Author

Andi Waddell

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Catherine Keyser

Abstract

Shirley Jackson’s odd and unsettling novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, explores the relationship between family, gender roles, and property through the murdered and murderous Blackwood family. Throughout the novel, Jackson associates objects with either male or female legacies within the family. Constance, Julian, and Merricat Blackwood engage in repetitive, formalized handling of objects, and these ritualized interactions create family history. Even as items associated with the women constitute narratives of female history and thereby subvert the family’s patriarchal structure, objects in the text reveal the way patriarchy reproduces itself in the mundane and the personal. Merricat increasingly assumes patriarchal power, taking on masculine tasks, adopting objects that previously belonged to male family members, and asserting authority in various situations. The novel’s ending reveals that Merricat is not merely working within an oppressive system with the goal of overthrowing that system or liberating herself or others from it. Merricat’s ultimate goal, which she achieves by the end of the novel, is to claim and exercise the power that has previously oppressed her. The closing line of the novel makes clear the kind of power Merricat has sought: control over others within the family. Instead of being a feminist, filial utopia, this carefully crafted world at the end of the novel demonstrates that both Merricat and Constance are engaged in replicating the mechanisms of their own oppression.

Available for download on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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