We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7


On Thursday, Merricat is determined to confront Charles. She winds back the watch he took from her father in hopes of releasing it from his spell, and plans to alter the appearance of the house to confuse and further disempower him. To do so, she places glass, metal, wood, and sticks from outside throughout her father’s room. Soon, she hears an angry Charles complaining about the money she buried, saying she has no right to do so. Again, Constance is confused at his outrage, simply explaining that Merricat likes to bury things.

Merricat escapes to the creek, then returns about an hour later to find him still angry. Constance tries to calm Charles down and prevent him from “bullying” Merricat, blaming herself instead. She tells Merricat she has to explain herself to Charles, however. Having discovered what Merricat has done to his room, Charles asks her to explain why she did it. Merricat refuses to answer, afraid that anything she says will help him regain his power. Charles also expresses anger towards Uncle Julian, who himself is angry that Charles is talking, interrupting his work on the poisoning. Uncle Julian suddenly confuses Charles for Merricat and Constance’s father, John, and mentions an argument between “the women”—his wife and, presumably, John’s wife, the sisters’ mother. Again, Constance blames herself. Merricat tells Charles that he is “evil” and a ghost, further irritating him, while Uncle Julian continues talking to him as if he’s John. Uncle Julian mentions that Charles’s mother (this time understanding who Charles really is) “desired that the family connection be severed,” but Charles insists this has been forgotten. Uncle Julian also makes the puzzling statement that Merricat is dead, having died of neglect in an orphanage during Constance’s trial for murder, and says that “she is of very little consequence to my book.”

Constance gets ready to make lunch, but Charles insists on disciplining Merricat, who runs away outside with Jonas. Merricat decides to go to the summerhouse, which she says she has not been to for six years. She explains that no one in her family liked the summerhouse, and her mother even asked to burn it down. She imagines her family’s dinner table, filled with her mother, Uncle Julian, her brother, her father, Aunt Dorothy (Julian’s wife), Constance, and herself “in my rightful, my own and proper, place at the table,” and imagines her family talking (139). In her imagination, her family says adoring things about her, insisting she must have anything she wants and should never be punished.


Merricat’s eagerness to ruin Charles’s room complicates her role as a protector of the house: though she sees it as a sanctuary, she doesn’t seem to care much for its actual appearance, which is also shown through her neglecting the broken step that Charles eventually tries to fix. Rather than the literal physical appearance of the house, she cares about magically protecting it and in turn, being protected by it. This tendency will become increasingly apparent at the end of the novel.

Uncle Julian confusing Charles for John (the sisters’ father) rather than his own father (Arthur) underscores the extent to which Charles has usurped the role of the Blackwoods’ father, who stood at the head of the household. This threatens Constance and the feminine power that she holds, as well as Merricat by association.

Uncle Julian believing Merricat is dead is initially shocking. A careful reader, however, may have noticed that the two characters have never directly spoken to each other. This misconception is, of course, ironic—as Merricat is the protagonist and narrator of the book and, as will soon be made explicit, the poisoner, the fact that Uncle Julian believes that she is “she is of very little consequence to my book” is tremendously off-base. Somewhat surprisingly, this assertion doesn’t seem to bother Merricat. While Charles’s denial of her power is the source of immense conflict, Uncle Julian’s tacit denial of the power she exhibited as the poisoner—to say nothing of her continued existence—doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest. This is one of several ways in which Uncle Julian differs from the other male characters and seems to in some ways resemble the female characters more closely.

Merricat’s imagined scene at the end of the chapter reveals the secret of the novel—why she poisoned her family. In contrast to Merricat’s wishes, they disrespected her, punished her, and crucially, sent her to bed without dinner. This led to her deciding to poison them, killing them through the food she was denied. The fact that Merricat is still dwelling on the approval and love of her dead family members six years later indicates that she cares for them (or at least their opinion of her) more than she lets on.