Carrie and Columbine: American Gothic

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Carrie, by Stephen King, and the Columbine High School Incident; looked at separately, they are to things that have nothing to do with each other. Carrie was Stephen King's first major novel and a New York Times bestseller. Columbine was and incident in Colorado that happened in 1999, where two high school seniors orchestrated a bloody massacre at their high school. The two events occurred over twenty-five years apart, but when juxtaposed we can see many similarities between the book ant the incident, the fact that they are gothic in nature in particular.

Gothic Literature is a literary style made popular during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th . This style usually portrayed fantastic tales dealing with horror, despair, the grotesque and other "dark" subjects. Gothic literature was named for the apparent influence of the dark gothic architecture of the period on the genre. Also, many of these Gothic tales took places in such "gothic" surroundings, sometimes a dark and stormy castle as shown in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, or Bram Stoker's infamous Dracula. These stories were romances, due to their love of the imaginary over the logical. Gothic literature gave birth to many other forms, such as suspense, ghost stories, horror, mystery, and also detective stories. Gothic literature wasn't so different from other genres in form as it was in content and its focus on the "weird" aspects of life. This movement began to slowly open may people's eyes to the possible uses of the supernatural in literature.

This brings us to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here we see the emergence of writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. These writers used the gothic format in their writing but tweaked the traditional form to start a new style with an American twist, hence, "American Gothic". These stories of darkness occur in a more everyday setting, such as the quaint house where the man goes mad from the "beating" of his guilt in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and the quaint little village in Shirley Jackson‘s "The Lottery". The stories often involved farms and farmers and besides having a surprise twist at the end, usually some form of mass murder or death, they also used dark humor had and underlying theme, such as religion and social order.

As we move even further down the timeline, we come across "new-age" gothic writers. Some are directors, such as M. Night Shamalan, who produced the gothic classics "The Sixth Sense and Signs. Others are novelists, like the award winning Stephen King, whose many book were made into bone chilling movies like The Shining. King's first novel, Carrie is an excellent example of the "new-age" gothic literature.

In his book, Carrie is the main character and the subject of tons of ridicule from her peers and religious fanatic of a mother. In the opening scene, Carrie has her first period, during a shower in the locker room, in front of all the girls in her class. The girls make fun of Carrie relentlessly, throwing tampons and chanting in unison to "plug it up". When she tells her mother of the occurrence, instead of consoling her Margaret White (Carrie's mother) throws Carrie head-first into a closet and orders her to pray for the duration of time. For a majority of the closing scenes, Carrie reeks havoc on her peers and town after pigs blood was dumped on her while she was being crowned prom queen. She goes on a rampage were she wipes out half of her town, including Ewan High School and most of the teenagers who attended the prom.

Carrie is gothic entertainment in its purest form. But, what if it wasn't entertainment anymore? What if Carrie was a true story. What if it crossed that fine line that separates fantasy from reality? Then, there is no more entertainment. What was once fantasy now becomes a tragic reality. That is what exactly what happened on the afternoon of April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Colorado.

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