Jack is one of the two protagonists, and it is from his perspective that the narrative is told. He is the five-year-old child of "Ma," who was kidnapped and has been imprisoned in a room for seven years. He is literate and intelligent after being taught to read, write, and experience all he could by Ma. He believes that "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 that everything around him is real, and he cannot function as a normal child. He still breastfeeds from Ma in Room, which he only stops when he is released. He is so used to being with Ma 24/7 that he finds it difficult to be apart from her in the real world.
Ma is the other protagonist. While it is acknowledged that she has another name, she is only ever referred to through Jack’s perspective, and therefore always called "Ma" in the narrative. She was kidnapped at age 19 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 and is extremely protective of Jack. She is fiercely protective of Jack and gave him the best, most stable life she could while in Room. However, it is clear that she has some psychological problems, as seen in her periods of being "gone" and in her attempt to end her life.
Old Nick is the person who kidnapped Ma when she was 19 and imprisoned her in Room. He is never accurately described as a person: it is as if the reader were 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 Jack and Ma without electricity or heat for days. He does not feature in the narrative after he is arrested.
"Officer Oh" is what Jack calls the police officer who first finds him. While she only features in a small part of the story, she is essential to finding and saving Ma after Jack escapes. Jack struggles to communicate with her, but she perseveres to understand where he was kept; this allows her to send police cars to rescue Ma and, eventually, 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 there; he organizes medical examinations, sun protection, and visits for Jack and Ma. He is friendly and professional.
Noreen is a middle-aged nurse who helps to look after Ma and Jack. She aids them in everyday activities, such as eating breakfast and walking outside.
Grandma is Ma’s mother. Jack finds it hard to process that he has a grandma. 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; he split from her mother due to the stress of her disappearance. 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" is derived 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. Leo seems to have a slightly easier time with Jack than Grandma does.
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 he features in Ma and Jack’s re-entry into 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 had no idea what was in store.
Deana is Paul’s wife, and she accompanies him on visits to see Jack. She is particularly horrified at an incident in which Jack touches Bryanna’s private parts to see what they are like.
Bronwyn is Paul and Deana’s daughter, younger than Jack. She is a loud and confident toddler, in contrast to Jack, who has not grown up in the real world.
The man who, while out walking his dog with his young daughter, encounters Jack trying to escape from Old Nick. He calls the police.
Room Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Room is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.