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We Have Always Lived in the Castle
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AMERICAN/SOUTHERN GOTHIC > We Have Always Lived In The Castle ENDING SPOILERS Chapters 8, 9 and 10.

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message 1: by Traveller (last edited Dec 09, 2015 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Discussion thread for We Have Always Lived In The Castle Chapters 8, 9 and 10.

Aha! ...but then... why didn't she do something about Charles before, I wonder...

The allowed and not allowed is also typical of OCD. So, it was Merricat herself who decided what she was allowed or not allowed to do.

Notice also that she always has to go check if the door is locked. That's a typical symptom. Apparently anxieties focus on specific things; I read for example, that one sufferer kept wondering if she had switched off the coffee machine and would feel a compulsion to go back and check repeatedly. In the end, she simply took the machine to work with her, which at least allowed her to get away from the house.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
The systematic destruction of the house and the family seems to me quite reminiscent of the fall of the aristocracy in Europe. The villagers would be the proletariat, of course.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Traveller wrote: "The systematic destruction of the house and the family seems to me quite reminiscent of the fall of the aristocracy in Europe. The villagers would be the proletariat, of course."

Interesting...there's a Cortazar short story, "House Taken Over" which this somewhat reminds me of. But that's more of their own making.


message 4: by Traveller (last edited Dec 09, 2015 11:50AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Well, what a delightful turn it takes at the end! The villagers give the 2 survivors mythological significance and feel they should appease them with gifts.

I am sure there must be instances of this in folklore; in fact, I can't find online references to it now, but I have heard of 3 "Ladies of the Woods" being brought sacrifices of supplication in Eastern European mythology?

Any help on this, Disha?


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Traveller wrote: "Discussion thread for We Have Always Lived In The Castle Chapters 8, 9 and 10.

Aha! ...but then... why didn't she do something about Charles before, I wonder...

The allowed and not allowed is als..."


I think the decision to stay away from knives probably made just about everyone breath more easily!


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
I also love how Merricat's paranoia and OCD symptoms are very poetically and lyrically expressed; for example the "living on the moon" fantasy. All of this conspires to give the novella a very folk-lore-ish fairy-tale like feeling.


message 7: by Traveller (last edited Dec 09, 2015 11:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "I think the decision to stay away from knives probably made just about everyone breath more easily! ..."

Indeed... a lot of the rules, you realize at the end, suit Merricat quite well. ;)

In any case, I think the "mob" is also very well depicted - they seem your typical village mob ruled by superstition and quick to take up the pitchfork and act in packs like wolves...


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
I cannot quite decide if the story gives us enough clues as to the reason WHY (view spoiler) Or are the clues there - she wanted Constance all to herself; and also the family's dominant males - especially the father, was treating submissive Constance as a slave?


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Traveller wrote: "I cannot quite decide if the story gives us enough clues as to the reason WHY [spoilers removed] Or are the clues there - she wanted Constance all to herself; and also the family's dominant males -..."

I remember getting some sort of inkling to that in the scene where she takes refuge-hides out in the summer house-gazebo...but then again, the whole point of INsanity is that they´re not sane, and the things they do don´t follow logic.


message 10: by Traveller (last edited Dec 12, 2015 02:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Hmm, I'm not too sure if I agree 100% with that. Their actions do tend to follow -some- kind of logic, albeit a twisted one, or one based on a logic that, in the case of schizophrenics, might be based on delusions. (view spoiler)

...but in the case of Merrikat, I don't think she has schizophrenia. She never has actual delusions; she is never incoherent either. She doesn't hear voices, she doesn't see or imagine things that aren't there. Sure she has a fantasy about living on the moon, but I think she knows that is just a fantasy. Most people living in difficult circumstances have some fantasy they would like to disappear into.

...and as to the enmity of the villagers, I think the entire point, the twist in the tale is that Merrikat was, after all NOT delusional about them as the reader is led to suspect at the start of the tale. (view spoiler)

So, yeah, her act there was indeed a sociopathic one, and she does seem to be sociopathic in general, but there are too many things that point to her having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a sociopathic personality, rather than schizophrenia.

