We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Literary Elements


Mystery/Gothic novel

Setting and Context

The Blackwood estate, six years after the murders of much of the Blackwood family

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood, who tells the story from her first-person perspective.

Tone and Mood

Sinister, frightening, and sometimes darky humorous.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Merricat is the protagonist, while Charles and the villagers serve as the antagonists.

Major Conflict

The central conflict of the novel is whether Constance will continue to live in isolation with Merricat or return to the world. Since Charles and the villagers get in the way of Merricat's wishes in this regard, they are the antagonists.


The climax is when the fire occurs and the villagers destroy the Blackwood home to the best of their abilities. In the wake of this event, it's clear Constance will remain with Merricat in isolation.


The first paragraph foreshadows the revelation that Merricat is the true poisoner through her comparison of herself to a werewolf, a traditionally monstrous creature, and her stated affection for poisonous mushrooms, as well as for Richard Plantagenet, who is believed to have been a poisoner as well.


One example of understatement in the novel occurs when Uncle Julian says to Constance that she has been “a good niece to me, although there are some grounds for supposing you an undutiful daughter.” Since Uncle Julian believes Constance killed her parents (along with most of the rest of her family), calling her an “undutiful daughter” is a vast understatement.





Metonymy and Synecdoche

Metonymy: Merricat says she will put "death" into the villagers' food, referring to poison, which causes death.


Merricat often talks to Jonas, thus personifying him. For example, when she tells him not to let Charles talk to him anymore, she says he “regarded me in wide-eyed astonishment, that I should attempt to make decisions for him." The house and Blackwood property are also personified frequently, giving them a sense of a life of their own. For example, towards the end of the novel, Merricat mentions burying Uncle Julian's pencil "by the water, so the creek would always speak his name."