One of the most fun aspects to Stephen King's work is the way in which so many of his stories intersect with each other. Some of them are overt call backs or crossovers like the towns of Derry and Castle Rock, or the many Dark Tower connections. Others are more subtle, and are left to the reader to pick up on, such as Jake Epping's discovery of KA in 11/22/63. During a recent reread of some of King's early work, I think that I've found one such connection spanning primarily between the novels Carrie, The Shining, and The Stand, and even into King's recent novel, Doctor Sleep.
In the broadest strokes, it goes like this: Carrie White had the Shining, the same ability that Danny Torrance has in the novel of the same name. Carrie's mother, Margaret White, may have had the same ability, or she may have been receiving actual visions from Gan regarding the apocalyptic events of The Stand, or something similar. This is based on the following textual evidence:
- Parallels between Carrie White and Abra Stone.
- Parallels between Margaret White and Mother Abigail.
- Visions from Margaret White that seem to be about Randall Flagg.
Carrie and the Shining:
Though often unexplained, I believe that the Shining is actually one of the oldest and most commonly occurring hallmarks in King's fiction, right up there with The Dark Tower and the state of Maine. You see it in almost all of his books. Characters with unexplained powers, or who just seem to know things, like when they're in danger or which door has a trap on the other side. One of the first things that Dick Hallorann tells little Danny Torrance at the beginning of The Shining is that a lot of people Shine to some degree or another.
Carrie was King's first novel, and its titular character is either gifted or cursed (depending on your perspective) with psychic powers that take her down a disastrous and bloody path. Carrie's powers are studied throughout the story, but never explained. For years I never connected Carrie's abilities, which were telekinetic, with Danny Torrance's Shine, which was predominantly telepathic in nature. I hadn't made the connection, that is, until last year when I read Doctor Sleep, King's sequel to The Shining.
In Doctor Sleep we meet a girl named Abra Stone. Abra, like Danny before her, has the Shining, but if Danny Shines like a candle then Abra would be more akin to a bonfire . . . or a lighthouse. Her gift is powerful, and in addition to the precognitive and telepathic abilities that Danny had, she also displays an aptitude for making things move. It's in reading about Abra that we see a number of similarities with Carrie.
Abra had exceptionally strong telekinetic abilities when she was a small child, but they faded as she grew older. Toward the end of the novel, when she's a teenager, they come back to her and grow even stronger than they were before. The way Abra's powers wax and wane directly parallels the narrative in Carrie. We know that Carrie had powerful telekinetic abilities as a small child, slamming all of the windows in the house at once without realizing what she was doing, or calling down a rain of stones onto her house when she was scared. These powers completely fade away until the opening of the novel, when Carrie, also a teenager, unconsciously uses them after she gets her first period. From this point on, just like Abra, Carrie finds her abilities becoming more and more powerful, leading ultimately to the bloody climax of the story where she uses them to massacre everyone at her prom.
There were also situations where Carrie was upset or angry and unconsciously used her powers to break things. At one point she smashes some of her mother's kitchenware. Abra too, in Doctor Sleep, accidentally uses her powers to smash a number of antique dishes during a fight with her parents.
Margaret White, Mother Abigail, and Randall Flagg:
Carrie's mother, and by extension her upbringing, is by far the biggest distinguishing factor that separates her path from that of Abra, who ultimately uses her powers for good. Margaret White, evil, fanatical, and three kinds of crazy, is about as far from the kind and benevolent Mother Abigail that we meet in The Stand as one might imagine. There are similarities between the two however, the most notable of which being the religious visions that each of them claims to have. Both women claim to hear messages from God warning them, to various degrees, of an impending apocalyptic event. Most specifically, it seems that they are both having visions of Randall Flagg.
Often times throughout the novel, Carrie and her mother recall visions of a "Black Man," described as a corrupting, Satanic figure bent on some kind of apocalyptic destruction. This is Flagg's modus operandi through and through. He travels from world to world, corrupting and destroying, felling kingdoms and governments like bowling pins. Even the name, "The Black Man," is synonymous with Flagg's titles "The Dark Man," and "The Man in Black."
There are three explanations that I can think of as to why Margaret White would be having visions of Randall Flagg. Either Gan (the God of Stephen King's multiverse) was sending the visions as a warning, as Mother Abigail claimed to have experienced, or Flagg himself sent the visions to drive her insane and by extension remove Carrie as a possible threat to his future plans.
Assuming that neither of these are the case, I think it's also likely that, if Carrie had the Shining, Margaret shared her daughter's gift. From the books that directly deal with it, we know that the Shining is passed down through families. Jack Torrance had it, which was why he was so vulnerable to the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel. Danny had an even greater gift for it than his father, and his niece Abra has the most powerful aptitude of them all. Dick Hallorann also reveals to Danny that other members of his own family had the Shining as well, in particular his grandmother who taught him how to use his abilities.
If Margaret did have the Shining, then the visions that she experienced may not have been religious in nature at all. Rather, they were premonitions of future events which she confused as a message from God due to her own extreme dogmatic beliefs. As seen in Doctor Sleep, people with a powerful shine can foresee large-scale disasters, such as early in the book when an infant Abra had a premonition of the 9/11 terror attacks. If disasters that result in thousands dead can cause people psychic pain or distress, then an apocalyptic event like the Captain Tripps virus which killed 99% of the world's population, or the coming of Randall Flagg, could easily have such a powerful impact as to drive a person insane. With her religious upbringing, a young Maggie White probably attributed her shine to a sign from God, and the intensity of it may have been what contributed to her madness.