Schizophrenics can become incoherent and mixed up, (depending which "kind" of schizophrenic they are) (catatonic, disorganized, paranoid, residual, or undifferentiated) and cannot always tell the difference between reality and delusion, but I think Merricat has her finger on reality all the time, despite her need to "check" on her psychic safeguards all the time, the latter which have more to do with the anxiety-ridden rituals of OCD sufferers.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments I agree with her being spot on with the villagers, no doubt about their real thoughts, when the rubber hit the road.

No, she doesn't truly believe her fantasy about the moon. But I don't think she's completely seated in reality, either. The thought that they could continue living in isolation from others most of their lives...

I don't know, there is something about her that seems as though she's emotionally stunted, as though she'll never pass the age of 10 or 11, that I just can't put down to the OCD (on which I agree with you on all points). Some delusion..


message 12: by Traveller (last edited Dec 13, 2015 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Linda wrote: " But I don't think she's completely seated in reality, either. The thought that they could continue living in isolation from others most of their lives....."

I agree with you, though for slightly different reasons than her complacency with their situation. The beauty of the story is that by some irony of fate, they theoretically -can- carry living on like that forever - because what was once said more in jest and cruelty by the villagers, has now actually become legend. The villagers have started believing that they're some kind of dangerous supernatural being, and the villagers are keeping them alive with the provisions they set out for them.

But Merrikat is indeed emotionally stunted - I fully agree with you on that. Her emotions with regard to her family seems at a total remove. Even though she speaks of her mother affectionately, Merrikat had acted in an unspeakable manner- had done something a normal child would never do, (depending on the circumstances, I suppose) and it glares at you that she doesn't mourn the death of her family or feel regret for what she did; although I suppose the OCD could be the result of trauma around that whole situation?

...but in that sense, Constance seems complicit - she knows and seems quite okay with it....
Besides that, both of them seem to suffer from social phobias and agoraphobia, Merrikat perhaps worse with the former and Constance with the latter.


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Well, what a delightful turn it takes at the end! The villagers give the 2 survivors mythological significance and feel they should appease them with gifts.

I am sure there must be instances of th..."


The appeasement by gifts has been part of myth and ritual for a long time.
This book has a lot of folklore motifs in it. Basically, it is about belief and is structured like a fairy tale and Jackson is playing with that genre.
Folklore appears in three ways in fiction - structural, mimetic and referential ( Refer : Re situating folklore) . Structurally as I mentioned the the story is a fairy tale. Constance locked away in a castle as a Princess figure and is close to nature ( she likes gardening etc.)
Jackson is also talking about folk groups in this book-- the community is a folk group and their bringing in food etc. is a moment of making them a part of the folk group -- a kind of a re-initiation. There is a lot of homo-eroticism and homo-social(ism) in the text. I know people will have a problem with this reading. Sorry, Traveller -- I rambled.
But yes-- the appeasement of the women is based on the myth and ritual and of course there are three stages in a ritual -- separation , liminality and reintegration. I would see this act as re integration. Hope this helps :)


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Well, what a delightful turn it takes at the end! The villagers give the 2 survivors mythological significance and feel they should appease them with gifts.

I am sure there must be instances of th..."


The appeasement by gifts has been part of myth and ritual for a long time.
This book has a lot of folklore motifs in it. Basically, it is about belief and is structured like a fairy tale and Jackson is playing with that genre.
Folklore appears in three ways in fiction - structural, mimetic and referential ( Refer : Re situating folklore) . Structurally as I mentioned the the story is a fairy tale. Constance locked away in a castle as a Princess figure and is close to nature ( she likes gardening etc.)
Jackson is also talking about folk groups in this book-- the community is a folk group and their bringing in food etc. is a moment of making them a part of the folk group -- a kind of a re-initiation. There is a lot of homo-eroticism and homo-social(ism) in the text. I know people will have a problem with this reading. Sorry, Traveller -- I rambled.
But yes-- the appeasement of the women is based on the myth and ritual and of course there are three stages in a ritual -- separation , liminality and reintegration. I would see this act as re integration. Hope this helps :)


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Hmm, I'm not too sure if I agree 100% with that. Their actions do tend to follow -some- kind of logic, albeit a twisted one, or one based on a logic that, in the case of schizophrenics, might be ba..."
I agree with Traveller -- to try and diagnose Merricat's " condition" is treating her as a real person and besides the point, really. We are not as readers , I think, Supposed to see her as crazy. There is a freudian reading to all this-- if you want to know that -- let me know.


