51 pages 1 hour read

Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1962

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Teacher Introduction

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

  • Genre: Fiction; suspense/thriller; contemporary gothic horror
  • Originally Published: 1962
  • Reading Level/Interest: Lexile 920L; grades 9-12; college/adult
  • Structure/Length: 10 chapters; approx. 146 pages; approx. 5 hours, 30 minutes on audio
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: Eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood (“Merricat”) lives with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian in the family estate. When a potential heir to the family fortune comes to visit, Merricat’s peculiarities—and the fate of the rest of the family—are gradually revealed.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Mental health concerns; agoraphobia; obsessive-compulsive disorder; witchcraft; murder

Shirley Jackson, Author

  • Bio: Born in 1916 in San Francisco, California; died in 1965; attended Syracuse University; later moved permanently to Vermont; pursued writing while raising four children; novelist, memoirist, and short story writer; horror stories and settings known for their atmospheric suspense and psychological depth
  • Other Works: The Bird’s Nest (1954); The Haunting of Hill House (1959); Dark Tales (short story collection; 2017)
  • Awards: Named to Time magazine’s “Ten Best Novels” list (1962)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • Womanhood and Domesticity
  • Misunderstood Genius
  • Small-Town Class Relationships

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the social context, including women’s issues that influence the novel’s plot, characterization, and themes.
  • Study paired texts and other brief resources to make connections to the text’s theme of Small-Town Class Relationships.
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