We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6


Constance gives Charles a key to the gates of the house before he heads out to the village. Again, Merricat mentions her fantasy of living on the moon, which she says has lettuce, pumpkin pie, Amanita phalloides, and reliable locks to protect her.

Merricat goes upstairs in search of something to use against Charles and his intrusion. She takes a watch chain, which had belonged to her father, from a jewelry box, which she says she can tell Charles had been looking at, and nails it to the tree that she had kept the book on outside. Later, Charles finds the chain nailed to the tree and is angry, since it’s valuable. Constance doesn’t seem to understand his concern and nonchalantly tells him that Merricat put it there. This conflict widens the division between Charles and Merricat.

Next, Merricat decides to simply ask Charles to leave. Meanwhile, Constance begins to reconsider her solitary life, expressing regret that she “hides” in the house, letting Uncle Julian obsess over the tragic past and Merricat “run wild." This alarms Merricat, who decides she needs to “guard” Constance more extensively than ever before. Constance briefly dismisses Merricat’s fantasy of living on the moon, but then changes her mood, expressing regret for scolding Merricat.

Merricat goes outside to talk to Charles. She hopes to be polite to him and tries to think positive things about him to prepare herself to do so, but can only think happily of him dying. She asks him to leave, but he refuses, then asks which one of them will still be there in a month. Merricat panics, smashing a mirror in her father’s room.

A few days later, Constance again introduces her regret over letting herself, as well as Merricat and Uncle Julian, hide in the house. She also thinks Uncle Julian should be in a hospital with better care than she can provide. The two sisters laugh the matter off, however. Meanwhile, Uncle Julian begins to express animosity towards Charles, fearing he’ll take his papers on the poisoning. “He is dishonest. His father was dishonest. Both my brothers were dishonest,” he says.


It’s difficult to know what to make of Uncle Julian’s repeated allusions to conflict in the family before the poisoning; what exactly he means when he refers to his brothers’ “dishonesty” is never revealed. These hints of conflict, which usually come from Uncle Julian (though Merricat provides one with her early assertion that the town has always hated her family), are particularly jolting since he also claims the Blackwoods rarely argued and were a fairly normal family before the poisoning. If anything, these references are more red herrings than anything else. As the end of the novel will reveal, the Blackwoods were killed for a chillingly mundane reason, one that had nothing to do with their wealth or dishonesty.

Constance and Merricat’s lack of use for and understanding of the value of money further separates them from the patriarchal world outside their home. Making money has traditionally been a masculine role in American culture, especially when the book was written. In the 1960s, for example, banks could refuse to issue a credit card to an unmarried woman, and even married women were required to have their husbands cosign—a reality until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. The sisters’ disregard for their father’s safe and Constance’s puzzlement and Charles’s rage stand in sharp contrast to Charles’s increasing concern for the Blackwood family’s money. The fact that the gold chain Merricat nails to the tree is her father’s further ties wealth to masculinity and male power.

The sixth chapter also features Charles again treating Merricat like a younger child, telling her to “run along and play.” Just as Merricat often seems younger than her stated age of 18, she also contributes little to the cooking and follows a strict set of rules, despite her age. Another unresolved mystery of the novel is the root of Merricat’s apparent childish nature—was she the way she is from birth, or did the monumental event of the loss of her family at 12 delay her development?