The book uses fictional documents, such as book excerpts, news reports, and hearing transcripts, to frame the story of Carietta “Carrie” White, a 17-year-old girl from Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie’s mother, Margaret, a fanatical Christian fundamentalist, has a vindictive and unstable personality, and over the years has ruled Carrie with an iron rod and repeated threats of damnation, as well as occasional physical abuse. Carrie does not fare much better at her school where her frumpy looks, lack of friends and lack of popularity with boys make her the butt of ridicule, embarrassment, and public humiliation by her fellow teenage peers.
At the beginning of the novel, Carrie has her first period while showering after a physical education class. Carrie, terrified, has no understanding of menstruation as her mother never told her about it. Her classmates use the event as an opportunity to humiliate her. Led by Chris Hargensen, they throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her. When gym teacher Miss Desjardin happens upon the scene, she at first berates Carrie for her stupidity but is horrified when she realizes that Carrie has no idea what has happened to her. She helps her clean up and tries to explain. Carrie’s mother shows no sympathy for her first encounter with what she calls “the woman’s curse.”
Miss Desjardin, still incensed over the locker room incident and ashamed at her initial disgust with Carrie, wants all the girls who made fun of Carrie suspended and banned from attending the school prom, but the principal instead punishes the girls by giving them several detentions. When Chris, after an altercation with Miss Desjardin, refuses to appear for the detention, she is suspended and barred from the prom and tries to get her fat…
…nd that the only way to save her is to kill her. Revealing that Carrie’s conception was a result of what may have been marital rape (although she admits she enjoyed the sex), she stabs Carrie in the shoulder with a kitchen knife, but Carrie kills her mother by stopping her heart.
Mortally wounded but still alive, Carrie makes her way to a roadhouse where she sees Chris and Billy leaving. After Billy attempts to run her over, she telekinetically takes control of the vehicle and wrecks the car, killing them both. Sue Snell, who has been following Carrie’s telepathic “broadcast,” finds Carrie collapsed in the parking lot. The two have a brief telepathic conversation. Though Carrie had believed that Sue and Tommy had set her up for the prank, Carrie realizes that Sue is innocent and has never really felt a real urge to humiliate her. Carrie then forgives Sue, and dies.