On Paths Unknown discussion

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
23 views
AMERICAN/SOUTHERN GOTHIC > We Have Always Lived In The Castle Chapters 2, 3 and 4.

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Discussion thread for we Have Always Lived In The Castle Chapters 2, 3 and 4.


message 2: by Traveller (last edited Dec 08, 2015 02:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Ah, and in Chapter 2, the cat which everybody had been tiptoeing around, is let out of the bag, when Uncle Julian regales Mrs Wright with the grisly details of the family tragedy.


message 3: by Traveller (last edited Dec 08, 2015 02:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
I'm finding that the tension increases as we go along.

I'm finding Merrikat's constant fearfulness very odd; I STILL cannot, in chapter 3, figure out if she has a mixture of OCD and pathological paranoia, or if her paranoia is based on fact...

I suppose when your (view spoiler), you'll be inclined to feel fearful...

In chapter 3, Uncle Julian doesn't feel too well, whilst outside, Spring is ringing in changes, making Merrikat even more restless than usual.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Another thing I have noticed, is that the girls often (or Merrikat does, at least) mention their mother, and with some fondness; but never their father. In fact, when their father -is- mentioned, it is by Uncle Julian.


message 5: by Yolande (last edited Dec 10, 2015 03:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments I'm thinking of the scene right after the tea when the guests leave. Before that we are told that Constance was acquitted of the murder and yet she bought the arsenic and washed the sugar bowl before the police came and was heard saying they deserved to die. So I kept wondering is she innocent or not? When the guests leave though they congratulate their uncle on a good performance - "How was I?", "Superb". This is when the narration really feels unreliable to me. If it was a performance can one trust anything he just told? Or am I a paranoid reader?

Of course things will probably become clearer as I progress.

Merricat seems to have trust in irrational things for protection - the gate lock that can supposedly be broken by a child and all the things she buried in the yard. Perhaps also a symptom of OCD?


message 6: by Traveller (last edited Dec 11, 2015 01:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Yolande wrote: "I'm thinking of the scene right after the tea when the guests leave. Before that we are told that Constance was acquitted of the murder and yet she bought the arsenic and washed the sugar bowl befo..."

To me that's part of the charm of the story- we are fed info bit by bit at just the right pace for us to grab onto this new piece of information and turn it around and around, wondering how it fits in with the other info.

At the start, Merrikat keeps saying she wishes all the villagers are dead, but they do tease her mercilessly and she seems like a sensitive teen and their hostility obviously bothers her, so one can understand why she kept saying she wishes she was on the moon or that the villagers would just all fall dead. I mean, she certainly comes across as paranoid at the very first, but then you see that the villagers do give her a hard time, and you conclude that she's simply shy/sociophobic and going through a bit of teenage angst.

And yet, also, there's the feeling of the "unheimlich" like Linda had mentioned.

In the case of Uncle Julian, I thought he was attempting to be entertaining - after all, the villagers want to hear the grisly details just as consumers of TV , internet and newspapers are after the 'grisly news' as entertainment; and indeed Mrs Wright seemed a very eager consumer, despite Mrs Clarke's protestations.


message 7: by Traveller (last edited Dec 11, 2015 01:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Yolande wrote: "Merricat seems to have trust in irrational things for protection - the gate lock that can supposedly be broken by a child and all the things she buried in the yard. Perhaps also a symptom of OCD? ..."

I think so, especially seeing that it is highly ritualistic, of course. (OCD revolves around anxieties and rituals to placate that anxiety). Superstitious people do this kind of thing all the time, and I suppose it is behavior like this that gave religion a lot of it's power.

Also, note, though that she feels a compulsion to perpetually check that various gates are still locked- that's a clear symptom - I've done some reading on OCD and, for example, certain people will have certain anxieties - for example, one man would keep worrying that he had driven over a person or a dog, and would have to keep stopping his car to check.

I suppose it makes sense that if Merricat feels unsafe - and she seems to have various reasons rooted in reality to feel unsafe, that she would create rituals around personal and psychological safety.


Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments Traveller wrote: "To me that's part of the charm of the story- we are fed info bit by bit at just the right pace for us to grab onto this new piece of information and turned it around and around, wondering how it fits in with the other info."

I agree.

The first chapter where she goes to town I was definitely feeling for her. She can't go anywhere without being verbally attacked by the villagers. In such a hostile environment one feels warmth for someone like Stella who shows some kindness to her and this to me expresses to the reader the value of kindness.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Traveller wrote: "Ah, and in Chapter 2, the cat which everybody had been tiptoeing around, is let out of the bag, when Uncle Julian regales Mrs Wright with the grisly details of the family tragedy."

At the time, I just consumed it, but realize now, what a great plot device....someone strange to the story has to come in, or else we never get the firm details on what the official story was.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Yolande wrote: "Traveller wrote: "To me that's part of the charm of the story- we are fed info bit by bit at just the right pace for us to grab onto this new piece of information and turned it around and around, w..."

