Room Summary

Room is split into two roughly equal sections: the first takes place inside Room, and the second outside of it.

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Inside Room

The novel opens with the narrator, Jack's, fifth birthday. Jack describes his life in this space he knows only as "Room," where he lives with his mother, "Ma." Room contains a limited number of objects, so each has a proper name (e.g., Table instead of "the table"). Small differences between the objects are significant to Jack. He prefers Melty Spoon to the other spoon, because its melted handle makes it more interesting to him. Jack interacts with each object as if it has a personality, and generally seems fond of Room.

Jack's daily routine consists of games like Gym, where he and Ma exercise, and Parrot, where he repeats the words spoken by people on the television to increase his vocabulary. There is also Scream, where Jack and Ma both scream as loud as they can, and Light, where Ma switches the light on and off repeatedly. Jack does not understand the reason for any of these games; to him, they simply fill up the day.

When night comes, Old Nick comes into room to "visit" Ma. Jack stays in Wardrobe and counts the creaks of Ma's mattress until Old Nick is gone again. Jack informs the reader that Old Nick brings groceries to Room, and that once a week, Ma is allowed to ask for something special as a Sunday Treat, like orange juice or a new light bulb.

This is life inside Room and has been Jack's life for his whole five years. That life is about to change. During one of Old Nick's visits, Ma asks him to bring vitamins. Old Nick tells her that he hasn't got the money; he has been unemployed for six months. Furthermore, his lease on the property is running out. Ma is afraid of what will happen to her and Jack if Old Nick leaves. Jack doesn't understand this, because he doesn't grasp the reality of their situation, but Ma's fear is that if Old Nick must leave, he will murder them first to prevent his crime from being discovered.

Ma formulates a plan to smuggle Jack out of Room so that he can get help. She first has to convince him that there is a world outside Room, and that there are people in it. She then has to explain that Old Nick abducted her from the Outside, and has kept her locked in Room for years and years. Jack has difficulty comprehending what he is being told, but he loves Ma, so works hard to go along with her plan.

Ma tells Old Nick that Jack has died of an illness. She wraps Jack in a rug and tells Old Nick to bury him. Old Nick takes the rug and dumps it in his truck; as he drives off, Jack unrolls himself from the rug and scrambles out of the truck. Old Nick tries to catch him, but Jack runs up to a man walking a dog, who asks if Jack needs help. Old Nick flees the scene, and the man calls the police. Jack is able to lead them to Room, where they rescue Ma. Both are taken to a psychiatric hospital and their life in Room is over.

Outside Room

Outside is full of new people and new experiences. Ma seems brittle and angry, and Jack alternates between being curious and being completely overwhelmed. He asks Ma when they can go back to Room, because it is the only place he has ever known.

In the psychiatric hospital, Ma learns how much her family has changed since her abduction. Her mother and father divorced after Old Nick stole Ma, and Grandma has a new partner, named Leo. Ma's brother has got married and has a daughter, Bronwyn, who is about Jack's age.

Ma's father comes to the hospital separately. At first he seems happy to see Ma again, but then he sees Jack and flies into a rage, because to him, Jack is the living symbol of Ma's years of sexual slavery. Ma loves Jack more than anything and is furious with her father, who leaves in anger and does not come back.

It is apparent from Jack's descriptions that Ma feels increasingly isolated, and that escape from Room is not what she thought it would be. She agrees to do a television interview about her experiences so that she can save money for Jack's...

(The entire section is 1,188 words.)