Margaret White (Carrie)
Betty Buckley as Margaret White, with Linzi Hateley as Carrie in the 1988 musical
|First appearance||Carrie (1974)|
|Created by||Stephen King|
In every adaptation and portrayal of the character, she is the abusive and fanatically religious mother of Carrie White, who has the power of telekinesis, and thinks almost everything, especially related to the female body and sex, is sinful.
In the novel, Margaret is an overweight, formerly beautiful, Christian woman who always dresses in shapeless black clothing. She works full-time at a laundromat and has held her job for many years. She often maims herself during times of great stress. Once, Carrie dreamed that Margaret had given herself a hysterectomy after battling the devil.
She was born Margaret Brigham. Her father was killed in a gun battle, and she began attending a fundamentalist church group to deal with the loss; she quickly became a religious fanatic. Her mother remarried a man named Harold Allison, but Margaret denounced them, believing that they were living in sin.
In 1960, she met her soon-to-be husband, Ralph White. Margaret later tells Carrie she had sex with Ralph before marriage. She wanted to kill herself afterwards and fell down the stairs to induce a miscarriage. After they married, Ralph vowed that their indiscretions would never recur, but one night Ralph tried to seduce Margaret before she threw him out of the house. He returned drunk and had sex with her in a bizarre form of marital rape that Margaret both hated and enjoyed. This resulted in the conception of Carrie. In February 1963, seven months before Carrie's birth, Ralph was killed while working on a construction site (though it is mentioned in the novel that Ralph stopped Margaret from killing the infant Carrie when she started exhibiting her powers early in her life).
Margaret gave birth to Carrie while in her house, without medical assistance. Her relationship with her daughter was extremely abusive from the time Carrie was a baby. This deeply affected Carrie throughout the years, putting great strain on her by homeschooling her into becoming a part of her fundamentalist community. Whenever Margaret believed that Carrie had sinned by going to school, she would throw her in a specially decorated closet to pray for forgiveness (out of no fault of her own), usually leaving her there for several hours or even days as a punishment.
Margaret believes that anything or everything is a sin and harbors extremely restrictive views on sexuality. She feels that only "loose women" develop breasts, or "dirty pillows" as she calls them; she feels that she herself developed breasts due to the way Carrie was conceived. When Carrie has her first menstrual cycle at the age of 16, Margaret refers to it as the 'Curse of Blood' and claims that it was brought on by some sort of sexual sin on Carrie's part. After berating Carrie, Margaret locks her in the "prayer closet" until it is time for bed.
When Carrie is asked to the prom by Tommy Ross, Margaret initially forbids it, but Carrie insists on this last opportunity to fit in and reinforces her demand with her telekinetic power. Once Carrie makes her own dress, Margaret insists that they burn it and pray for forgiveness, disapproving of the fact that it shows cleavage. Carrie then uses her powers to push her mother out of the room.
While waiting for Carrie to come home from the prom, Margaret loses all contact with reality, hiding a butcher knife beneath the folds of her dress. Once Carrie arrives home, having telekinetically destroyed the high school and everything else in the town after falling victim to a cruel prank, both are surprised to find out that they each intend to kill the other. Margaret stabs Carrie in her shoulder. Carrie kills her mother by telekinetically slowing down her heart to a stop; Margaret recites the Lord's Prayer as she dies.
Margaret claims that Ralph was carried away by the devil, but Carrie says that he actually left her for another woman. As in the novel, Margaret reveals that she had sex with Ralph twice: once prior to marriage (after which she wanted to kill herself), and once more after they were married, when he was drunk and forced himself on her, leading to the conception of Carrie.
Upon learning of her daughter's telekinetic abilities, Margaret becomes convinced that Carrie is a witch, and recalls Exodus 22:18 ("Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"), which interprets as charging her to purify Carrie by killing her. While Carrie is at the prom, Margaret snaps mentally; she is seen pacing in the kitchen, then beginning to chop a carrot with a butcher knife, and continuing to chop the cutting board even after the carrot rolls away. After Carrie returns home after unleashing her powers at the prom (killing almost everyone there), Margaret, who has lit thousands of candles all over the house, tells her about the night she was conceived by marital rape, then stabs her in the back with the butcher knife while leading her in the Lord's Prayer. As Carrie tries to crawl away, Margaret makes a cross motion with the knife and stalks her through the house with a delirious look in her eyes. She corners Carrie and raises the knife to strike again, but Carrie telekinetically flings various kitchen elements from the drawers at her, impaling her. Margaret dies in the same pose as the statue of Saint Sebastian in Carrie's "prayer closet".
Laurie's performance in the original film earned her nominations for both the 1976 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture.
2002 television filmEdit
In the 2002 made-for-TV adaptation, Margaret is portrayed by Patricia Clarkson. She has a calmer disposition than the 1976 version and her past is only briefly hinted at; the film begins with her giving birth to Carrie in bed at home. Her husband isn't mentioned. On prom night, Margaret tries once again to persuade Carrie not to attend, but is sent sliding out the door by Carrie's powers; Carrie warns her to "watch your fingers", preventing her from being harmed physically when the door slams shut. Margaret then leaves the house, and spies on her daughter as she leaves in a limo with Tommy, heading for the prom. Following Carrie's return from the massacre, Margaret steps into the bathroom while Carrie is still in the bathtub. She calls Carrie a witch for destroying the town and tries to drown her in the bathtub while reciting the "bedtime prayer". Carrie then kills Margaret by causing her heart to stop.
Julianne Moore played Margaret in the 2013 adaptation of the novel. This version of the character is a mix of the 1976 and 2002 portrayals on account of being abusive and having a calm demeanor. Unlike Piper Laurie's interpretation, Moore's portrayal of Margaret has her showing genuine love for Carrie and is shown to own a tailoring business. The 2013 Margaret also takes her self-harm to a new extreme, breaking her skin using sharp objects and scratching herself until she bleeds. As in the 1976 film, Margaret is pinned to the wall with various objects after she attempts to kill her daughter.
In 1988, the property was adapted into a musical co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Margaret was initially portrayed by Broadway star Barbara Cook. Cook withdrew after three weeks of performances and was replaced when the show transferred to Broadway by Betty Buckley, who had appeared in the original film as Carrie's gym teacher. In the musical, she is portrayed as a much more complex and sympathetic character who genuinely loves and wants to "save" her daughter. Margaret even shows remorse after beating and locking Carrie in the prayer closet (cellar in the musical) after the shower incident. Her songs include "Open Your Heart", "And Eve Was Weak", "Evening Prayers", and "I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance" (duets with Linzi Hateley as Carrie) and the solo "When There's No One". The lyrics of the first act finale imply the marital rape described in the novel, as Margaret recalls Carrie's father attempting to seduce her while they were dating, culminating on a night when "he took me and touched me; I tried to fight."
In the finale, Margaret meets Carrie on a shining white staircase descending from above, where she first comforts and then stabs her. Carrie then uses her powers to kill Margaret before crawling to the bottom of the staircase and dying herself.
Buckley recorded the song "When There's No One" for her 1999 album Betty Buckley's Broadway.
Marin Mazzie portrayed Margaret in the revised 2012 Off-Broadway revival of the show, where Margaret's death scene was restaged to be more in line with the original novel's version of events.
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