Horror Relevance 45 Years Later

Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ resonates with its emphasis on female empowerment.


Lily Diagostine, Reporter

Carrie, the terrifying novel written by Stephen King and published in 1974, changed the horror genre when it was released in 1974. And just as it struck young people then, teens today can still identify with the book, but with a bit more awareness.

With increased pressure from social media for teenagers to fit in, Carrie is a symbol for young girls’ insecurity and growth into adolescence. Themes of liberation and empowerment inspire young female readers today, just as they did in 1974.

At the time of its release, the book mainly appealed to young people who could understand Carrie White. The New York Times archives features a review from 1974, in which columnist Newgate Callendar calls the book “brilliant.”

“This mixture of science fiction, the occult, secondary school sociology, kids good and bad, and genetics turns out to be an extraordinary mixture,” Callendar writes.

Today, the novel’s theme of female power is especially relevant and demonstrates a hyperbole of catastrophic events linked to repression. Carrie’s mother keeps her in the dark about puberty, leading to the iconic locker room scene. One could suggest that adequate sexual education could have prevented the deaths of 458 characters.

Carrie, not made aware of fundamentally important facts of human development, is left to make sense of adolescence by herself. The guilt and shame pushed onto Carrie by her mother for completely natural bodily changes leads to her awakening of power.

It’s surely not an accident that King links this telekinetic ability to the essence of puberty by tying together themes of female expression, liberation and violence.

But the catastrophe surrounding Carrie doesn’t leave the reader disgusted with her. Instead, we understand, identify and feel uncomfortable pity for her. This unusual take on horror makes the novel more compelling and shifts the blame from the young girl to her mother, bullies and teachers.

Ultimately, Carrie can be seen as a victim, only liberated by her genetic abnormality. As the young character struggles with her self-image and feelings of rejection, teens today can easily identify with her. With the increased influence of social media, the pressure to fit in is ever-increasing.

With his first-published book, King brought on what we now know as an amazingly successful career for an author. Carrie looks directly into the face of teen self-consciousness, shocking the reader by releasing a feeling they already know.