We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a brilliant gothic novel that is so eerie in a way that only Shirley Jackson could write and it has definitely become one of my absolute favorites. It tells the story of two sisters, Merricat and Constance, who live in a large old house with their uncle Julian. The rest of their family was poisoned to death years ago, and the townspeople believe that Constance is responsible for the murders.
The novel is set in a small town and that setting plays a significant role in the story. The townspeople are small-minded, ignorant, and suspicious of the Blackwood family. The house where the sisters live is isolated from the town, which adds to the feeling of unease and dread that is felt throughout the novel.
I have found that Jackson’s works almost always include a complex psychological aspect, and this novel was no different. I always feel like I’m not just reading an entertaining horror/Gothic story, but also an intriguing and new perspective into the human psyche. Whether it’s through the individual main and secondary characters or through the “mob” behavior of the townspeople in general during the last few chapters.
Shirley Jackson’s writing style is haunting and lyrical. She is an absolute master of creating a suspenseful atmosphere, and the novel is filled with unsettling imagery and eerie symbolism. Jackson’s prose is simple, but as usual with her writing, there is a depth and complexity that really sticks with you for days after you’ve read the story.
I believe Jackson was inspired by the real-life case of Lizzie Borden, the woman who was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother in 1892. Similar to Constance in the novel, Borden was the sole survivor of a family murder and was suspected of being responsible for the deaths.
Overall “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” is a haunting and atmospheric novel that showcases Shirley Jackson’s mastery of the gothic genre. Jackson challenges traditional stereotypes and offers a complex view of human nature.