyone laughs even harder at that.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Carrie attacking the boy on the bicycle for attempting to scare her.
  • Kill It with Fire: In all versions of the story, Carrie kills her fellow classmates by locking them in the gym and burning it down. The novel and the remake also have her flooding the gym floor and dropping live wires into it, electrocuting everybody, and causing a short circuit to start a fire.
  • Knife Nut: In Margaret's more psychotic moments, including the end, she goes after Carrie with a butcher's knife.
  • Lack of Empathy: The girls couldn't care less about how rotten they made Carrie feel, resulting in their demises.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Tommy's death has an element of this, as his last thoughts before the prank are him feeling happy about him and Carrie winning, and the bucket hits him before he has time to register that anything's gone wrong.
  • List of Transgressions:
    • After the shower incident, we're given a very long list of the many horrible things Carrie's bullies have done to her over the years.
    • When Chris's father threatens to sue the school, the principal gives a ridiculously long list of all of the horrible things Chris has done to unpopular/outcast students (and she skipped her punishments for all of them)
  • Lonely at the Top: Sue and Tommy don't seem to enjoy their popularity. Sue is acutely aware of the price she's paying for it, while Tommy seems to feel that his popularity is superficial and won't last after graduation. This may be part of the appeal of befriending Carrie- she's the one person who would like him for who he is, not just because he's popular.
  • Lovable Jock: Tommy. He's popular, a great athlete, and dates popular girl Sue Snell. However, he's also a Nice Guy who sticks up for Carrie and treats her with genuine kindness before and during prom night. There's a reason everyone likes him.
  • Lovecraft Country: Set in Maine, obviously. The '76 version is the only one that doesn't place the story there; a close look at the license plates suggests that it takes place in Ohio.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • "if the eye doth offend thee, pluck it out" for Margaret after Carrie disobeys her and goes to prom, and Margaret plans to kill her.
    • "CARRIE CARRIE CARRIE" becomes one for everybody in Chamberlain during the rampage, although it actually comes from Carrie herself as they recognize her presence.
    • "Pig blood for a pig" seems to be this for Billy.
  • The Masochism Tango: Chris and Billy. Billy even tries to rape Chris, but she submits quickly after realizing that's what he wants. And that she likes it.
  • Matricide: Abusive Margaret is killed off by her daughter Carrie while she was stabbing the latter in a manic fit. Carrie's father died in a work-related accident before his daughter's birth.
  • Menstrual Menace: Carrie's mild telekinetic powers become much stronger after her first period.
  • Mind over Matter: Carrie's main power is being able to move objects with her mind, which starts off as a small skill and transforms into a deadly ability.
  • Mind Rape:
    • In the book a dying Carrie tries to do this to Sue, angry about the prank that she thought Sue had pulled on her... only to find that Sue meant her no harm, and that she hadn't planned to humiliate her at the prom. Also, several people who survived Carrie's rampage had her presence and identity essentially stamped into their minds, even though most of them had never met her and many never saw her that night.
    • In the book, Sue realizes that Carrie is also mildly telepathic, and actually invites Carrie to examine her thoughts to demonstrate her innocence. She didn't realize how unpleasant the experience would be, though.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Chris has only herself to blame for getting kicked out of the prom, yet she lashes out at Carrie.
  • Most Writers Are Writers:
    • Sue Snell goes on to become an author, publishing a memoir about her life and the prom incident.
    • Tommy also had a poem of his published in a magazine.
    • Norma Watson and Tina Blake co-write a book called We Survived the Black Prom.
  • Mugging the Monster: Billy, Chris, and Billy's delinquent buddies douse Carrie in pig's blood as a prank. Although they didn't know she was a monster until it was too late.
  • Mutual Kill: Margaret stabs Carrie, then Carrie kills Margaret by stopping her heart. Carrie eventually dies from shock, blood loss, and overuse of her power in finishing off her final tormentors, Billy and Chris.
  • My Beloved Smother: An abusive example. Margaret controls pretty much everything Carrie does and is so against anything and everything even mildly sexual that she refuses to let Carrie go with Tommy to the prom and refers to breasts as "dirtypillows." However, she does "love" Carrie in a very twisted way.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • The reason Sue asked Tommy to take Carrie to the prom was because she felt sorry for what she did to Carrie in the shower.
    • Miss Desjardin and the principal both have this reaction after the massacre has occurred, because they didn't help Carrie or do enough to stop her bullying. Both resign from teaching as a result.
