Shirley Jackson American Literature Analysis
Jackson’s works do not fit easily into any single category. On one hand, her horror stories and gothic novels are chilling ventures into the worlds of tormented minds and supernatural evil. On the other hand, she became popular in the 1950’s for her “domestic” works, humorous stories about family life in a small New England village. Jackson’s writing melds horror and humor in a unique way: Her most frightful tales are shot through with wry jests, while her household stories contain elements of darkness.
In one of Jackson’s essays about the art of story-writing, she emphasizes that every character, no matter how seemingly minor, must play some role in setting atmosphere or moving the plot forward. Each character should be well drawn, never sketched. In her major characters, she reveals the psychological depths of disturbed, if not downright psychotic, minds. For example, Natalie Waite, the seventeen-year-old undergraduate of the novel Hangsaman (1951), gradually descends into madness. Elizabeth Richmond of The Bird’s Nest (1954) develops multiple personality disorder. Eleanor Vance in The Haunting of Hill House becomes one with the ghosts that live there. Mary Catherine (Merricat) Blackwood of We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a rather charming psychotic. These women protagonists serve not only to illustrate psychological themes but also social ones. There is always a hint in Jackson’s writings that...
(The entire section is 2759 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Shirley Jackson Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!