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "I also love how Merricat's paranoia and OCD symptoms are very poetically and lyrically expressed; for example the "living on the moon" fantasy. All of this conspires to give the novella a very folk..."
You said the word! It is a fairy tale! Hahah!


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Hmm, I'm not too sure if I agree 100% with that. Their actions do tend to follow -some- kind of logic, albeit a twisted one, or one based on a logic that, in the case of schizophrenics, might be ba..."
Also-- the book is an example of legend making. Constance and Merricat become " legends." And thats folklore for you :)


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Disha wrote: "Also-- the book is an example of legend making. Constance and Merricat become " legends." And thats folklore for you :)
.."


Yes, exactly - that was what I was trying to say by the townsfolk mythologised the family/sisters. I was thinking: "...so this is how myths are made, and how folklore develops."


message 19: by Traveller (last edited Dec 13, 2015 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
I see the homo-socialism, but only on Merrikat's part, (though she didn't seem to mind uncle Julian), but I must admit that I don't see the homo-eroticism. Is all love between family members incest, then? In that case, there's a lot of incest going on in in the world.

I can see how it can be open to interpretation to be an incestual homo-erotic love, sure, especially since Merrikat's feelings for Constance seem so strong, and perhaps, yes, from Merrikat's side- but not really from Constance, since Constance had started to choose cousin Charles above Merrikat, for example. So Constance is not as dedicated to Merrikat as Merrikat is her.


Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments My reading of Merricat is that, in her flashback of a family dinner in the summer house, her parents seem to have put her high above on a pedestal and I believe that at least most people who are brought up in that way must have developed an unnatural level of entitlement which can lead them to turn on their parents if they don't get their way. Maybe that is where her detachment from the rest of her family comes from.
She thinks to herself: "..bow your heads to our beloved Mary Katherine, I thought, or you will be dead." Totally disturbing.

When her family ate their last meal, she had been sent to her room without dinner as a punishment. In the flashback they say she will never be punished so it leaves one wondering what happened? Did her parents finally decide to punish her for something? And in that case, is that why she turned on them since she had never been punished before?

Merricat is definitely a sociopath but luckily for Constance she seems to have enough love for her to exclude her from the potential danger she presents. It is interesting that the villagers suddenly leave repentant messages saying apologizing for whatever they broke. It seems to change the mood into something other than the angry mob atmosphere. Of course, as you guys have said, the two girls have become mythological to the villagers and they are now scared of them.

I was wrong about Stella, she turned out to be one of the mob eek... Although I already suspected something like that when Merricat walked out of the shop and Stella was heard laughing with the guys who were taunting her inside the shop.

Overall I think it was a really good story, it felt quite unpredictable as I was moving along and I like that about it.


message 21: by Traveller (last edited Dec 13, 2015 12:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Yolande wrote: "My reading of Merricat is that, in her flashback of a family dinner in the summer house, her parents seem to have put her high above on a pedestal and I believe that at least most people who are br..."

Sure, but, from a slightly different viewpoint, have you considered the possibility that, like her "we're living on the moon" fantasy, that that might have been wishful thinking Merrikat was doing there? I get what you're saying about the spoilt brat bit, but it does seem as if everybody looks completely past Merrikat most of the time, and she seems to be over-shy, rather than the opposite.

I mean, she is constantly trying to hide, and putting up protections and the like, and the way she was responding to the villagers was everything but masterful.

In fact, I am now starting to actually wonder, as I think back over things, who was really the dominant one, since dominance is not always overt, and Constance certainly seemed more socially at ease with visitors.

I am even starting to wonder who really put the poison in the food...

Perils of reading a text narrated by an unreliable narrator, eh?


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Hmm, and something else- I've been wondering all along how Constance actually got acquitted. The narration says that Constance bought the rat poison - in fact it was Uncle Julian who said so. ...but it never says how come she was released.


message 23: by Traveller (last edited Dec 13, 2015 12:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Disha wrote: "The appeasement by gifts has been part of myth and ritual for a long time.
This book has a lot of folklore motifs in it. Basically, it is about belief and is structured like a fairy tale and Jackson is playing with that genre.
Folklore appears in three ways in fiction - structural, mimetic and referential ( Refer : Re situating folklore) . Structurally as I mentioned the the story is a fairy tale. Constance locked away in a castle as a Princess figure and is close to nature ( she likes gardening etc.) ..."


