Art Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a novel written by Shirley Jackson in 1962. It is told from the perspective of Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood who lives with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian in an isolated house. Merricat goes to town to get groceries twice the week, but other than that, the family never leaves the house and hasn’t for years. Later through the book, a family member comes to the house without warning and their comfortable systematic life gets more chaotic.

I read the book over the summer and was caught off guard by how the story was told. This novel is filled with imagery and in a lot of ways its story is told through the strange and detailed setting, objects, and character movements. It doesn’t have that strong of a plot; you just kind of involve yourself in the story and it’s an uncomfortable experience. The writing is really cool, but the situation seems so wrong and unbreakable, especially since Merricat is fighting so hard to keep things how they are.

In a lot of ways Merricat is the antagonist of the story: she is the only thing keeping Constance back from leaving her life of isolation and doing something for herself. Their situation started when their family was poisoned, and when it’s revealed that Merricat is the killer, it’s not exactly surprising. She’s eighteen years old, but the way she thinks is similar to a young child.

And yet, Merricat is easy to sympathize with in her struggle to live life the way she wants to live it, even if she’s sleeping in the kitchen of a burnt down house for the rest of her life. It’s pretty clear that the way the sisters live is not the way life should be lived, but they seem to be happier than most people. And the life outside the house is painted as miserable and evil. The townspeople constantly cheer at the sisters:

Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?

Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.

Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?

Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!

Page 16, and throughout the book

My theory is that this story is a greatly exaggerated tale of a loner, most likely an artist, and how they are misguided in living a small, perhaps comfortable, but uneventful life leaving them untapped potential. Merricat is the artist and Constance is her art. Uncle Julian is her connection to the past, when she lived a somewhat normal life, so when he dies in the fire it’s the total loss of that connection.

I really enjoyed this novel and would highly recommend it.

Stigmatizing Mental Illness in We Have Always Lived in the Castle

This Summer I read We Have Always Lived in The Castle by Shirley Jackson. One of my favorite books, The Haunting of Hill House, was also written by Shirley Jackson, so I was thrilled when I discovered that this book was a summer reading option. I admire Jackson’s writing for her eerie and whimsical touch. This particular novel tells the story of two sisters, Constance and Merricat Blackwood. Besides their uncle Julian, the rest of their family is dead. Constance was, six years prior, accused of murdering the family. Therefore, Merricat and Constance are both feared and hated by the entire town and only go in twice a week for groceries, but even that is a trying task. 

The narrator, Merricat, is odd. She is ostracized from the town for seeming weird and detached, and even as the reader, her narrations at times do not seem to be based in reality. 

“I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both of my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita Phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead” (Jackson, 1). 

Jackson’s commentary on mental illness is reflected in Merricat. As Merricat is clearly still traumatized by the incident from six years ago, she carries the weight of that to this day. Her mental illness is stigmatized and not understood by those in the town. Instead, she is judged and horribly mistreated, “as close to me as he could come because, I knew, he wanted this morning to be bad luck for me” (Jackson, 12). Nobody in the town sympathizes with Merricat and as the reader, this is hard to understand. Throughout the novel, I found myself constantly sympathizing with Merricat and Constance because of their despairing past. Sadly, mental illness is still stigmatized today even though society as a whole is making active strives to do better by accepting one another for our differences.


For my summer reading book I chose to read Kobe Bryant. I was really excited to read this book by Clayton Geoffreys, but I soon lost that. After Kobe passed away I wanted to learn more about him so I thought I would choose a book that would give me more insight on who we was. I was very disappointed when I started reading because of how dull it seemed to be. After recently watching the documentary on Michael Jordan, “The Last Dance”, I saw no similarities between the two. This book did not keep me engaged like the show was able to. I knew about who Michael Jordan was, but not like what the documentary showed me. I learned about how he was off the court which was something the Kobe book could not do. I had a preconceived notion that the book would be the same, so I probably had high hopes. Either way the writer just did not do what I was looking for to keep me engaged with good story telling. From our previously read short story, “Good Readers and Good Writers”, Nabakov stated, “Every good writer is a good deceiver,” (31). The author of Kobe Bryant was not able to do this, however I did still learn some interesting things about Kobe’s games. I definitely give him credit for what he had to work with but I think this could’ve have been drastically better.

Dance in Distress

This past summer I picked out my summer reading book not knowing what it was really about. I read Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnson, which I honestly picked because of its cover. One thing that teachers always said to me was to never judge a book by its cover, but I never listen. The cover intrigued me by the way Hermione Winters, the main charcter, has her shadow leaping on a pastel based cover waiting for someone to pick it off the shelf. As I started reading, the story grabbed my attention and made it hard to put down. I use to dance when I was younger which made the beginning of this story relatable, but you would have never guessed what was about to happen. This novel is about Hermione being captain on the cheerleading team while being involved in a toxic relationship. Of course there is way more important portions of the book, but that would just give it away.

E.K. Johnson does a phenomenal job of using imagery to take you into Hermione’s mind and realize what is going on in her surface. There was a moment in the book where I realized how I lost myself while reading it for two and a half ours. Overall, I would especially recommend this book to a high school girl.

A Good/Evil Struggle Connection

In class, we read the short story, “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders. In this story, the main character Jeff has a constant inner struggle of whether or not Abnesti (the scientist conducting multiple drug experiments) is acting as good or evil. He constantly informs Jeff that what he is doing will benefit humanity and that he is someone that he can trust. He states, ” You know me, how many kids do I have?” and “do I remember birthdays around here? “(33) He also doesn’t swear, showing that ideally he is a good person. But Jeff sees first hand the effect these experiments have on others. He watches Heather, another participant die after being given Darkenfloxx. Jeff has a past of criminal activity, and has killed someone, and doesn’t want to see others killed in this experiment. He ends up commiting suicide because he doesn’t want to be associated with this kind of evil.

