Shirley Jackson's American Gothic by Darryl Hattenhauer

By Darryl Hattenhauer

Argues that Jackson expected the transition from modernism to postmodernism and will be ranked one of the most important writers of her time.

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Extra resources for Shirley Jackson's American Gothic

Sample text

That it is Margaret who is disintegrating appears more clearly when she experiences gaps in her memory, suggesting that another personality has taken over. In the next passage, the conscious states called “Margaret” are absent after her body gets in the cab, goes somewhere that is outside of Margaret’s (and the narrator’s and the reader’s) awareness, The Lottery or, The Adventures of James Harris 41 and then comes back to the cab; similarly, she (and the narrator and the reader) are not sure of everything she does between the moment when she gets on the elevator up to her room and the moment when she gets on it back down: “She stepped into the taxi on one side and stepped out the other side at her home; she pressed the fifth floor button on the elevator and was coming down again, bathed and dressed and ready for dinner with Brad” (244).

As Hyman would be later, her mother was controlling. She insisted that Shirley conform to the most mundane gender conventions (although her mother resisted the nurturing role). Also like Hyman, her mother insisted that Jackson perform the duties of domesticity. The spectre of an introjected authority figure haunted Jackson. To the end, she was subjected to her mother’s manipulative attempts to force her to conform to superficial conventions. ” (Note the connection of “you and your house”; in many texts, Jackson makes detailed use of the house as a symbol of the self).

As such, Jackson fools the reader, thereby making the reader interchangeable with the hypocritical women. As Poe in “The Cask of Amontillado” puts the reader and Fortunato in the same benighted position of the butt of the joke who receives the clues but does not understand them, so Jackson puts her reader in the same benighted position as the three women who receive clues but do not understand them. Fortunato, these women, and the reader are all unaware of the fact that they are playing the role of the fool and that Montresor and the old man have written their scripts for them.

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