Thanks for highlighting those aspects for us, Disha! I find it very interesting. Yes, this tale appears folkloric in more ways than one! But I really love how deftly she intermingles 'reality' and psychology into the folkloric mix.


message 24: by Traveller (last edited Dec 13, 2015 12:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Disha wrote: "There is a freudian reading to all this-- if you want to know that -- let me know. "

Do give us the Freudian reading, Disha! I feel as if this story has the potential to be interpreted in a variety of ways. I'm pretty sure I could do a Marxist one, too, so let rip with the Freudian one! :)


Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments Traveller wrote: "Yolande wrote: "My reading of Merricat is that, in her flashback of a family dinner in the summer house, her parents seem to have put her high above on a pedestal and I believe that at least most p..."

No I didn't consider it before but I have amended my views in the ch.5,6 & 7 thread. I don't think I was reading very observantly this time because I completely missed that they were looking past her. I think I was too concentrated on trying to figure out the main character that I did not pay much attention to everyone around her.


Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments Traveller wrote: "Hmm, and something else- I've been wondering all along how Constance actually got acquitted. The narration says that Constance bought the rat poison - in fact it was Uncle Julian who said so. ...bu..."

I think there are a lot of mysteries in this story that are left unsolved. But for me that is the beauty of it.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 269 comments Yolande wrote: "Traveller wrote: "Hmm, and something else- I've been wondering all along how Constance actually got acquitted. The narration says that Constance bought the rat poison - in fact it was Uncle Julian ..."

Exactly! Ergo, its creepy nature!


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
In short, the piece is quite a tantalizing piece of Gothic art which even Robert Chambers might have approved of! :D

For those who did not participate in the Yellow King discussions, in the The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories stories by Robert W. Chambers, one is never quite sure how much of the story is real, and how much of the story is distorted due to the insanity of the narrator. It's an extremely clever set of stories.


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "Also-- the book is an example of legend making. Constance and Merricat become " legends." And thats folklore for you :)
.."

Yes, exactly - that was what I was trying to say by the to..."

You got it right Traveller :) there is legend making in this book for sure :)


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "I see the homo-socialism, but only on Merrikat's part, (though she didn't seem to mind uncle Julian), but I must admit that I don't see the homo-eroticism. Is all love between family members incest..."
To develop more on the homo erotic relationship -- yes, it is "incestous" in that sense but I think more than homo eroticism it is definitely a new social order which is brought about by the two - a female order ( as opposed to the law of patriarchy which would have taken place if Constance chooses Charles). I think Constance and Merricat walk into a lesbian continuum ( refer to Adrienne Rich ) It is a " lesbian coding" by Jackson. I don't know if she has consciously done that but this kind of coding goes on in most of Jackson's novels ( I have read three thus far and all three have had strong homo erotic and homo social relationships). Jackson does definitely stress on being female identified. I don't want to give away any spoilers here but think does Constance choose the "Prince" ( Charles)? If this is a fairy tale and she is the Princess which Prince does she choose?


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "The appeasement by gifts has been part of myth and ritual for a long time.
This book has a lot of folklore motifs in it. Basically, it is about belief and is structured like a fairy t..."


Thanks, Traveller. :)


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "There is a freudian reading to all this-- if you want to know that -- let me know. "

Do give us the Freudian reading, Disha! I feel as if this story has the potential to be interpret..."

My Professor thinks that this book is a " crack" in Jackson's Marxist foundations. Merricat and Constance return to " feudalism" and she reads Charles as a" capitalist" character. Your thoughts, Traveller?