In my summer reading book ” Scythe” by Neal Shusterman, there is also a struggle of finding out who is good and who is evil. The book is about a society in the future where humans can live forever, and if they do “die”, they can be revived and can also set their ages back. In order to keep the population under control, Scythes are in charge of killing people permanently. There is an on going conflict in this book on whether or not the different Scythes are using their power effectively, and if they are killing or “gleaning” as they say in the book, in the right way. The main characters, scythe apprentices, Citra and Rowan are constantly conflicted on the right and wrong way of ending people’s lives. One scythe, goes on mass killing sprees, where another scouts out individuals that seem to have lost a lust for life. Citra and Rowan are both conflicted with the idea that what they are essentially doing could be considered evil, but are also benefiting humanity.

Both stories were interesting reads, and had interesting ideals about the struggle of good and evil. Essentially both indicate that no one can be truly good when it comes to ending people’s lives.

Summer Reading – Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis – A Discussion of Michael Lewis and Salomon Brothers.

Since the beginning of high school, I have had an interest in finance and economics, mainly because my parents are both analysts, and as I have taken more classes to explore the field of finance, I have found that I too, am hoping to start a career in finance. As a prospective finance major and hopeful analyst, my father gave me a few books to explore individual careers in finance. The first of which was “Liar’s Poker,” a semi-autobiography detailing Michael Lewis’ rise on Wall Street as an bond trader at Salomon Brothers.

The book begins with the chairman of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund, and a bond trader, John Meriwether, playing a mind game called liar’s poker, in which they bet on the serial numbers of a dollar bill. While it may appear that the two men are just playing a game, the very core of Liar’s Poker, reading other people, is central to a career on Wall Street.

Michael Lewis ends up landing a job at Salomon Brothers, and is put into their rigorous, one year training program where he is to learn about bond trading. After the training, Michael becomes a bond trader, and throughout the next ten-ish years, Salomon changes CEOs multiple times, with two of them ending up in jail (they’re kind of like Illinois), and eventually, Salomon becomes the target for a hostile takeover by Drexel Burnham. Further, the economy crashed in 1987, and while Salomon had to cut most of its employees, Lewis was instead rewarded with a large bonus, and Salomon continued to operate. The book finishes with Lewis quitting his job because he feels his pay should reflect the amount of good he does for society, and he doesn’t think he deserves his salary because selling bonds doesn’t do all that much for society.

Mutual Disregard in Neal Shusterman’s Thunderhead

For my summer reading, I chose Scythe by Neal Shusterman, and I enjoyed it so much that I got the second book, Thunderhead. The novel takes place in a dystopian future where issues like death and poverty have been eliminated. In order to keep the population under control, “Scythes” are appointed to “glean” (kill) a certain quota every year. The story follows Citra, a Junior Scythe, who finds herself in the middle of increasing turmoil within the Scythedom. Although she despises her responsibility of ending people’s lives for good, she knows she must keep her role as a Scythe in order to quell the corruption emerging around her. Like “Escape from Spiderhead,” if not more, the premise of this story is highly absurd. However, that doesn’t mean it fails to relate to Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition.

In this novel, society has lost all respect for individual life. With no such thing as death, the lives of people seem to have little value. In this world, it is apparent that no one thinks about anyone else. In fact, when a Scythe is finished gleaning someone, their family cares more about receiving immunity for a whole year than their recent loss! This is the complete opposite of mutual recognition.

Additionally, I find it crazy to think that the heroin of this story takes pride in the fact that she, unlike other Scythes, gives her unfortunate victims a month to decide how they wish to die: “Of course, this method of gleaning [creates] double work for her – because she [has] to face her subjects twice. It [makes] for an incredibly exhausting life, but at least it [helps] her sleep at night” (31). That is how low the bar is!

I take this book as a warning as to what can happen if we, as a species, completely lose sight of Benjamin’s theory. She says that in order to establish healthy identities/relationships we need to not only see ourselves as worthy entities, but also others. If we can’t value each and every person as a unique and important story, then perhaps we will find ourselves gleaning one another someday…

People v. Felony Murder Rule: Why the Felony Murder Rule Should Be Abolished

Since America’s creation, there have been many weird and unjust laws, from the Jim Crow laws to Marijuana being classified as a schedule 1 drug, America has been built upon initially unjust laws. In reading One Cut, you will learn about one of the most unjust and unusual laws still in existence in America, Felony Murder. Felony murder is described as “when an offender kills in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime, the offender, and also the offender’s accomplices or co-conspirators, may be found guilty of murder.” Now, this may seem not too crazy, but when you hear the stories of the law actually in use, you may change your mind. One example is Marshae Jones. As Ms.Jones was in a parking lot when she and another woman began arguing. After a few minutes, the words turned into a fight. Amid the fight, the other woman, Ms.Jemison, pulled out a gun and shot Ms.Jones in the stomach. Ms.Jones at the time was five months pregnant. The fetus ended up not surviving the gunshot wound, and a jury in Alabama indicted Ms.Jones, the pregnant woman, of manslaughter under the state’s felony murder rule. The felony murder rule, like many other laws, has unfairly targeted, in the majority of cases, minorities. As society heads towards an age of revolution, a time where blatant discrimination, the oppression of minorities, and unjust laws are looked down upon by most. Will Felony Murder be one small part of the systemically racist American legal system that will be removed during this revolution, and should it? When looking at the statistics and hearing the stories, the answer should be obvious, the felony murder rule is illogical, prejudicial, and grossly unconstitutional and should be repealed.