Thursday, 15 October 2015

Narrative structure in “Carrie”

“Carrie” is based on the novel with the same name written by Stephen King, the film was directed by Brian De Palma in 1976. The narrative resembles the fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling”, the ending however is far from happy.

Act I (Setup)

At the start of the film the setting is clearly established by presenting a school girl with very underdeveloped social skills, which is the scape goat of all of the other students. The inciting incident that sets the story in motion is Carrie’s first period in the locker room after her PE class. Scared and confused Carrie starts crying and asks for help, all the while the other girls throw tampons at her laughing manically.  At this point Carrie is scared and does not want socialise at all, she feels she is different and when focused she can move objects with her mind. She tries to withdraw and stay invisible as much as possible (Plot point 1).

Act II (Confrontation)

The first culmination is perhaps when Carrie starts researching her telekinetic powers in the library, figuring out why is she different than everybody else. This is also the time when she gets asked to the school prom. If she wants to go however, she needs to stand up to her mother (Piper Laurie) and claim her independence. Plot point 2 is suggested when Carrie makes a choice that is completely unlikely to her previous self. She is going to the prom and she shuts her overprotective and religious mother using her ability. For the first time she trusts people from the school and instead of being scared she faces her fear. After the enchanted evening where Carrie becomes a queen at the prom against all odds, the plot is finally being revealed. A bucket of blood falls on her, pushing her for the final time. The trust in everybody is gone and she murders everyone (even the people that tried to help) reaching the climax of the film.

Act III (Resolution)

Carrie goes back home, washes the blood off her body and wants to be reassured with a hug. Her mother truly believes that Carries powers come from the devil so she stabs her which sets Carrie’s telekinetic ability into a final frenzy where both of them are killed and buried under the house they used to live in.

 The ending is quite clearly a closed one, perhaps because it was based off a novel. What is really striking however, are the complex characters in the film that shapeshift multiple times from being bad and harmful to Carrie to being actually good, they definitely had a lot of depth that was portrayed in a very subtle and masterful way.


  1. I love the original Carrie. It's 'up there' on my list, but I've never quite found a way to shoe-horn it into a film programme!

  2. Yes, it is such a great film :) never heard of it until a contextual studies lecture last year

  3. I think, in a way that genre movies can, it really speaks to the 'reality' of the school experience; it taps into the sense of being 'other' and 'the outsider' - and likewise the fantasy of one day obliterating your bullies with the 'secret power' you hold inside! The book is excellent - all remakes are not :(