The Freudian reading -- Merricat doesn't want to enter the " gendered space" so she kills her family at the age of 12-- just before the onset pf puberty. I think someone here did mention this and the fact that her emotional development is stunted. This would agree with the Freudian reading. She is "childish" and refracted and shifted onto the age just before "womanhood." Is she then operating from the ID? And not from the EGO? As she hasn't entered the law of the father? The patriarchal order? These are all questions to ponder over. Also, if she is operating from the ID ( Refer Freud's theory on the Id, ego and superego)-- then she can poison her family as the rules of the ego and society is something that she doesn't recognise.
I don't want to again spoil anything but when she emerges from the cave with Constance -- it also seems like a post lapsarain space after the Fall. Has she gained carnal knowledge? Read that scene again -- it is extremely homo erotic and well -- she goes into a cave. A CAVE! You see what I am saying?
And post this scene-- her rituals change. Constance puts on Uncle Julian's clothes and Merricat is wearing the tablecloth of the family. A new order -- homo social -- and homo erotic.


message 33: by Yolande (last edited Dec 14, 2015 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments Disha wrote: The Freudian reading -- Merricat doesn't want to enter the " gendered space" so she kills her family at ..."

Thanks Disha, that was very insightful!

I will have to reread the Igo and the Id one of these days, it's been too long. The details are hazy. I also just discovered it is not on my books read list :O Ah well, one to book to add to boost my read count.


message 34: by Puddin Pointy-Toes (last edited Dec 14, 2015 07:11PM) (new)

Puddin Pointy-Toes (jkingweb) | 82 comments Trying to diagnose Merricat is indeed a waste of time, because her narrative is all we have to go on. There are signs that what she experiences might indeed be delusions (Is Constance -really- happy to be living in a burnt-out house, and happy to have driven away her cousin who offers at least some way out? It's ambiguous), and anything she writes could be edited due to shame, or trauma, or malice.

While I think the sequence of events is almost certainly broadly accurate (it's unlikely that, for example, Uncle Julian had actually really been dead for years (surprise!)), there's a lot of details we probably can't trust, because she is at best whimsical, and besides that is not at all impartial.

Earlier in the book I had wondered whether she had poisoned her family accidentally (her later admission seems pretty incontrovertible), which would have explained a lot, but her "discovery" of new rules is an interesting twist, too. I had thought they were set by Constance, or possible self-imposed, but no: they simply are, and Merricat must discover them and adapt to them.

What interests me most, though, is how accurately Constance's behaviour is chronicled. Where does the trauma end and Merricat's whimsy begin? One thing that made me think that Mary Katherine's account might actually be quite accurate is the changes we see when Charles starts giving Constance ideas. Instead of:

"I love you, Constance."
"I love you, my Merricat."


We had:

"I love you, Constance."
"You're a good child, Merricat."


This coupled with Constance's bemoaning lost time and hazarding that Mary Katherine should have boy friends at her age, makes me think Constance may be quite "broken" indeed. On the other hand, her behaviour after the house burns down is quite unbelievable, so who knows? All the ambiguities!

I've also wondered at the ridicule that Mary Katherine was subjected to in the village. It's been suggested to me that the author just dislike small-town/village people, which I'll allow is certainly possible. I wondered, though, whether Mary Katherine's offhand remark on the first page (it's a gold mine!) about her disliking washing herself might be a gross understatement. Perhaps they would have sympathy for her if she bathed and brushed her hair more often?

What a curious story!


Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments Puddin Pointy-Toes wrote: "Perhaps they would have sympathy for her if she bathed and brushed her hair more often?"

Lol. This reminds me of a story we read in primary school where the girl character liked sneaking very early in the morning to the beach and it is very lyrically described how she wanders out still with her morning breath. She has no friends and one person answering the teacher's question tried to be funny and said she probably doesn't have friends because she doesn't brush her teeth before she goes out!


message 36: by Traveller (last edited Dec 15, 2015 03:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Thanks for your commentary, Puddin, it is much appreciated!

Puddin Pointy-Toes wrote: "Trying to diagnose Merricat is indeed a waste of time, because her narrative is all we have to go on. There are signs that what she experiences might indeed be delusions (Is Constance -really- happ..."

...although, carefully analyzing what a person says, even if they were insane, can still tell us a lot about the person, wouldn't you say, even if the very least it tells us, is that the person is mentally or emotionally unstable in some form.

In the case of Merrikat, there is indeed a lot she tells us about herself and the world around her; one of them being that she is overly concerned with safety. In fact, her narration tells us a great deal about many of the characters and factions in the story, and pretty much almost all of these elements act "in character". It tells us, for one, that the villagers are superstitious and have the typical "mob" mentality that many small towns have, and which seems to be a theme common to Shirley Jackson's work - refer Jackson's story The Lottery, and also the introduction to this book.