  • New England Puritan: Margaret White is a fundamentalist to the extreme, believing sex even within marriage is wrong and routinely going door to door to evangelize. This results in her and her daughter being outcasts in their own town.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The events of the book (which was published in 1974) are said to have occurred in 1979, and most of the in-universe articles that the book uses for exposition were written in the '80s. The films, however, are all set squarely in the year that they were released in.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Sue. Granted, if she hadn't participated in humiliating Carrie in the shower, Carrie would have still been mistreated, but Sue's actions made her feel guilty enough to send Tommy to ask her to the prom, which is what set into motion everything that followed. In her memoir, she admits that she didn't consider that this could end badly.
    • Miss Desjardin is an even more extreme example. When she bans Chris from prom, she gives Chris exactly what she deserves for not even being able to take her mild punishment. Unfortunately, this triggers Chris's insane Misplaced Retribution against Carrie.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Sue just wanted to do something nice for Carrie, so she asked her boyfriend Tommy to take her to prom and show her a good time. This would ultimately lead to Carrie's Roaring Rampage of Revenge that leaves the majority of the town killed, traumatized, and mind-raped. On top of that, Sue's boyfriend Tommy ends up getting killed in Chris's prank when the bucket hits his head.
  • Nominated As A Prank: This is how Chris plans to get back at Carrie after she gets banned from prom for bullying Carrie. She rigs the vote for prom queen so that Carrie and Tommy will win. When they come on stage to be crowned, she dumps a bucket of pig's blood on her. She accomplishes this by having her friends volunteer to help collect and count the votes for prom queen and king.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Margaret crudely tells Carrie how she was produced via rape because Margaret considered all sex — even within marriage — to be offensive and sinful. She starts screaming about how she admits she enjoyed it.
  • Offing the Offspring: Margaret White tries to kill Carrie when Carrie comes home from prom. Before that she nearly murders an infant Carrie after seeing her levitate a bottle.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Chris's father actually comes down on her when she's caught at a drug bust and she mouths off to him, though he only does it because he feels she's putting his reputation at risk.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Carrie and her prom rampage, especially with her murder of Chris and her boyfriend, Billy.
  • Person as Verb: At the end of the novel, it's said that "to rip off a Carrie" passed into teen slang, meaning "to commit large-scale mayhem". In Real Life, "pulling a Carrie" or "going Carrie on [something]" became synonymous with someone going crazy after being humiliated, especially if they'd generally been quiet or shy. This one's become so well-traveled that it even appears in the Kare Kano manga as a visual-only metaphor for someone snapping under the strain of having perfectionist, controlling parents.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Carrie herself.
  • Prank Date: Subverted. Carrie thought this was the case when Tommy asked her to the prom. However, he had benign intentions, as did his girlfriend Sue, who arranged for him to take Carrie to the prom instead of her due to her feeling sorry for joining in on Carrie's humiliation in the shower. Chris found out, though, and she wanted to make sure it went very badly. And it did.
  • Precision F-Strike: During one of their big fights, Carrie screams "You suck!" and then "YOU FUCK!" at Margaret. It gets the reaction she's hoping for.
  • Prom Wrecker: Chris and her friends plan to do this to get back at Carrie. They rig the vote for Prom Queen so that Carrie will win. When Carrie goes on stage to accept her crown, they dump a bucket of pig's blood on her. This is the likely Trope Codifier, with many examples paying homage to this scene.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Or at least an Anti-Villain. The story is about how a lifetime of bullying, capped off by one final Rage Breaking Point, turned Carrie into a mass murderer.
  • Protagonist Title: The story follows Carrie White.
  • Psychic Powers: After having her first period, Carrie discovers she has these.
  • Psychological Horror: While much of the book's climax is visceral, the majority of the horror comes from seeing just how badly Carrie's mind is messed up from her upbringing.
  • Punished for Sympathy: Carrie sees Tommy's death this way. As she runs from the prom, she bitterly thinks to herself that he was killed "for bringing a plague into the place of light."
  • Rage Breaking Point: The pig-blood prank, one of the most infamous in fiction. It, coupled with everyone laughing at her, is Carrie's final straw before she unleashes her revenge upon the town.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Miss Desjardin chews the girls out for assaulting Carrie in the locker room before handing out the detention slips.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The principal, who stands up for Carrie and shuts down the lawsuit threat from Chris's father. He's also concerned that Chris is going to pull something at the prom, and takes responsibility for not being able to prevent it. Ms. Desjardin is also this, though she secretly finds Carrie annoying to deal with and can't help laughing at the prank.
  • Recessive Super Genes: Margaret says that her grandmother was telekinetic, and Carrie is. Margaret is not; it skips two generations. Same for Amelia's observation that her daughter's powers are like her own grandmother's.
