We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood and her elder sister Constance live alone in their ancestral home with their crippled uncle after the tragic murder of both of their parents, their aunt, and their younger brother. Having been accused and later acquitted of the murders, Constance confines herself to the grounds of their home, while Merricat contends with their hostile neighbors and with the ever-increasing sense of impending danger she feels is heading their way.

In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, author Shirley Jackson deftly handles delicate subjects like mental illness, agoraphobia, and social isolation. We Have Always Lived in the Castle was Jackson’s final novel, and has been held in high critical esteem since its publication in 1962.

Shirley Jackson’s deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family takes readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, macabre humor, and gothic atmosphere.

Six years after four family members died suspiciously of arsenic poisoning, the three remaining Blackwoods—elder, agoraphobic sister Constance; wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian; and eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine, or, Merricat—live together in pleasant isolation. Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic to guard the estate against intrusions from hostile villagers. But one day a stranger arrives—cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune—and manages to penetrate into their carefully shielded lives. Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods, resulting in crisis, tragedy, and the revelation of a terrible secret.

Jackson’s novel emerges less as a study in eccentricity and more—like some of her other fictions—as a powerful critique of the anxious, ruthless processes involved in the maintenance of normalcy itself.

First Published:1962

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle
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