When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I'm five I know everything.
Jack has spent his entire existence in Room. This quote therefore perfectly encapsulates both a child’s mindset when growing up, and the dramatic irony of how little Jack actually knows. Jack is able to self-consciously identify the difference in his character, due to the difference in his age. He no longer sees himself as a "little kid," and this is partially true. While he still has the dependence and mindset of a toddler, it is at this age that Jack actually does begin to learn everything about the outside because Ma knows he is ready for it. Thus, it is ironic that he claims to know ‘everything’ at this moment in time, for it foreshadows all the hard truths with which he has yet to struggle.
“It’s called mind over matter. If we don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
When Ma’s tooth begins to pain her, she tells Jack that it hurts less if she does not think about it. When Jack asks why this is the case, she replies with this quote. While Jack believes that this saying is related only to Ma's tooth, it actually describes the entire mindset and approach Ma is forced to take with Old Nick. Old Nick physically and mentally abuses Ma every night when he visits, keeping her in a constant state of fear that her and Jack’s survival is based on his mercy. It seems that Ma is only able to continue functioning by applying this philosophy to the endless and torturous abuse she receives.
“Stories are a different kind of true.”
When Ma and Jack are still in Room, Ma attempts to introduce Jack’s imagination to as many different stimulants as possible. Therefore, when he asks questions about the world that she cannot answer, she sometimes lies to him, protecting him from the truth that they are prisoners. When she is then forced to tell Jack the truth, he does not understand the difference between truth, lying, and the fiction of books. Ma therefore has to invent an explanation that will not ruin all she has tried to teach Jack about the world from an 11x11-foot room. For stories to be "a different kind of true" suggests there is not one simple, eternal truth; rather, "truth" comes in many different forms. Ma suggests the truth that stories exhibit perhaps is not based upon whether they are fiction or non-fiction, but rather on the values and messages they express. The stories that they read contain versions of real people, so they are almost "half-truths": a way of introducing Jack to the truth about the outside world without giving him too much information at once.
“Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing.”
Ma says this to Jack in the course of making preparations for Jack’s escape from Room. As a child, Jack does as he feels, and it is therefore crucial at this moment for Ma to validate is feelings while also teaching him that he can act differently than he feels. Ma's encouragement helps Jack to frame himself as a brave character in one of his books, ultimately empowering him to rescue both himself and Ma from Room. Similarly, Ma lives in constant fear of Old Nick, yet she has to be brave and polite to him in order to protect Jack. This difference between emotion and action has therefore been imperative Ma's continued survival; now, she must pass this lesson onto Jack in order to ensure his survival.
Maybe I’m a human, but I’m a me-and-Ma as well.
This quote is pivotal to understanding both Jack’s dependence on his Ma and his understanding of the Outside. Jack compares being ‘human’, a biological and existential state, with the state of being ‘a me-and-Ma’. It is therefore obvious that Jack sees his very essence as bound up with Ma's. Upon encountering the Outside, Jack struggles to interact with other people because they aren’t his Ma. He struggles to see Ma with anyone else, simply because he believes that she belongs with him. When she attempts to kill herself, Jack actually believes that all she needs in order to get better is him, as if he were a type of medicine. Since Jack conceives as Ma as a part of himself, it is almost as if he has never had to actually interact with a separate person in his entire life prior to his escape from Room; once he is out, he must both learn how to interact with others and also come to grips with his mother's individuation.
Me and Ma have a deal, we're going to try everything one time so we know what we like.
This quote is from the last section of the novel, entitled ‘Living’, a chapter that is preceded by both ‘Dying’ and ‘After’. This suggests a rebirth for Jack and Ma: they are becoming new people who are no longer controlled by Old Nick. It also presents the progress that Jack has made since leaving Room. The reader has witnessed his struggles to even try different breakfast foods, and it is evident that living in the Outside is a difficult task for him; therefore, his willingness to try "everything" suggests that he has become open to an entirely new world of possibility. For the first five years of his life, Jack’s entire world was in an 11x11-foot space. Now, he can cope with the new things he encounters every day, methodically writing them down on a list to cope with the pressure of so many new ideas.
I look back one more time. It's like a crater, a hole where something happened. Then we go out the door.
Room is partially a narrative of return. Although Ma wishes to never return to Room, Jack urges them to visit, as it reminds him of the contained safety of his childhood. When they visit, it is no longer a prison, as they have the option to leave any time they want. In this poignant quote, Jack notes that Room doesn’t even exist as a structure anymore, but rather as a "crater." This suggests that is has become less of a habitat and more of an artifact: a place where "something happened." This return to Room functions as an unusual kind of "homecoming" that highlights the process of working through trauma: only by revisiting the site of their nightmare and feeling that it no longer holds any power over them can Jack and Ma truly move on.
In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time...Also everywhere I'm looking at kids, adults mostly don't seem to like them, not even the parents do.
Due to the fact that he is a child and grew up in a phenomenally nontraditional way, Jack's observations and behavior outside of Room are often completely off-base, ignorant, and naive. However, because he is a true outsider his observations can also be profound and astute because they are not colored with age or experience. In this quote he articulates a few things. One is that people are stressed and have no time, which certainly derives from the contrast with his experience in Room, but also his awareness that people fill their days with so many things and stress themselves out. Second, he notes that adults don't seem to like kids, even their own, and are brusque with them because they would rather be engaging with other adults. This rings very true, and only a child like Jack would truly be able to make this observation. Thus, comments like these suggest the reader think more deeply about their own lives and relationships.
"But surely, at a symbolic level, Jack's the child sacrifice...cemented into the foundations to placate the spirit."
This overly-intellectualized "analysis" of Jack's trauma, offered by a TV personality dissecting the kidnapping and captivity, illustrates how the media and the public do not seem to understand that the people they are discussing are, in fact, just that: real people who had to endure something that no one should ever have to endure and who should not be fodder for others seeking approbation or ratings. This scene highlights that the seemingly alien problem that Jack has—his inability to discern the difference between reality and fiction—is actually a deeply relatable and human problem: especially in the modern age of mass media, it is tragically easy to see real victims as mere characters.
Lots of the the world seems to be a repeat.
When Jack was in Room, everything in his life was more or less a single, special thing: there was one Lamp, one Rug, one Bed, individual copies of the books, and so on. They were the only one of their kind and they helped constitute his whole reality. Now outside, Jack is shocked to see that there are multiple versions of everything he once thought was one-of-a-kind. This leads him to make this droll assertion of everything seeming to be "a repeat." This innocent discovery of the overwhelming plurality of objects in the modern world is an unexpected, somewhat somber perspective on how little true uniqueness there is to be found in one's surroundings.
Room Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Room is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.