Merrikat's narration also tells us, for example, that Uncle Julian had been physically damaged by the poisoning - and in fact, liver and kidney damage, as well as possible brain damage (as the cause of his dementia), would fit in nicely with everything she describes about him.

The narration also tells us a lot about cousin Charles - for example, he is consistently portrayed as a selfish gold-digger with a huge sense of entitlement.

When it comes to Constance, we can read a lot between the lines - Merrikat does describe her as beautiful and golden and all that, and I reckon some of Disha's homo-eroticism may indeed be in play there - but notice that many people like Constance and obviously find her a lot more approachable than they do Merrikat - Helen Clarke, for example, and Charles, for example, certainly fares a lot better with Constance than he does with Merrikat. People also tend to order Constance around, to which she reacts submissively - she seems eager to please and quick to accept blame.
I have seen it suggested that Constance has agoraphobia, though whether she is simply not going out because she is expected to stay home and act like the kitchen maid, cooking and cleaning, I am not too sure of.

...and then Merrikat herself, and here I would like to touch upon the famous "rules":
Merrikat's main concern throughout the narration is for her personal safety. We don't know where this concern originated - was it in some past trauma, or is Merrikat just a paranoid schizophrenic with OCD symptoms? ...whatever else she might be - whether her other symptoms are from some or other traumatic event, or simply because her mind is off-balance, the OCD symptoms ring unerringly true, even from the foreshadowing we get about the "if you step on the crack, it will break your mother's back" - a popular kid's game which is very typical of the kind of OCD that it seems that Merricat has. (Remember all the safeguards that she nails up on trees, for example the book, and then the scarf?)

Merrikat also buries things to keep them safe: "I started at one corner and walked diagonally across the long field toward the opposite corner, and in the middle I came directly to the rock covering the spot where the doll was buried; I could always find it although much of my buried treasure was forever lost. The rock was undisturbed and so the doll was safe."

To me, these passages from Chapter 10 were quite telling too:
"I discovered that I was no longer allowed to go to the creek; Uncle Julian was there, and it was much too far from Constance. I never went farther away than the edge of the woods, and Constance went only as far as the vegetable garden. I was not allowed to bury anything more, nor was I allowed to touch stone.
Who is "allowing" or not allowing Merrikat there - nobody but Merrikat herself... have a look at these links to get a bit of insight about how it goes for people with OCD :
(Note the "checking" behavior, like constantly checking the door, or that the boards are still up or that the gate is still secured, and also note, in the people's examples of OCD how many have "rules" such as that you can only touch red, or you have to start/finish stairs on a certain foot, etc., and then see an example of Merrikat's "rules" below, such as that she is not "allowed" to touch stone) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compuls...
...here are some of people's actual rituals:
http://www.healthboards.com/boards/ob...

The general disorder: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-co...

"Every day I looked over the boards across the kitchen windows and when I found small cracks I nailed on more boards. Every morning I checked at once to make sure the front door was locked, and every morning Constance washed the kitchen."

Note that in the quote above, each of Merrikat and Constance's "obsessions" are addressed; Constance's obsession with good housekeeping (remember that she also keeps a garden and grows all sorts of goodies) and cleanliness, and Merrikat's obsession with safety - which under the circumstances, seems not quite unfounded... and yes, you mentioned ambiguity, and this is what I love about the story - you can't quite write her obsession with safety off as simple, unfounded anxiety - they certainly do seem to have something to fear from the villagers, and not only the villagers; from Charles as well.

Regarding Charles and Constance: Disha's reading of the fairy-tale dynamics which would have Charles as the structural "prince" aside, I do think he was doing a big con on Constance; this story seems like a handbook of psychiatric disorders, and if so, Charles would most certainly qualify as the resident psychopath, just not a very smart one, heh heh. Remember that psychopaths tend to be real charmers, and Charles most certainly tends to attempt to manipulate the people around him, though in his case, with varying success.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Disha wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I see the homo-socialism, but only on Merrikat's part, (though she didn't seem to mind uncle Julian), but I must admit that I don't see the homo-eroticism. Is all love between fam..."

