Literature: Room

"Room" is a 2010 book by Emma Donoghue.

Jack is five years old and lives with his Ma in a single, eleven by eleven foot Room. He has lived there all his life, ever since he was born. Ma has lived there for seven years, ever since she was taken here by Old Nick. He has never been outside, seen any more of the sky than the slit of blue that comes through Skylight, or met any human being besides his Ma and Old Nick, who comes in at night to bring food and talk to Ma.

Jack is happy in Room, watching the imaginary people on television, playing with his Ma and listening to her stories. He thinks he can live in Room forever... but he can't.

"Room" was a New York Times bestseller and has won many literary prizes, including the 2010 Booker Prize, the 2011 Orange Prize, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Emma Donoghue reports that she decided to write the book after learning of the horrific real life Fritzl case.

In 2015, the book will become a film, with Brie Larson attached to play Ma


"Room" contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Jack's mother loves him very much and does everything she can for him. His father, on the other hand...
  • Anger Born of Worry: Ma gets angry at Jack a few times, when Jack risks upsetting Old Nick, which would endanger them both.
  • Birthday Hater: Jack is not a birthday hater and is excited to be five years old. However, for Ma, each birthday simply reminds her of how much of her life she has been held captive by Old Nick.
  • Broken Bird: Ma.
  • Child by Rape: Jack.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: While Jack is only five years old when the story ends, it is clear by that he has changed much.
  • Constantly Curious: Five year old Jack, despite Ma's education of him, is very naive and curious about the world especially after they escape Room.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Old Nick threatens to leave them alone until they starve to death if Ma ever gives him trouble or tries to escape again.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Having lived indoors all his life, Jack has trouble wearing shoes outside.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Jack and Ma actually escape Room halfway through the book, with the second half focusing on their struggle to adapt to the real world.
  • Hates Being Alone: Jack, having lived in a tiny room with his mother all his life, is very unhappy when he can't be with her.
  • Heroic BSOD: Ma understandably has many small ones while trapped inside Room, which Jack calls "being Gone". She has a very bad one later after a televised interview, where the reporter blames her for raising Jack in the room, where she attempts suicide.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Ma hates being trapped in Room, and plans to escape.
  • Lies to Children: For the first four years of his life, Ma lies to Jack about the existence of other people, to protect him from understanding what they are deprived of.
  • Locked in a Room: This is the premise of the book.
  • Mama Bear: Ma.
  • No Name Given: The readers are never told what Old Nick's real name is. Same goes for Ma.
  • No Object Permanence: Jack has difficulty comprehending that the rest of the world exists outside of his television set.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Ma expresses no fear of encountering Old Nick at his court hearing, wanting to look him in the eye to show him that he could not beat her.
  • Paparazzi: They are harassed by these, including a helicopter that tries to take airborne photographs of the mother and child as they are walking on the grounds at the psychiatric hospital they stay at after their escape from Old Nick.
  • Playing Sick and Bodybag Trick: Ma and Jack fake that Jack is dying of a stomach bug, then his death, in order to trick Old Nick into taking Jack outside where he can escape.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Shoot Out the Lock: This is how the police get Ma out of the Room once Jack tells them where she is.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Averted. Social services do exist and immediately spring to action after they escape.
  • Stepford Smiler: Ma pretends to be very cheerful and grateful to Old Nick when he comes to Room at night, to keep him happy and to protect her son. She also tries to project a happy image to Jack. But she is still miserable being trapped in Room.
    • Lampshaded when she is interviewed. She says "I did it on autopilot, you know, Stepford Wife."
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Averted with Ma, who loathes Room. This doesn't keep some characters from trying to insinuate that she has this, though.
  • That Thing Is Not My Grandchild: Ma loves Jack unconditionally, but her father rejects him as he can't forget that Jack was conceived by rape. This in sharp contract to Ma's mother, who immediately accepts her grandson.
  • Wild Child: Discussed and averted. Jack is described by the media as a feral child, but Ma actually raised him quite well, despite their isolation.