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Guilt And Blame In Carrie

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In the words of research professor Brene Brown, Guilt is just as powerful, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement. The significance behind this quote is that although a guilty conscience isn’t easy to bear, it comes with a positive outcome, such as a valuable lesson learned, whereas the outcome of shame is inevitably destructive. Carrie, by Stephen King explores the effects of guilt, and shame on various characters, as well as remorse, and the violence of revenge amongst characters.

As readers, we are able to make an obvious connection with the opening quote, and Carrie’s manic mother Margeret. Margaret White, Carrie’s mother, is disturbed. She has been taught all throughout her life that everything revolves around religion, and the idea that committing an act of sin, means that the world will end. Margaret has instilled the same manipulative, smothering perception of religion into Carrie’s mind. For instance when Carrie comes home from a traumatic scene in the changeroom, she begs her mother to comfort her and asks in a shaky voice, “Hold me, Mama. Please hold me.”(63). When Carrie demands the sympathy of her mother, her mother begins to pray, crying “Oh, Lord! Help this sinning woman see the sin of her days and ways. Show her that if she had remained sinless, this curse of blood would never have come down on her!”. Margaret takes her past sins, and guilty conscience and places the weight on Carrie’s shoulders with this one line. Although Carrie hasn’t been completely brainwashed by her religiously disturbed mother, she still obeys her mother when she has “sinned”. This is displayed when Carrie tells her mother that she has accepted an invitation to prom. Margaret tells her that this is unacceptable, and that she needs to “go to [her] closet”(113), which is where she would pray and ask for forgiveness. Carrie explains that “Everything isn’t bad, Mama! Everything isn’t a sin!”, Carrie is then forced into the closet to pray. To conclude, Margaret White has had a traumatic past, similar to Carrie’s childhood. Carrie has been taught that her religion should feel more like a burden of guilt on her shoulders, rather than a peaceful, and comforting spirit.This, in turn has shaped Carrie’s mind into the exact same disturbed mind that her mother carries.

Bullying is something most people can admit to doing, whether it be a rude comment, to more serious actions, but not all of us can own up to it and take the consequences for it. This is an issue that Sue Snell is faced with during the novel. Whether she was proud of it or not, Sue took part in the bullying that made that day in the changeroom so traumatic. She was one of the many girls that threw tampons at Carrie when she was clearly already mortified. Sue later admits that while she was obviously accompanying the bullies that day, she’s “not really sure what she [is] doing”, this places Sue in the category of victims of “mob mentality”, meaning she was heavily influenced by her peers as well as the adrenaline of the moment. The one thing about Sue that separates her from the rest of the bullies, is that despite the fact that she does not like her, she doesn’t feel the need to display her hate by attacking Carrie. Sue feels very guilty about attacking Carrie that day, she explains that she “did a not so good thing”, she then admits that she was “ashamed”(56), and that that is the very reason that she cares for Carrie. Later in the novel, Sue explains that “Someone ought to try and be sorry in a way that counts…in a way that means something.”(98), which shows how she has been carrying this guilt, and made her change the way she acts toward people, this is illustrated in this quote when she sticks up for Carrie. Sue knew that she needed to do something in order to show her remorse and account for her actions, which in Sue’s eyes, the perfect way to do so was giving up her prom date so that Carrie could go with her secret crush Tommy Ross. Although this did not go as planned by the end of the prom night, this was Sue’s way of showing that she cared and that she was apologetic. When readers reach the end of the novel, it is made clear that Sue Snell seems to be the only character that acknowledges the damage that she has caused Carrie, and definitely the only character that shows her regret, it could be that she is the only one who even holds that regret.