  • Redemption Equals Life: In the book Sue, who regretted tormenting Carrie and tried to make it up to her, is spared by Carrie after Carrie reads her mind and learns that Sue had no malice towards her. In fact, most of the characters who made some effort to help her, like the gym teacher and the principal, survive here.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the book and 2002 made-for-TV version, the entire town burns, but in other versions only the high school suffers.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • According to Stephen King, Carrie's rampage is a parable for the story of Samson in the temple. The 2013 film also references this, with the poem Carrie reads to the class.
    • In-universe, Chris's idea for the prank seems to be the connection between the pig blood and Carrie's period blood in the shower. For Billy, the connection is even simpler: "Pig blood for a pig."
  • The Scapegoat: Sue and Tommy are blamed for what happened with Carrie's prank, even though they were the two most well-meaning people involved in the whole affair.
  • Scrapbook Story: The original novel was partly told through a mix of newspaper and magazine articles, scholarly papers, government reports, and excerpts from Sue Snell's memoirs.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation:
    • The musical. As detailed above, it has become a byword for disastrous Broadway flops.
      ... and as the lights dim to black, boos ring out from the upper balcony while below, others begin an ovation. ... Carrie has become an instant legend.
      As the audience files out, some appear thrilled, others appalled; the word most frequently bandied about is "unbelievable". ... The ad copy, which read "There's Never Been a Musical Like Her," has proved oddly prophetic.
    • Scarrie! the musical parody.
  • Sex Is Evil: Margaret thinks all sex, even within marriage, is immoral and sinful.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Though Margaret's husband Ralph shared her beliefs, one time he got drunk and couldn't resist the temptation, and managed to pressure her into having sex. The book also makes it clear that Margaret also suffered from this, although the '76 version has her suggest that he raped her. And so Carrie was conceived. Margaret never got over the fact that she actually enjoyed the act.
  • Sexless Marriage: Carrie's parents wanted to have a marriage like that, but they were "weak" and ended up producing Carrie herself.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • When Carrie gets dressed up for the prom, both Tommy and the narrator say she's beautiful.
    • Miss Desjardin gets this as well when she turns up at the prom. Carrie thinks she looks as though she's attending the prom instead of just chaperoning.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Near the end, Sue notes that she's missed a period and this could mean she's pregnant with Tommy's baby (and after he dies at the prom, this means she might have Someone to Remember Him By). After Carrie dies, Sue gets her period. Either she was late and got her hopes up for nothing, or the experience of letting Carrie into her mind made her miscarry. The 2013 film spares the baby and ends with Sue giving birth.
  • Shower of Angst: Carrie is showering after a long day of bullying and tough physical education. Already in a bad mood, this is when she gets her first period, and kicks off everything that follows.
  • Spared, but Not Forgiven:
    • Book-only, Carrie spares Sue after learning that she had no malice towards her, but she still torments Sue by rifling through her brain, and forcing Sue to do the same to her, as she re-experiences the Despair Event Horizon of the whole night.
    • It's also implied she spares Miss Desjardin for trying to help her fit in, but it isn't as clear.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Deconstructed. Carrie actually isn't very interested in Tommy, and at first thinks that the only reason he's even talking to her is because of a joke. It takes a lot of convincing on Tommy's part for her to even consider going to the prom with him.
  • Stepford Smiler: Sue is terrified of becoming this in the novel after high school, though funnily enough, the incident prevents her from becoming one.
  • Stocking Filler: Carrie wears a garter to hold up her stockings, although it's not intended to be sexy. It's because Margaret won't let her wear pantyhose. Carrie feels that it's cumbersome and uncomfortable and wishes she could wear sleek and sexy pantyhose like all the other girls instead.
  • Stock Shout-Out: It's in Tiny Toon Adventures of all things!
  • Strangled by the Red String: In-universe, this is how Sue sees her relationship with Tommy. When pondering why they're together at one point, the only thing she comes up with is that they're both popular, and their classmates ship them. She admits years later that she doesn't think it was real love. Later, when Carrie reads her mind, she's surprised to find that she did feel something genuine for him.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: All of which is being caused, directly or otherwise, by Carrie.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: the school's fuel tank explodes, blowing up the entire school, and then a couple of gas stations close to downtown. Carrie also makes fire hydrants "explode" to prevent the fire department from putting out her fire.
  • Teens Are Monsters: All the girls in the locker room, but particularly Chris, who is the mastermind behind the pig-blood prank. (Sue, however, quickly regrets her part in the taunting of Carrie). Billy is a monster as well. And of course, there's Carrie...
  • There Are No Therapists: Justified. Margaret probably thinks that therapists would lead Carrie down the path to Hell, and she'll be damned if she'll let the "godless" government social workers take away her daughter. In the book, at least, it's established that she regards the government as a den of sin.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Carrie's mother, unlike Carrie's Jerkass classmates, has a pretty good idea of what her daughter's capable of doing if pushed sufficiently — and she keeps right on pushing. It's pretty clear that if Margaret ever had any sense, it's long been swallowed by zealotry and madness. She's a poster child for 'diminished capacity'.
