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Written by Victoria Joss
Jack is one of the two protagonists, and the narrative perspective from which the novel is told. He is the five-year-old boy of a woman named only ‘Ma’, who has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a room for seven years. He is literate, and intelligent after being taught to read, write, and experience all he could by his Ma. He believes that their ‘room’ is all that there is of the world, and that everything he witnesses on TV is imaginary. When he is freed, he finds it difficult to believe everything is real, and cannot function as a normal child can. He still breastfeeds from his Ma, which he only stops when he is released. He is so used to being with his Ma 24/7 that he finds it difficult to be apart from her in the real world, only eventually becoming accustomed to it.
Ma is the other protagonist. Whilst it is acknowledged that she has another name, she is only ever referred to through Jack’s perspective, and therefore always called ‘Ma’. She was kidnapped at age 17 by a man they call ‘Old Nick’, and imprisoned in Room, a secured garage with an electronically locked door. Her son, Jack, is the product of rape, yet this is rarely mentioned. Before Jack was born, she suffered a miscarriage. She attempts to escape twice by smashing a toilet lid over Old Nick’s head, but he catches her and breaks her wrist. Upon escaping the room, she is overwhelmed by everything about the Outside world, being extremely protective of Jack. It is clear that she has some psychological problems, from her periods of being seemingly ‘not there’, and the attempt to end her life.
Old Nick is the person who kidnapped Ma when she was 17 and imprisons her in Room. He is never accurately described as a person, as if the reader is also viewing him from inside Jack’s cupboard. He visits Room almost every night and rapes Ma, believing he is doing both Jack and Ma some kind of favor by bringing them groceries and even a Sunday treat. He is an extremely detached character, and the reader only begins to truly witness his sadistic streak when he leaves them without electricity or heat for days. He does not feature after he is arrested.
Office Oh is what Jack calls the police officer that first finds him. Whilst she only features for a small part of the story, she is imperative to finding and saving Ma after Jack escapes. Jack is struggling to communicate, and she perseveres to discover where he was kept, and thus send police cars to rescue Ma, and arrest Nick.
When Ma and Jack are found, they are admitted to a psychiatric hospital to ensure that they are not mentally damaged by their experiences. Doctor Clay is their main point of contact, and he organizes medical examinations, sun protection, and visits for Jack and Ma.
Noreen is a middle aged nurse who helps to look after Ma and Jack. She aids them in every day activities, such as eating breakfast or walking outside.
This character is Ma’s Mother. Jack finds it hard to process that he has a grandma, as it is the first time since his birth that he has met her. Grandma is initially overjoyed that Ma is alive, and that Jack is welcomed to the family. However, reality quickly sets in. When Ma makes an attempt on her own life and Grandma has to look after Jack, she is overwhelmed by his constant questions and inability to interact as a child is expected to.
Ma’s Father only appears briefly in the novel, and split from her Mother due to the stress of her disappearance. He perhaps represents an opinion that is not largely featured by Donoghue. Instead of being overjoyed that Jack has joined the family, he is repulsed that he is the product of rape. He soon returns to his home in Australia.
‘Steppa’ stands from Step-Granddad, and it is what Jack calls Leo. Leo is Grandma’s new partner, and as supportive as a family member should be. When Grandma struggles with Jack’s panic attacks, Leo intervenes and disciplines him gently.
Paul is Ma’s brother. The reader first hears of him when Ma recalls memories of her and Paul as children playing in their hammock. Paul is now a grown man with a family of his own, and features in Ma and Jack’s re-entry in to the normal world. When Ma is ill, Paul attempts to takes Jack to the history museum. The outing ends in Jack accidentally stealing a book, and it becomes clear Paul has no idea what is in store.
Deanna is Paul’s wife, and accompanies him on visits to see Jack. She is particularly horrified as an incident where Jack touches Bryanna’s private parts to see what they are like.
Bryanna is Paul and Deanna’s daughter, and younger than Jack. She is a loud and confident toddler, and perhaps acts as a comparison to Jack, who has not grown up in the real world.
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