We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How is sisterhood portrayed in the novel?

    Sisterhood is portrayed as an unbreakable bond in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Merricat’s chief motivation throughout the novel is keeping Constance in isolation with her because she longs to be close to her, while Constance seemingly immediately forgives Merricat for murdering their family and even risks going to jail for the killings herself.

  2. 2

    How are male and female roles within the family portrayed?

    Male roles within the Blackwood family tend to be linked to money and the logical, rational outside world, while female roles are tied to the home and a less rational form of magic. For example, Charles interrupts the Blackwood sisters’ isolation and is deeply concerned with the family safe, while Merricat uses her witchcraft to attempt to send him away and regain her isolation with Constance.

  3. 3

    Does Uncle Julian differ from other men in the Blackwood family? If so, how?

    Yes—unlike most of the men in the novel, he never tries to establish himself as an authority figure over Constance or Merricat. Instead, he seems comfortable letting Constance lead the household. He also shows little care for money or social norms, unlike other male characters.

  4. 4

    What is the significance of the novel’s title?

    The title romanticizes the Blackwood property by elevating it to the level of a home for royalty, and also suggesting that it is a site of heavy fortification and security. It also references Merricat’s childish nature and tendency to daydream—living in a castle is the sort of thing a young girl would fantasize about. The word “always” goes along with the sense of timelessness that appears in the end of the novel, when Merricat and Constance are fully isolated.

  5. 5

    How do the Blackwood sisters respond to loss in the novel?

    The sisters respond to death and other forms of loss in a very muted, almost emotionless manner. Despite living with Uncle Julian for years, they barely mourn him and quickly move on from his death. When the house almost burns down, Constance is more concerned that Merricat missed dinner than she is with the restructuring that she will have to do to her life.

  6. 6

    Does Merricat show remorse for killing her family?

    Though for the most part Merricat seems not to feel guilt for killing her family, there are several small moments that suggest she might feel a small degree of remorse. For example, one morning she wakes up and thinks she can hear them calling her, which is unusual considering that six years have passed. This moment suggests that her family are present in her mind more than she acknowledges.

  7. 7

    What do the preserves represent?

    Food is a common source of female power in the novel. The preserves, created by generations of Blackwood women, represent the generational roots of this power. Ultimately, they are key to allowing Merricat and Constance to live in full isolation since they provide them food without having to leave the house.

  8. 8

    Why does Jackson mention that Charles resembles John Blackwood?

    Charles's physical resemblance to the sisters' father parallels his ideological and thematic resemblance to the patriarch of the Blackwood family. Like John, Charles is chiefly concerned with money, and he also attempts to control Merricat.

  9. 9

    What is the significance of the scene in which Merricat envisions dinner with her dead family?

    The scene reveals the reality of what happened the night of the murders: Merricat was punished by being sent to bed without dinner. This experience seems to have scarred her psychologically, since she still dwells on it six years later. Since the reader doesn't know why Merricat was punished, it's difficult to gauge to how outlandish her reaction is.

  10. 10

    What is the significance of the novel's final line?

    The final line of the novel ("We are so happy") indicates that Merricat has finally been victorious in converting Constance to her worldview and life of happy isolation. Though Constance has always been wary of outsiders, she considered leaving the house earlier in the novel, much to Merricat's concern. At the end of the novel, Merricat no longer has to worry about "protecting" Constance and can live happily ever after with her in their house.