• ‘The matrix of all problems’: Stephen King’s marriage of fundamentalism and the monstrous-feminine as social critique

      Ackers, Jenny L. (University of Chester, 2013-09)
      The place of women in society has long been decried by their place in religion – at least according to horror novelist Stephen King. Indeed, the release of first novel Carrie (1974) was the beginnings of an avid interest in both religion and gender stereotyping, the latter of which the author has been accused of utilising for horrific effect. Yet, this unison of themes is more complex than this. Certainly, these thematic concerns become the means with which King interrogates religious extremism and the conditions which cultivate such devotion; the novel succeeded in exposing the cataclysmic aftermath of a childhood so governed and restricted by militant Puritanism as to metamorphose Carrie White from a wholesome, all-American teen into an ardent evangelist responsible for a town massacre and the murder of her mother. However, utilisation of the fundamentalist agenda within this novel and later releases becomes the means with which King critiques both the archaic notions of the sin of femininity upheld within Christianity, and crucially, how and why such conceptions still pervade modern-day culture. In particular, King turns ‘his women’ monstrous because of their adherence to roles placed upon them by the conservative – even oppressive – conception of gender found within fundamentalist discourse; monstrous when they succeed in following such ideals – and monstrous when they do not – King also suggests that the origins and perpetuation of the image of the monstrous-feminine are far more sewn into the fabric of US society than its citizens would care to admit. This study will thus focus upon the methods of control found within fundamentalist ideology and how they presume to demarcate boundaries which dictate appropriate behaviour for women. Analyses of the monstrous-feminine within later novels will also demonstrate King’s motivation for marrying religion and the woman-as-horror scenario, and will be highlighted as not simply a mechanism within King’s oft-used toolbox of terror, but as the mechanism with which he turns the spotlight on both fundamentalism - and an avidly patriarchal society still struggling to maintain a hold over women.