Carrie is the buttmonkey of this series.
Fairly recently a commenter said that the character of Carrie made her uncomfortable simply because whenever Carrie appears on the page, it's because she's about to be victimized. I agreed completely with the reader's opinion, but I also grimaced because I had just finished drafting the post for this section, I knew what was coming, and I really don't like making people uncomfortable (I'm a Southerner; it's engrained).
I feel sorry for Carrie as a character, though probably not for the reasons Andrews intended. She's such an underutilized character when she could have been so much more. Cathy claims to love her like a child, but Carrie's feelings and well-being are constantly neglected and forgotten. She could have been a grounding force for Cathy, or her opposition, or anything. Instead it seems the plot forgets all about her unless it's about to do something terrible to her.
Anyway, you are very, very correct to be suspicious of the book's sudden interest in Carrie right now.
I hope you brought your flashlights, gentle readers, because the book's about to get dark.
After Julian's death, "I was no longer a sweet, innocent virgin," boasts Cathy. "Two men had taught me well. I would have the knowledge to hold my own when it came time to steal my mother's husband away from her." Let's hope all that intel works out for you, Cathy! It'd be a shame if your mother's husband sidesteps your attempted seduction by raping you!
The whole family falls in love with Jory, who is an exceptionally pretty, sweet, easy-going baby who hardly ever fusses or cries or demands and who should probably be tested for Renesmee Cullen Syndrome. Chris wants badly to be Cathy's fake babydaddy and begs her to come with him during a short residency at the Mayo Clinic. There's another one of those talks Cathy and Chris constantly have, where Chris is all "you are the only woman I will ever love" and Cathy is quite reasonably like "please, I just want a man I can sleep with and not feel ashamed and SISTER, I AM YOUR SISTER" and we've heard it all ten times now but we need to establish it for future events.
Christmas comes around again--if I had a drinking game for this novel, we'd all have to chug one for Christmas--but this year all the focus is on Jory's first Christmas. Carrie, enchanted with Baby Jory, sings him to sleep, while Chris and Cathy watch from the doorway. Chris whispers that Carrie looks so much like Cathy, except smaller.
One little word, "except." One little word that kept Carrie from ever feeling really happy.THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULD STOP MENTIONING IT ALL THE TIME. Especially since she's internalized it in such charming and healthy ways as this:
"You are like a rose, Cathy. All the bees come to you, and they don't even see me down so low. Please don't get married again before I have my chance. Please don't be around if ever some man looks my way...Don't you smile at him, please."
- Oh Carrie, honey. If a guy starts hitting on you, and then suddenly dumps you the moment your sister walks into the room, that's not a guy you want.
- This book has reached the point that Carrie and Cathy must now negotiate terms about who gets to be married next. Because all women, everywhere, are in direct competition for the attention of all men, everywhere, at all times.
- Do we all realize this is basically the book's way of telling us how awesome Cathy is? That she is so hot she might inadvertently destroy her sister's chances for marriage simply by being in the same general area? I just want to make sure we're all on the same page here: this book thinks Cathy's hot.
Broke and desperate, Cathy finally listens to what I kept screaming during the first book and goes out to get a lawyer.
NO NO DON'T GET THAT LAWYERI looked up a phone number in the Greenglenna telephone book, and in no time at all I had an appointment to see Bartholomew Wilson, Attorney At Law.
Can we talk about all these professionals who specialize in nothing? What the hell degree does Chris have? What did Paul actually do in his practice? Why is millionaire playboy lawyer Bart Winslow taking a minor insurance case for an unemployed single mother? This is like me saying "I am a professor." They don't just let you go into any random classroom and teach**!
Anyway, Cathy ditches Jory--who is now somehow three years old--with Henny and Carrie while she makes her appointment to meet Bart Winslow, Hottie At Law.
Bart recognizes Cathy on sight. It turns out that as soon as Cathy became a ballet star, Mommie Dearest became a ballet buff, dragging her husband to any performance starring Catherine Dahl and Julian Marquet. Cathy, unsurprisingly, feels two ways about this: this is exactly the acknowledgement she wanted, her stated reason to become a star dancer, but she's dismayed to confront a part of herself that wants her mother to be proud of her.
Cathy deals these feelings by being a bold-faced bitch to Bart: "I bet your wife leads you around like a pet poodle on a jeweled leash, Mr. Winslow. That's the way rich women are. They don't know the least thing about working for a living, and I wonder if you do." Bart tells her to GTFO and find a new attorney if that's her attitude (go Bart!) but then, in the next sentence, tells her he'll take her case.
In just under a week, he shows up at the dance school with a check for $100,000, or about three-quarters of a million dollars in 2013 money***. When she asks about Bart's fees, he says they'll discuss it over dinner. I have it under advisement that this behavior is unethical.
