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Written by Victoria Joss
Room is a novel that constantly contrasts the difference between freedom and captivity. This important theme is also portrayed in the skylight, the only part of Room that allows Ma and Jack a glimpse in to the outside world. The skylight proves that there is an outside world still there, yet always remains out of reach; it serves as a constant reminder of Ma’s captivity, and the possibilities that she are just out of her grasp. The skylight also develops in to an important symbol for Jack. When he sees the leaf land on the skylight, it begins to prove to him that trees exist in the outside world too, and not just on the TV. Symbolically, the skylight is also a source of light –and of hope –in a room that is otherwise dark and hopeless.
The Room Itself
Physically, the garden shed that Ma and Jack are held in is simply an 11x11 foot room. Yet, it comes to hold a symbolic significance also. For Ma, Room is a personal hell, and her confinement means her life has been taken away from her. This is almost emphasized by the face that there is a door that Ma could attempt to leave by, but fear keeps her paralyzed from trying. In contrast to this is how Jack sees Room. As he has grown up there, it is his home. He believes that these four walls are as big as the world will ever be. Therefore, the symbolic connotations for him are not negative, providing an almost confusing paradox between what Room represents for the two. It is perhaps the understanding of why they are being kept there that separates the perspective’s of Ma and Jack. It is only after they have been released from Room that is ceases to hold any symbolic significance; it returns to being merely a space, no longer a home or prison.
As Jack grows up, his hair grows past his shoulders, as Ma does not cut it. It should therefore symbolically represent strength, as Samson’s hair did before it was cut off. This is reiterated by how Jack sees himself. Despite being only five, he sees himself as Ma’s protector, and wants to hurt Old Nick when he finds out what he did to her wrist many years ago. Ultimately, Jack is an extremely brave character in escaping as he did. Yet, his long hair only acts as a symbol of strength, and is not the source of it. When he has a haircut with his grandma, he still continues with an inner strength; he survives escaping Room, the changes he must experience in the outside world, and his Ma attempting to take her own life. This symbol perhaps illustrates that some symbols are merely aesthetic, and mean little when true courage is required.
For many, a television set is seen as a light-hearted form of entertainment. Due to Ma and Jack’s imprisonment, it becomes symbolic of so much more; it becomes the only way of communicating the outside events to them in their captivity. For Ma, she is able to watch how the world changes, so that she does not receive any entire culture shock when she escapes Room. Yet, she also tells Jack that before he was born, she used to watch TV all the time as a way of comfort and company. Thus, the TV evolves from merely a symbol to almost a person within itself. Yet the most important aspect of the TV as a symbol is the effect it has on Jack. It develops his imagination to the extent that he cannot distinguish between reality and TV program. This highlights especially the social issues that Jack has now developed; in growing up with only imaginary people, it is with them that he feels most safe. As make believe is still such a huge part of Jack’s life, he can only venture outside when Maureen suggests that they are characters themselves in a book. Therefore, the TV is representative of more than just fantasy; it becomes Jack’s world, and creates issues of social interaction when faced with real people.
The Dylan the Digger book
Dylan the Digger is a book that Ma frequently reads to Jack in Room, it being one of the few books that Old Nick has given them. Jack constantly asks for it to be read again and again, suggesting it to be both a comfort and a necessity of routine. Jack then encounters the book again in the outside world, on a day trip with Ma’s brother Ben. When he sees Dylan the Digger in a store, he puts him in his bag and is accused of stealing, as he cannot see the difference between what and what is not his. This book, whilst only a minor object, is therefore representative of both a change in routine, and the difference in social rules between the outside and Room, of which Jack cannot understand. In Room, the book was always his, and Ma would read it to him when he wished, suggesting a lack of growth from a toddler mindset. When he cannot have the book in reality, it presents the gap between what Jack knows and how he functions, to what he must learn is acceptable in reality. He is still like a toddler, demanding and expecting to get what he wants.
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