While novels such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, Kate Chopin’s ‘The Awakening’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘Surfacing’ are essential entries in the feminist literary canon, Stephen King’s Carrie does not belong in this company. The crucial difference is that almost all novels that explore femininity and women’s identity are written by women authors themselves. Keeping with the trend, Stephen King’s attempted portrayal of a woman’s innermost thoughts is quite inadequate. Carrie is a book not so much about women, but rather men’s perceptions of women. Not surprisingly, coming from a male author, the book is full of gender and racial stereotyping of women. The depiction of black women in the book exemplifies this tendency. It will not be an exaggeration to state that Carrie is a poorly conceived fairy tale of a woman’s revenge, whose violence returned to older oral versions that gave women more power. Through Carrie, Stephen King gives vent to some of the common apprehensions that men have about women’s physiology, including that of menstrual periods.
Carrie fails as a feminist novel on account of the author’s inability to comprehend and master an unfamiliar and intimately female nature of the subject matter. Strangely enough, the author and his created character (Carrie) seem to be in exactly the same unfamiliar territory for the first time, that of the female sexuality and body. With all its apparent flaws, Carrie was a bold statement on femininity, in that it was published in 1974, when menstrual taboos and religious origins of misogyny were not openly discussed. In the novel, the female protagonist Carrie is shown to be a victim of her mother, who has been deeply indoctrinated with Judeo-Christian notions of misogyny. Carrie’s mother demonizes her own daughter’s body and inculcates in Carrie’s formative psyche a sense of sin and evil associated with her body, as the following exchange from the book succinctly illustrates:
“And God made Eve from the rib of Adam,” Momma said … [thumping] Carrie with the side of her foot and Carrie screamed. “Get up, woman. Let’s … pray to Jesus for our woman-weak, wicked … souls.
“And Eve was weak and—say it, woman. Say it!”
“No. Momma, please help me—”
The foot swung. Carrie screamed.
“And Eve was weak and loosed the raven on the world,” Momma continued, “and the raven was called Sin and the first Sin was Intercourse. And the Lord visited Eve with a Curse . . . of Blood . . . and Eve found that her belly had grown big with child.” (p.54)