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Early in the novel, we are introduced to the secondary antagonist, Christine Hargensen, or better known as Chris. Given information readers have from the first few chapters, it is clear to recognize Chris to be the main“ring leader” in this toxic trio, which seems to be a trait her and her boyfriend share, as he is the leader of a very violent gang in Chamberlain. It seems as though she chooses to surround herself with people just like her… toxic sociopaths. Chris has continuously teased and harassed Carrie since grade one for her differences, primarily because her mother was seriously mentally ill. Chris was the first girl to initiate the bullying in the changeroom that day. As soon as Chris receives a punishment for her actions, she is not happy, she is even more vengeful to make Carrie pay. While the classmates are doing their work, Chris opens up about her father suing, she says, “ If only the rest of you had walked out with me… Jesus why didn’t you Sue? We could have had them by the balls”(89). Sue responds by sticking up for Carrie, she tells Chris that she “took the punishment because [she] thought [she] deserved it.”. This embarrassed Chris, the blood rushed to her face as if “a red cloud had passed over some inner sun”. Even though it has been made evident that Chris is just as, and or more responsible for the bullying, she refuses to admit it, instead, she does what she does best and teases Sue for defending Carrie. All of these little comments that Sue has made agitated her even more. Chris is now aware that Sue gave up her prom date and that Tommy is now taking Carrie. Chris plans to do everything in her power to make sure nothing about this prom night is enjoyable for Carrie to say the least. She, along with her boyfriend who would have “done murder for her”(134), this shows his dedication to Chris, whether or not he agrees with what she has planned, he is wrapped around her finger and is willing to do anything for Chris. Chris is determined to make this the worst night possible. Just as Carrie and Tommy are being crowned prom king and queen, Chris dumps a bucket of pig’s blood on the two, as a reminder of Carries traumatizing experience in the changeroom. It is evident that Chris Hargensen is not capable of accepting and admitting to her wrongful actions. Instead, she would feel much more fulfilled, if she could get her revenge, and “pour” her guilt onto somebody else, which in this scenario, was Carrie.

Onto the theme of revenge, it is evident even by reading the blurb on the back of the book, that Carrie seeks revenge from all of her classmates, and even some innocent teachers, and she accomplishes this at the end of the novel. Throughout the first half of the novel, Carrie had dark thoughts about hurting her classmates, specifically the ones who had bullied her. Carrie’s never acted upon her vengeful thoughts until she realized what her mind was capable of. Furthermore, her thoughts grew more violent, for instance, when Tommy Ross was out riding his bike one day, he crosses paths with Carrie. Tommy sticks his tongue out, followed by “ hey, o’l fart face” (28), when Carrie thinks to herself “Fall off that bike kid, push you off that bike, split your head open.”(28). Tommy then falls off of his bike and scrapes his knee. Carrie explains that “The sound of tommys wails were sweet. Jangling music in her ears.” (28). Another illustration of Carrie’s vengeful thoughts is when Carrie is venting about her relentless bullies. She explains that they “all hate. And they never stop. They never get tired of it.”. She then shares one of her violent visions when she says “Imagine Chris Hargensen all bloody and screaming for mercy. With rats crawling all over her face. Good. Good. That would be good. […] Crush in her head with a rock, with a boulder. Crush in all their heads. Good. Good.”(25). This comment of course also foreshadows the terrifying prom night the students had coming for them. Carrie seeks revenge upon her bullies. She explains to her mother Margaret, that it was time to “teach them a lesson. Time to show them a thing or two”(552), this also foreshadows future events on prom night. Finally, prom night arrives, and Carrie has just had pig’s blood dumped on her from 10 feet above the stage that she was standing on. Just as Carrie was about to storm out and run home, she turns around, and remember she has a new found power that could be used to her advantage tonight. She wanted everybody to pay. Carrie turns her “God given gift” into a weapon that she would use to kill the very kids she grew up with. Carrie blamed everybody for the way her life was, whether you only spoke to her once, or tortured her during school, she blamed you, and she wanted her revenge. Carrie tries to explain that she “don’t blame anyone any more.”(52), when she bit her tongue, preventing any more lies from slipping out of her mouth. Carrie clearly blames everybody for the way her life is. Although Carrie never acted upon her violent thoughts, she eventually could not bear these feelings any longer once she has been mortified once again in front of her school by her bullies. Carrie seeked revenge upon her bullies, and that is exactly what she received.

In summary, it is evident that Margaret’s past relationship with her religion has scarred not only herself, but also her own child, whom she continues to smother with shame and guilt and sin. Readers can acknowledge and analyse Sue Snell’s personal guilt that she carries since her participation in the bullying and harassment of Carrie white, and that it drives her to stick up for Carrie, and defend her almost as a friend would do for another, even though Sue has made it clear she didn’t like Carrie very much, she knows her actions were wrong, and attempts to show her remorse, whereas nobody else wanted to do whether or not they acknowledged their actions were wrong. Alternatively, the main antagonist of the novel, Chris, does not acknowledge that her actions were not just wrong, but traumatizing. In addition to her not recognizing her wrong doings, she seeks revenge upon Carrie, for the punishments that she was given, which in turn, ended very far from what was expected. Lastly, readers were able to explore the violence of Carrie’s thoughts, and her fatal revenge.

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Guilt And Blame In Carrie. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
“Guilt And Blame In Carrie.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
Guilt And Blame In Carrie. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Jan. 2023].
Guilt And Blame In Carrie [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from:
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