Room–Emma Donoghue

Entry One: Barton Zhuang

I know you guys are probably getting sick of all the depressing stuff I write in these blog posts… but the dark parts are the parts that really stand out to me, and “Room” by Emma Donoghue really shows a lot darkness below it’s facade of happiness and joy.

How large is your house? 1,026 square feet? 4,204 square feet? You may even think your house is small, but the characters of this novel have lived in a mere garden shed, and Jack, the main character has lived here since birth, not knowing of the endless possibilities the world holds. He’s happy because he’s never known anything else, and thought that the endless possibilities of the world were trapped in an imaginary realm viewable only through their television. He lives with his Ma, who was kidnapped as a college student and held in the garden shed for many years where her captor comes almost every night to rape her. The life that Ma has created for Jack (who is five years old now) in this impossible situation is admirable, after all that she has had to bear.

The juxtaposition that Donoghue applies is heartbreaking. Little Jack doesn’t understand everything that is happening, and is happy. He enjoys his life as it is, while Ma is trying very hard to give Jack a normal life. One can learn to hate Old Nick, not only because he’s the antagonist, but because what he is doing is absolutely disgusting. He’s taking away another human being’s life, something that everyone gets only once, which can be too short. For me, sometimes a school day can just fly by, and I’ll be home before I know it, but I just can’t bear to imagine how life would have been for Ma and Jack.

One really specific part that stood out to me a lot was “Scream.” Ma had taught to Jack a game every day after their nap to scream as loud as they could, Ma trying in a harsh effort to communicate their entrapment to the outside world so they can be saved. Ma seeming almost desperate, and Jack screaming as if playing a game, not knowing the full reason why they scream. After they scream, Ma always shushes Jack, and Jack asked once why they become quiet, and Ma responds “Just in case someone is listening” (or something along those lines… I can’t find the quote right now). This part really saddened me, as if there was no hope for them, and that this kind of stuff could be happening every day. The thought that someone right this moment could be screaming behind a panel of soundproof glass chills me to the core.

Overall, this novel has been fun to read, especially from Little Jack’s point of view. The innocence and naiveness of Jack only makes the book more painful to read, but it’s a kind of painful that makes you want to read more. It’s so good at keeping me hooked, so 9/10 is my current rating.





1 Comment

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One response to “Room–Emma Donoghue

  1. Barton Zhuang
    Entry 2: Room

    I love the perspective of the story, having Jack narrate brings out details that otherwise would not be noticed. The way Jack narrates is in a pure fashion, he does not know what is going on, but it’s in a way that the reader only learns more about him and his views, a opposed to a possibly annoying voice in which everything has to be explained to him. The great escape has happened, and the novel has seemingly reached its climax as Jack hitches a ride in his captors truck, pretending to be dead. This was my favorite part in the novel, as it had more action, something that the rest of the novel was lacking. I also noticed that the novel ended on the same premise, with Jack and Ma in a seemingly safe and comfortable home. The middle of the novel however was when things began to develop. I especially liked the details that Donoghue went into and her ability to make the world seem like a foreign place for Jack, a boy who had never seen the possibilities of the world. His curiosities towards things that we don’t even have a second thought towards. He displayed interest towards things such as rocks, and how monkey are treated in habitats, something that most humans the days don’t even think about. On page 211, where Jack is told what a rock is and that it is millions of years old, he narrates, “How does she know? I look at the under, there’s no label.” Donoghue demonstrates Jack’s innocence and naiveness in the second half of this novel by exposing him to the world that he had never experienced.

    Another thing about Donoghue’s writing that makes it so strong is her ability to write and being aware of every character’s point of view. There is a moment in the novel where Jack and Ma see cork tiles for sale, and for Jack, Room being the only place he has ever known in his life, wanted to buy the tiles because they reminded him of home. However, Ma who saw Room as a prison was mortified that Jack would want those tiles, a reminder of the prison they lived in. Past the main characters, Donoghue still displays this ability with minor characters such as the Grandma. Grandma’s almost inability to describe to Jack everything in the world and all the rules is very clear. She finds it difficult to teach Jack about common manners or things that everyday people find easy to understand, such as people wanting privacy or what LEGOs are. Donoghue’s use of point of view makes it stated that what is good for one person may not be good for another, as Jack struggles in his new life trying to connect back to his old life, and as Ma revels in the beauty of her freedom in the world, trying to disregard anything that could tie back to the wretched Room.

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