When Bart leaves, Madame M asks Cathy who the stranger was. Cathy explains, but somehow it ends in a fight between the two women about Jory's future. Marisha wants Jory to become a dancer and attain the fame that should have been Julian's; Cathy threatens to take Jory away. Marisha has a grand moment of calling Cathy out:
"You got something eating at you, Catherine! Something gnawing at your guts. Something so bitter it simmers in your eyes and grits your teeth together! I know your kind. You ruin everyone who touches your life and God help the next man who loves you as much as my son did!"The italics are Andrews, by the way. Either Madame was seriously emphasizing every word or she lapse briefly into her native tongue.
Otherwise, barring that her son was an abusive rapist, all of the above is pretty much correct. The "something" Marisha seems unable to name is a big old steaming pile of daddy issues, but give Madame credit for being able to read Cathy like a large-print library book.
Cathy goes out for Chinese with Bart, where she spends the entire dinner calling his wife a fat lazy stupid hog and calling Bart a poodle. Bart reacts about as well as you'd expect. He tells her he's about to move back to Virginia to be closer to Foxworth Hall and storms out, having still not told Cathy what his fee will be. If I were Bart, I'd claim 50% of her settlement for this bullshit treatment.
Instead, Cathy makes plans to follow Bart back to Virginia. She's taking Carrie and Jory with her. Carrie doesn't want to go, but who listens to Carrie, right? She does perk up a bit once she and Cathy are established in their pretty little cottage in Virginia, where Carrie becomes a full-time babysitter and Cathy buys a tiny little dance studio. Even then, the three-quarters of a million dollars in modern money is running out (come on, Cathy, was Julian buying out Tiffany's every other weekend?). Cathy, of course, is counting on millions once she ruins her mother's life.
And then we get to Carrie. Poor, poor, stunted housebound Carrie.
Carrie did eventually graduate from high school, where she'd been taking secretarial classes. She didn't want to continue on to college; instead, she stayed home doing Paul's typing. The book gives her credit for being a really good secretary, but Cathy reminds us that what Carrie's really dreaming of is of someone to love her "in spite of her small size." Carrie is seventeen. Not once since this book began has she displayed any personal preferences, talents, ambitions, or need for independence. Even Cory showed some hope of becoming a musical protege back before the book snuffed him, and of course Cathy and Chris have succeeded in achieving the ambitions they set for themselves back in grade school. In grade school I wanted to be one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. That didn't work out--but at least I had an ambition, dammit!
Anyway, do you remember how I told you only one guy in this book isn't a rapist? Carrie's dating the non-rapist. Not only is he not a rapist, he may actually be castrated: he's the soft-eyed, puppy-like, bland, tepid, sexless, safe guy, unblemished by personality, who will show up again in the guise of such love interests as Logan Stonewall and Arden Lowe. This year's model is named Alex, a part-time electrician and religious studies student, and he's all about Carrie, even though he doesn't actually speak. Even when he shows up for dinner, he doesn't speak. Carrie reports that even when they're alone, he doesn't speak.
One interesting point about this: when Cathy finally learns about Alex, she also learns that Carrie has been dating him secretly for months whenever Cathy is occupied with her ballet class. The book doesn't spell it out, but the implication seems to be that she doesn't want to give Cathy a chance to wreck this for her. Oh, Carrie. You and Madame M. are the only characters who seem willing to call Cathy out on her shit.
Carrie develops a huge crush on Alex, enough to support having a whole chapter dedicated to it. Alex is going to college while supporting himself as an electrician, and Carrie dreams of marrying him after school and becoming the perfect housewife. She'll spend every day making him gourmet meals and sewing their clothes and tending their six-to-a-dozen children, whose names no doubt she has already selected. For the first time, Carrie seems genuinely happy: she no longer walks, but dances.
This lasts, as you would expect, all of three pages.
Cathy comees home to find Carrie sitting alone in a dark house. Alex has just asked to marry Carrie, but she has just learned that Alex wants to become a minister. In Carrie's mind, religious servants expect nothing but perfection. Alex won't want her if he finds out she's "the Devil's Spawn" and a product of incest. Plus, Carrie insists, she's done other bad things.
Remember how in the last section I kept pointing out all the references to how Carrie was the only member of Cathy's family that Julian liked? And how, at around the same time, I was also pointing out the number of times Cathy mentioned that Julian was into young girls? Like, really young girls?
Yeah. This is going about where you'd expect.
Carrie admits, guiltily, that when she was staying with Cathy in New York, Julian molested her.
This is the one moment where the book genuinely horrified me. I found myself dreading recapping this section because I reached a point where I couldn't make this funny. There is no way to get around the idea that Cathy left her vulnerable younger sister alone with a man she knew was a child molester.
Catherine Dollanganger, you are the worst.
Cathy's response to all of this is "Alex never needs to know" which is a brilliant relationship strategy that has the added bonus of confirming that this really is something so shameful that Carrie needs to hide it. Remember, kids: concealing painful truths is a normal part of any relationship! No one likes a grumpy-puss! Share nothing! Paste on a false smile and keep baking those apple pies!
A few days later, Carrie starts to lose her appetite. And her hair. And her red cell count.
Carrie ends up in the hospital. Paul and Chris rush to be with her (and incidentally seem to take over her case). There is a brief moment where For-Real Medical Doctor Chris struts into the hospital, causing all the candystripers to drop trays and spill bedpans at the sight of him "in all his splendid glory" which, for a moment, made me wonder if Chris had actually shown up nude. I wouldn't put it past this book.
Cathy stops Chris in the hall and hands him Carrie's diary, where she has left a note begging them to let her die because she can't bear her sad, short, big-honkin'-lollyhead life any longer. Cathy also shows him a packet of powdered-sugar doughnuts and a bottle of arsenic she found hidden in Carrie's room. There's only one doughnut left--a doughnut with a single bitemark.
Bullet points, ho!
- Really? One bite mark? Whatever, you know she took that one bite and put the doughnut back into the package because she knew Cathy would find it later.
- When did Cathy find them? The book gives zero indication that Cathy has left Carrie's side since bringing her to the hospital, which leaves the impression that Cathy found the note and doughnuts before taking Carrie to the hospital and that she simply didn't tell anyone until Paul showed up--which, in turn, would mean that Cathy let the doctors struggle for days to figure out what was happening when she knew the truth all along. Even I don't think Cathy's that evil. Or that stupid. So I'm going to chalk this up to vague writing rather than to Cathy being a complete psychopath.
- Cathy says that Paul had the remaining doughnut tested for arsenic. So why is Cathy now walking around with a poisoned doughnut and a jar of D-Con in her purse? Those should probably still be in the lab, right?
- Why is Paul having anything tested? Isn't that a conflict of interests? Did he take over from her admitting doctor?
- I do not think either arsenic or forensics work this way.
For three days the family gathers around Carrie's bed. Carrie's beautiful hair is falling out; Cathy insists on saving every strand. I mention this because it will come up later, and because PRIORITIES, CATHY, PRIORITIES.
Finally, in the dead of night, Carrie emerges from her coma long enough to whisper to Cathy: a few weeks earlier, Carrie spotted Mommie Dearest on the street. Carrie ran up to her and took her hand, and Mommie Dearest glared and told her she didn't know her. Thank you, book, for finding a way to directly pin this on Mommie Dearest rather than have any moment of reflection.
Cathy begs Carrie to hold on for her, for Jory, for Chris, but Carrie is done with living in a world where she is only known for being short and sad.
Carrie's last words are a broken speech about how she can feel herself growing taller, taller, until at last she's as tall as Momma, as tall as she always wanted to be because even her sister, who presumably loved her like a daughter, still took every opportunity to remind us that Carrie was a shrunken shriveled deformed little Shortie McShortpants.
At the funeral, Cathy sits and dwells on revenge. In Carrie's honor, she broods in only the purplest of prose:
As the family starts for home, Cathy spots at the edge of the graveyard the figure of a woman in black.My thoughts were like the dry leaves blowing in the strong wind of hate as I sat on and on. I made those dry leaves, after I had gathered them together and twisted them, into a cruel witch's stick, a thing to stir up a neglected brew of revenge!
The woman hides before Cathy can identify her, but though she says nothing, she's convinced it was her mother.
She was the perfect one to wear black, and should run and hide! Forever hide!Coming up: the establishment of the book's final rapist! The Return of the Grandmother! And Cathy finally has to hire a damn babysitter. Will revenge happen at last? WHO KNOWS.
Color all her days black! Every last one!
I'd see to it that all her remaining days on earth were black. Blacker than the tar put on my hair. Blacker than...the darkest shadows in the attic...Blacker than the deepest pit in hell.
* SAY, DID I MENTION I SPENT A YEAR SELLING LIFE INSURANCE ONCE? Suicide clauses are real things and, as of 2010, they work pretty much the way Cathy says they do: you can take out an insurance policy, wait two years, kill yourself, and there's pretty much nothing your insurance company can do to contest it. You can literally write a suicide note that says "ha-ha, I only took out this policy so that I could kill myself and leave my beneficiary a fortune, adios, sucker!", address it to your insurance agency, and as long as you waited out the suicide clause, they still have to shell out. I'm not advocating this, mind. I'm just saying that's how it works.
**Except for that one guy I had last semester. I still don't know what the hell he was on about. We ended up having a talk with the department chair. I don't think he's getting tenure. Whatever, he was an aberration.
***Not a typo. The money conversion thing I used hasn't been updated for 2014.