Very interesting, Disha! This is the big spoiler thread for this story, btw, you can give away any spoilers that you like here! That's why it warns of spoilers in the heading, so that we can feel free to post our spoilers in it. :)

I really need to brush up on my feminist theory and on people like Adrienne Rich.


message 38: by Traveller (last edited Dec 15, 2015 04:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Disha wrote: "Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "There is a freudian reading to all this-- if you want to know that -- let me know. "

Do give us the Freudian reading, Disha! I feel as if this story has the potenti..."


That is also all true yes, and I guess I missed the reference to a cave while I read (doh, me) which is indeed of course a very strong universal symbol (along with the chalice) of female genitalia.

More later, got to run again...


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Yolande wrote: "Disha wrote: The Freudian reading -- Merricat doesn't want to enter the " gendered space" so she kills her family at ..."

Thanks Disha, that was very insightful!

I will have to reread the Igo an..."

Tank you so much Yolande :) I appreciate it. The Id is the primal, the repressed which comes out in slips of tongue and in our dreams. The ego is our consciousness -- what we know. The super ego is how we act according to societies rules and regulations. So, what I was trying to say is that according to a Freudian reading --Merricat acts out of the id ( that which we do not know ) since she is never socialised and refuses to enter the world of the super ego.


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I see the homo-socialism, but only on Merrikat's part, (though she didn't seem to mind uncle Julian), but I must admit that I don't see the homo-eroticism. Is all lo..."

Thanks, Traveller. Benefits of giving a comprehensive exam on Feminist Theory ;) Let me know if you need recommendations for feminist theory books but we have already discussed that when I was preparing for my exam.


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "Traveller wrote: "Disha wrote: "There is a freudian reading to all this-- if you want to know that -- let me know. "

Do give us the Freudian reading, Disha! I feel as if this story h..."

Thanks, Traveller. It is very easy to miss symbols and motifs in this text -- simply because there are SO many!


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Traveller wrote: "Thanks for your commentary, Puddin, it is much appreciated!

Puddin Pointy-Toes wrote: "Trying to diagnose Merricat is indeed a waste of time, because her narrative is all we have to go on. There a..."


Thanks Traveller for your insights! Wonderful!
Actually, I do ot think Charles is the " Prince." He is set up as one, sure. But Jackson plays with the whole genre in this novel so I think its Merricat who is actually the "Prince" in that sense.


Dish Wanderer  (philologistatwork) | 37 comments Puddin Pointy-Toes wrote: "Trying to diagnose Merricat is indeed a waste of time, because her narrative is all we have to go on. There are signs that what she experiences might indeed be delusions (Is Constance -really- happ..."
Thanks for your input.I do agree with you that we are not supposed to diagnose Merricat. I mean, I don't think that is that important.


message 44: by Traveller (last edited Dec 15, 2015 09:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Disha wrote: "Actually, I do ot think Charles is the " Prince." He is set up as one, sure. But Jackson plays with the whole genre in this novel so I think its Merricat who is actually the "Prince" in that sense. ..."

Oh, yes, I understood that - it seemed to me though, as if you implied, (and I do think that from the text, there is reason to believe this) that Charles could possibly, on the surface, represent the traditional prince, but that that role is subverted by that it reverts to Merrikat, and that Charles actually ends up as the "villian" and/or the "obstacle" however you want to read it.

I think we discussed Propp before, did we? If this story is interpreted according to Propp's traditional fairy-tale structure, Merrikat is indeed the "hero" who goes out on a mission or adventure, and strives to attain the hand of the "princess" who must be saved from the witch/dragon/etc., and perhaps in this sense, Charles is actually the villain?

Disha wrote: "Puddin Pointy-Toes wrote: "Trying to diagnose Merricat is indeed a waste of time, because her narrative is all we have to go on. There are signs that what she experiences might indeed be delusions ..."

Hmm, though, I must say I am wary of being prescriptive about how a text "should" be read. I don't think there are any specific rules (ha) when it comes to the reading and interpretation of a text.

I don't think we can or should tell anybody how they are "supposed to" read or interpret a text. We could perhaps point out aspects which we think people might have missed, but I don't think any of us really has the authority to decide how a text (any text) should be or should not be interpreted.