Sincere kindness....the South is notorious for being very genteel, but only on the surface. Women, especially.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Hmm, since I urged you guys not to read the intro, perhaps now might be a good time to quote a few phrases from it:

“The Lottery” and Castle are intertwined by the motif of small-town New England persecution; the town, in both instances, is pretty well recognizable as North Bennington, Vermont. Jackson lived there most of her adult life, the faculty wife of literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, who taught at nearby Bennington College.

Jackson was in many senses already two people when she arrived in Vermont. The first was a fearful ugly duckling, cowed by the severity of her upbringing by a suburban mother obsessed with propriety.

This half of Jackson was a character she brought brilliantly to life in her stories and novels from the beginning: the shy girl, whose identity slips all too easily from its foundations.


So, it seems the story might not be set in the South, but in New England. ...but aside from that, it does seem pretty similar to Southern Gothic, doesn't it?


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Well, NE isn't exactly known for its warm, friendly people, either! :D


message 13: by Karin (new)

Karin | 52 comments It definitely seems Gothic! The themes of wealth, fire, an almost lyrical madness, decay, a house (castle) isolated from the village and fortified by merrikat's Magic seem to fit right into the Gothic mood.

I'm also fascinated by the emphasis on food and eating. Merricat says "we eat the year away. We eat the spring and the summer and fall. We wait for something to grow and then we eat it." And, of course, Constance is a fabulous cook.

I love spooky stories and unreliable narrators! :)


message 14: by Traveller (last edited Dec 13, 2015 12:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
So nice to see you joining in Karin! Welcome and enjoy.

Interesting observation about food.

To me, the Blackwood's wealth was a constant presence - all their goodies are of the finest quality - Dresden porcelain, fine silver, watches made of gold, etc, and fine pearls for the mother; a magnificent staircase, and so forth, and yes, that aspect is indeed partly reminiscent of rich Southern plantation owners and also of wealthy European aristocrats.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Thread for Chapters 5, 6 and 7 here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 16: by Derek (last edited Dec 15, 2015 02:05PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "the cat which everybody had been tiptoeing around"

Jonas didn't seem to need anybody tiptoeing around him :-)

Traveller wrote: "Uncle Julian regales Mrs Wright with the grisly details of the family tragedy."

... the details as he believes them!

I'm certain that, even though he's saying loudly how innocent Constance is, he is personally convinced of her guilt.

Yolande wrote: "In such a hostile environment one feels warmth for someone like Stella who shows some kindness to her and this to me expresses to the reader the value of kindness. "

Stella never showed any kindness. Getting Merricat to stop in on her shopping days was just a sort of public relations coup for her. When the two men started harassing Merricat, Stella made no honest attempt to stop them, and in fact made Merricat leave, rather than them—then joined in the laughter.

In this section, we get to know Merricat better, and not for the better. She seems to have no real feeling for Uncle Julian. She's decided that she should be nicer to him. But she never actually does anything for him, and has to keep reminding herself that she's promised to be nicer to him. And while she protests all along that she loves Constance, she never does much for her, either.

“I was not al­lowed to han­dle knives” We hear, often, that she's not allowed to do this or that, but we never hear who doesn't allow it. Surely not Constance, who lets her do anything.

“Lazy Mer­ri­cat,” Con­stance said to me, “stop dream­ing over your toast; I want you in the gar­den on this lovely day.” I thought Constance needed her to help with the gardening, but Lazy Merricat seems to have managed to do nothing all day.

Finally, I'd say that of course it's "Southern" gothic. Jackson may have used Bennington, Vermont as a pattern, but later chapters show it couldn't really have happened in Vermont (remind me later to explain that!)


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments These chapters gave me an earworm (going on 4 hours now, grrrr ), and I have decided to share it with you all. I prefer The Women Folk's version but the recording on YouTube (like my vinyl) is scratchy, so we'll have to make do with Tom Lehrer's (it is his, after all).

https://youtu.be/SH0Fv73Ik0I

Enjoy, heh,heh,heh. ;)


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2524 comments Mod
Ruth wrote: "These chapters gave me an earworm (going on 4 hours now, grrrr ), and I have decided to share it with you all. I prefer The Women Folk's version but the recording on YouTube (like my vinyl) is scra..."

That's absolutely delightfully macabre, Ruth! Yuck! Hahaha, it had me chuckling in glee like an old witch, and I really cawed at the ending! I'll avoiding mentioning a spoiler for the song's ending, but how very very fitting for We Have Always Lived In The Castle! XD


Saski (sissah) | 399 comments Glad you liked it, Traveller! It's been a favorite of mine for almost 50 years.

I haven't read much beyond ch 5, but I'm getting the distinct impression that it is our narrator that did the deed. No, don't tell me right or wrong. I just wanted to go on record as having thought that.


back to top