    • One of the paramedics responding to the fires decides it's a good idea to drop a lit cigarette into the street.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: The people around Carrie herself were just plain old jerks who were being jerks when they wanted to — but then again, everyone in the prom wouldn't have been killed and most of the town wouldn't have been destroyed had they stopped to think that bullying someone might eventually get them into real trouble.
  • Tranquil Fury: Averted in the book. Carrie quite gleefully enjoys the carnage she causes. Played straight in all film adaptations but especially the De Palma film.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The book is set in 1979, five years after it was published.
  • The Unmasqued World: Discussed mildly at the end of the book, the government makes zero attempt to hide the fact that what happened in Chamberlain was a powerful psychic going on a rampage, shattering science's view of the nonexistence of the paranormal (save a few universities who still believe it a hoax). In fact, the researchers want to publicize it as a warning, convinced the likelihood of more telekinetics out there is 99%; but the state investigators and the White Commission decide that "we find no reason to believe that a recurrence is possible or even likely." Cue Amelia's letter.
  • Unreliable Narrator: This happens a lot, with the reader being given different perspectives of the events that sometimes conflict with each other. Sue's memoir portrays her in the best possible light, while Norma's account of the prom disaster omits the fact that she had taunted Carrie earlier in the night, and seemed to be hoping that something bad would happen.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • They're not breasts, they're "dirtypillows."
    • Margaret also refers to Ralph's erection as "the presence of the serpent."
  • Unstoppable Rage:
    • Carrie finally snaps after Chris pushes her one time too many at the prom and although she spends a lot of the time in Tranquil Fury, there's no mistaking that she wants blood.
    • Margaret's death is also amped up in the film versions. In the novel (and in the musical), Carrie uses her powers to stop Margaret's heart. In the film versions, except the 2002 remake, she stabs and crucifies her with sharp kitchen utensils.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Sue and Miss Desjardin end up inadvertently destroying the entire city of Chamberlain and killing hundreds of people just because they genuinely wanted to help Carrie.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Stephen King based the character of Carrie White on two girls he knew; one while a high school student and another from when he was a teacher. Both were severely bullied outcasts with strange mothers, one of whom was a deranged religious fanatic, and both girls died just a few years after high school.
  • Villain Protagonist: Carrie. More precisely she's a Woobie Anti-Villain, starting off sympathetic but turning into a revenge-seeking monster by the book's end.
  • Villains Out Shopping: There's a scene featuring the normally monstrous Margaret happily doing some ironing and listening to one of her favorite records. It', to say the least.
  • Vote Early, Vote Often: In all film versions this is how Chris gets Carrie to win by getting her sidekick to switch the ballots. In the book Chris merely does some promoting amongst her clique but Carrie and Tommy only win by one vote. Chris also mentions that she "set it up" so Carrie would win, but we don't see how.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: Carrie destroys her entire town, killing hundreds of people. It's explicitly stated that, within a few months, what was left of Chamberlain, Maine was a Dying Town, on the way to becoming a Ghost Town. The makers of the original film wanted to include this, but they didn't have the budget, and instead settled for destroying just her high school and her house.
  • While Rome Burns: Chris and Billy are too busy having rough sex to notice the town's blowing up.
  • With Friends Like These...: Billy deliberately leaves his friends' fingerprints on the buckets of blood, amused at the thought of them getting arrested in the aftermath of the prank.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: We really could have titled this trope "The Carrie". She may go psychotic at the end, but she shows remorse as soon as the rampage ends — and after what she endured, it's amazing she didn't snap sooner.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In the novel we are told that Carrie is 16 years old, and an excerpt from Sue's book says Carrie was 17. But Carrie was born in September 1963 and the book takes place in May 1979, which would actually make Carrie 15, her 16th birthday still four months away. And of course being a high school senior she should be at least 17. Margaret also mentions that she tried to murder Carrie when she was a baby, but Ralph stopped her. That must have been quite a feat, considering he had already died before Carrie was born.
  • Xanatos Roulette: Billy mentions that there's a chance that someone will go up into the rafters (where the stage props are kept) and discover the buckets, but considers it "an acceptable risk." He also says that while Chris has told him Carrie and Tommy will win, he's not sure it will happen, but he doesn't care because he'd just as gladly dump the blood on anyone else.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: A particularly horrifying case that goes even more horribly wrong. On prom night, Carrie is actually having fun, feels beautiful, is being crowned prom queen with Nice Guy Tommy...and then she's dumped in pig's blood, Tommy is killed, and everyone starts laughing at her.

The musical adds examples of:


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: