Plot Synopsis: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

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The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is likely the most popular modern horror novel ever written. For many, just its name recalls nights spent huddling under the covers. When the novel was first released, it sparked a wave of possession hysteria. You could almost say that The Exorcist was directly responsible for films and novels on the same topic that came later. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Blatty claimed that his story was based on true events.


The Exorcist is the story of a little girl named Regan who lives with her single mother in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Her mother Chris is a popular actress and a social butterfly who is extremely devoted to her daughter. At the start of the novel, Chris and Regan hear loud noises coming from their attic. At first, Chris believes they have rats, but after a while she comes to the realization that something far worse has tricked its way into her house.

The situation slowly progresses and Chris begins noticing extremely unusual behavior from her daughter. It starts with a complaint that her bed is shaking, which Chris witnesses. Then, Regan begins acting out, swearing and even willfully urinates on the floor during one of Chris’ dinner parties. Chris is horrified by the behavior and Regan begins seeing a series of specialists, but it only gets worse.

In desperation, Chris seeks the help of a priest named Father Karras, because she believes that Regan is possessed. Father Karras is a priest who is having issues with his faith and is an unlikely candidate for an exorcism, but he vows to do what he can to help Regan. Meanwhile, things just seem to keep getting worse for the little girl.

A series of events leads the member’s of Chris’ household to fear Regan. She has begun physically attacking people and making lewd gestures. One of these attacks results in the death of a close friend of Chris. She has also begun hurting herself–badly and frequently. Karras and Chris decide that an exorcism is the only way, so Karras gets the permission of the church to send in an experienced exorcist to carry out the ritual.

Father Merrin is the man the church chooses for the exorcism. Readers soon learn that he has dealt with the particular demon or demons inside of Regan before. The statements (among other things) that begin spewing out of Regan are disturbing to say the least. She begins verbally attacking Karras in particular and in an odd twist, Karras finds himself alone with her after the unexpected death of Father Merrin. When Karras realizes that he cannot cast out the demon, he forces it to enter him and then commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

The Exorcist is very well written, suspenseful and seriously scary. Although Blatty lied to promote the book, it is doubtful that he actually needed to. The story itself is a treasure of psychological horror and should be read by anyone who enjoys the genre and can handle the disturbing images it conveys.

Shelly Barclay

1 comment:

  1. This one brings back fond memories. As I recall, nearly everyone I knew was reading this book that summer. Of course, being raised Catholic made it all the more delectable.
    Great review, Shelly!