Anyone close to me knows that I am a huge Stephen King fan. From his epic multi-book series, to his expansive novels, to his short stories, King has the power to scare, inspire, and most of all entertain, legions of followers. So when I was asked to write an article on my personal choice for Uncle Stevie’s scariest creation, I was faced with a crisis. He has created so many dastardly baddies in his day, where does one begin? I wanted to convey his portrayal of evil without falling into the trap of choosing the obvious candidates. Pennywise, Randall Flagg, Kurt Barlow, these are monsters that terrify the mind and chill the soul. They are ruthless, diabolical, and will kill you without hesitation or mercy. You know what they are though? Expected. When you see a spider, you know it has icky hairy legs, pincers, and a million eyes. You know that the fly caught in its web is in for a bad day. To me, the person that has the most frightening pull over you is not the monster under your bed, but the one in your family.
After some serious thought, I settled on Margaret White, single mother to the telekinetic wonder child, Carrie. I know you are probably saying, “What?? With all of the crazy characters King has written, you choose Carrie’s mom?” Margaret might not be a shape-shifting killer clown, but she is no less evil.
Margaret grew up in a small town, her mother widowed at a young age when her father was killed in a gun fight. Already showing signs of mental illness during a time when such things weren’t discussed, let alone treated. She found solace in a fundamentalist Christian group, especially after her mother remarried. She saw this as a sinful act and renounced her family. In 1960, she met Ralph White, and they began a sexual affair, which of course sent Margaret into a deep fit of suicidal depression. They later married but she vowed to never give into sexual temptation again, which could put a strain on a new marriage. One night Ralph tried to get frisky with Mrs. White but she spurned his advances and threw him out of the house. He later came back intoxicated and would not take no for an answer. And in this moment of rape and violence, Carrie was conceived. Once the little bundle of joy arrived, however, is when the true horror began. As an infant, Carrie could make her baby bottle float with her telekinesis, which caused Margaret to want to kill her because she considered the child a witch. Therefore, Ralph had to step in to stop Margaret from carrying out the horrific deed. From the time of adolescence, if it was perceived that Carrie had sinned, she would be locked in a Christ-blinged-out closet to pray for days to gain repentance. Margaret also physically punished Carrie for developing breasts and beginning her menstrual cycle, as these were sure signs of evil and sexual deviance. The final straw was when Carrie was invited to prom as part of the cruel prank, Margaret went to burn the dress as it displayed an inappropriate amount of cleavage, but that is when Carrie finds her mojo, throwing her mother back with her Jedi powers. Convinced that Carrie is a demon, Margaret plans to kill her when she returns from prom with a butcher knife, but unfortunately for her, Carrie has already destroyed half the town, so she isn’t going to take anymore of mommy dearest’s crap. Margaret’s life ends as she would have wanted, reciting the Lord’s Prayer while Carrie slows her heart into oblivion.
What makes Margaret White so frightening to me is her lack of love, even when she proclaims to follow a religion based upon it. Her life is a never ending bulldozer of hate, abuse, and pure evil. She destroys every relationship that she has in her life, from disowning her mother for remarrying, to the only man who truly loved her, to her own flesh and blood daughter. All she has in the end is a hollow prayer and a cold heart. It is a combination of fear, loathing, and sadness that makes Margaret White my most feared Stephen King character.