That's what so cool about a group reading - we each bring our unique vision and our unique background to a text - and that's what you have both done, Puddin and Disha, you have each contributed from your own backgrounds to enrich the tapestry of our collective vision of this text, as have Linda and Yolande and that's pretty cool!

(Which is why a structuralist reading of this narrative is just as valid as a Marxist one, is just as valid as a Freudian one, is just as valid as a feminist one, is just as valid as a non-Freudian psycho-analyst or even psychiatric one, is just as valid as a socialist reading is just as valid as a naive reading!)

Don't let the fact that we have various interpretations of the text daunt you, guys; if you have more, let it roll! (...but let's just be careful not to become too prescriptive (and inhibitive) with our opinions; all opinions are welcome! There's space for them all to live happily together. ) :) I'm very tempted to add: On the moon! hahaha.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Speaking of "the moon", that is of course a symbol of the sinister (as opposed to the sun => dexter), as well as a symbol of madness, and hence the term "lunacy".

One wonders if Jackson did that on purpose.


message 46: by Yolande (last edited Dec 15, 2015 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Yolande  (sirus) | 246 comments Traveller wrote: "Speaking of "the moon", that is of course a symbol of the sinister (as opposed to the sun => dexter), as well as a symbol of madness, and hence the term "lunacy".

One wonders if Jackson did that o..."


Yes, one wonders. But strangely enough, I never saw the moon here as anything sinister. To me it felt more like a representative of a safe place to escape to, even if it is just in the imagination. A place of release and freedom where in reality there is none - a kind of a coping mechanism.


Derek (derek_broughton) Traveller wrote: "The allowed and not allowed is also typical of OCD. So, it was Merricat herself who decided what she was allowed or not allowed to do."

Ah-hah. I didn't know that, but I had established very early on that the rules were not put in place by Constance, though I had thought they maybe they had come from her mother (interestingly, I think anyway, it never crossed my mind that they might have come from her father, even though it seems he might have been a bit of a martinet).

Linda wrote: "I think the decision to stay away from knives probably made just about everyone breath more easily!"

Yes, but not being permitted to wash the dishes is just a tad too convenient!

Linda wrote: "the whole point of INsanity"

Ah, but is Merricat insane? I agree with Traveller on this. She's a narcissist (which is a subset of sociopath). That does show up in the psychiatrist's DSM, but many feel it's not truly a mental illness. Everybody exists for the benefit of Merricat; if they don't benefit Merricat, they might as well be dead. So in the end, only Constance is worth keeping.

In fact, I think by the end of the book it's clear that Merricat has never been paranoid. She says the villagers all hate 'us', and maybe that should be 'Constance' as the villagers think Constance was the murderer, but she knows they have reason to hate her. And besides which, she's a narcissist, so even their hatred of Constance must really be directed at herself.

Disha wrote: "There is a lot of homo-eroticism and homo-social(ism) in the text. I know people will have a problem with this reading."

Er, yeah. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I think it's a huge stretch to say "a lot".


Derek (derek_broughton) Oh, and the Southern Gothic thing. By the end, they're living in a roofless house, in which vines have climbed to the top in one season. That's not going to happen in Bennington Vermont :-)


message 49: by Traveller (last edited Dec 15, 2015 03:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Oh, and the Southern Gothic thing. By the end, they're living in a roofless house, in which vines have climbed to the top in one season. That's not going to happen in Bennington Vermont :-)"

LOL, I was busy replying to you in the second thread on that, at which point my PC crashed on me. (It's a sign!)

I was about to say that the story indeed feels more like Southern Gothic than "American" Gothic, though for slightly different reasons... (American Gothic apparently has slightly different characteristics, but I'll have to look them up again.)


Traveller (moontravlr) | 2523 comments Mod
Yolande wrote: "To me it felt more like a representative of a safe place to escape to, even if it is just in the imagination. A place of release and freedom where in reality there is none - a kind of a coping mechanism...."

Yep! It's magical and enchanting in the story... ..which is why I never thought of the "sinister" connotations and of "lunacy" while I was reading the story.

I sometimes joke about my own affinity for night-time and moonlight - I have always seen moonshine as something magical and enchanting, in RL too. :)


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