The Shut-In

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the_shut_in.jpg
One of the earliest shut-ins.

It's not the least bit uncommon for people to avoid going outside in Real Life, and fiction follows through by giving us an assortment of house hermit characters. They tend to come in three flavors:

  • The self-imposed shut-ins who for whatever reason (typically agoraphobia) cannot bring themself to go outside, or simply do not want to do so.
  • Those with a physical condition that prevents them from going outside. Extreme obesity, extreme photosensitivity, or being bedridden and likely near death are the most common reasons.
  • Those who are kept against their will their entire lives, typically by family. Often ends up being a family's Dark Secret or Secret Legacy.

Since most fictional characters need to eat to live, shut-ins who are still ambulatory and aren't captives may go outside to buy the most necessary of supplies, but otherwise remain in isolation.

Subtropes include:

  • Hikikomori: Although the word has connotations specific to Japan, as a trope it effectively covers agoraphobia as a whole.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: The tragic, non-consensual form of The Shut-In.
  • Gilded Cage: Usually befalls a young person, almost Always Female, who is given a luxurious lifestyle but is otherwise denied any socializing outside of interactions with her servants.

Compare The Hermit, Reclusive Artist, and Crazy Survivalist. Compare and contrast You Are Grounded, which is typically short and doesn't include school. NPC Scheduling, especially in older games, may make characters look like shut-ins, but that's just due to the simplistic AI. Compare Convenient Coma and the like, where being a shut-in is merely a side effect of being unconscious and therefore completely incapable of going anywhere. Prisoners and rare cases like Truman who are prisoners in wide open spaces don't really count, as they still have interactions with peers of their social standing within their microcosm. Prisoners in solitary tend to fall under Go Mad from the Isolation and/or Punishment Box.


Other Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film - Animated 
  • Elsa and Anna from Frozen are this way in the prologue. Due to Elsa almost killing Anna by accident as a child, their parents decided to keep them locked in the castle until Elsa could control her powers. Elsa in particular apparently very rarely, if ever, left her bedroom in the span of 13 years, while Anna would play outside but not be able to leave the castle walls. The real plot starts at the now 21 year old Elsa's coronation, where she and Anna break out of this.
  • In Rio, since Linda picked him up, Blu almost never went outdoors, and had trouble socializing with other birds.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Benchwarmers: Howie is terrified of the sun and of other people, so he lives in a very small room in his brother's house. He overcomes his fear by the end of the movie, however.
  • Castaway on the Moon is about a suicidal man turned castaway, because he can't swim off a tiny island in the middle of Seoul. The only person who notices him there is a young hikikomori woman, who eventually risks the outdoors to communicate with the man on the island (with elaborate schemes to get out unnoticed by anyone in the dead of night).
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Eight years after the end of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has spent most of those eight years as a complete recluse, not interacting with anyone but his butler, Alfred. The police finally got organized crime out of Gotham, so the city doesn't need Batman anymore — and Bruce is still too heartbroken over Rachel Dawes' death to interact with the world in his civilian persona. But Bruce Wayne's withdrawal allows Bane's agents to establish a foothold in the city; by the time Batman comes back out of retirement, it's almost too late.
  • I Am Sam: Annie, the elderly neighbor who babysits Sam's daughter Lucy when Sam works, is an agorophobe who had not been outside in years. When testifying on behalf of Sam to his fitness as a father in his custody battle, her credibility is attacked with a lawyer bringing up this psychological condition.
  • Nim's Island: Alexandra Rover is agoraphobic and never leaves her apartment. When Nim writes to her explaining her trouble, Alexandra forces herself to go out and find her.
  • The Others: The kids cannot go outside because of a genetic disorder (Xeroderma pigmentosum), as they might be exposed to sunlight and die. Once they realize they are already dead, they get to enjoy sunlight for the first time.
  • The Glutton victim from Se7en. He even had his groceries delivered.
  • That Darn Cat!: In the remake, an elderly woman complains she never goes anywhere. We find out at the end that this is literally true. When her floor (someone else's ceiling) is destroyed, she falls through still in her armchair. She's happy, though: "I finally left my house!" Why she never leaves her house is left up to the viewer.
  • Columbus in Zombieland, prior to the Zombie Apocalypse.

     Literature 
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Charlie's grandparents stayed for twenty years without leaving their bed. Not the house; the freaking bed.
  • Final Girls: In a PTSD sort of example, one of the main characters is unable to cope with leaving the house at all after the events they've been put through. They were essentially forced to live a horror movie.
  • Great Expectations: Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day and spent the rest of her life shut up in her mansion, still wearing her wedding dress, as the house decays around her.
  • Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note: Nanaki is this in the beginning due to the application of On One Condition — he's required to stay in his family mansion until 20 as a condition of inheriting the family estate. Unlike most examples of this trope, he doesn't see it too much of an issue, despite The Team found the whole idea appalling. Rendered moot eventually due to the bankruptcy of his father.
  • Twilight: Bella Swan is like this in New Moon after Edward moves away to protect her.
  • In House of Leaves, Johnny Truant becomes one, after working on The Navidson Record for a while. It has an unhealthy effect on any reader's sanity... including yours, dear reader.
  • Eri Asai from Haruki Murakami's novel After Dark. After being deprived of a normal childhood because of her hectic modeling career, she abruptly locked herself in her room and went into deep periods of sleep, awakening only to eat and use the bathroom.
  • Older Than Radio: Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, the protagonist of the eponymous novel by Ivan Goncharov (1859), goes in a self-imposed exile from public life, not leaving his Saint Petersburg apartment for years. What's most interesting here is that such behavior wasn't seen as something really extraordinary for a wealthy Russian landlord — a class that had such high proportion of oddballs and weirdos that you might seem out of the line if you didn't have any eccentricities.
  • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The unhealthy amount of time he spends in his cramped, dingy apartment (emulating his mental state at the time) is theorized to be a contributing factor to the murders he commits.
  • Except to purchase food (and the next copy of Misery's romantic escapades, of course), Annie from Stephen King's Misery rarely if ever leaves her secluded cabin.
  • In the short comic "The Forever Box" by Sarah Mesinga (anthologized in Flight), the main character shuts herself in a magical time machine box with her books, laptop, and DVD's after the death of her brothers.
  • The Once-ler from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax is most definitely this, although he does tell his story for a small fee.
  • The Millenium saga, by Stieg Larrson, has a recurring secondary hikikomori character with the class-A hacker Plague, who suffers from social seclusion at a point that he is officially recognized as "socially incompetent" by the State and given a disability allowance.
  • Mommy is one in the beginning of The Fire-Us Trilogy. This causes problems when the family has to leave home.
  • The Protagonist in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is an example of this, hiding himself away from the world after developing leprosy.
  • In the backstory of Unnatural Issue, Richard Whitestone spends the bulk of his widowerhood in his chambers and library on the second floor of his country manor. He would have remained comparatively harmlessnote  had he not gotten fixated on bringing his wife back.
  • In A Macabre Myth of a Moth-Man, Ozzy is agoraphobic and refuses to leave the home he set up after escaping the lab. He monitors the world through a TV he rigged up, and has Moth-Man run various favors for him. Brett also stayed indoors quite a lot before dating Nina, because of a skin condition that made him sunburn very easily. After he discovered being out in the sun caused him to contract Melanoma, he stayed inside to such an extreme that his friends became very worried.
  • This is the lifestyle of choice for Spacers of Solaria in Isaac Asimov's The Naked Sun. Each Solarian inhabits his or her own nation sized 'estate' physically remote from their fellows. Husbands and wives share estates but have separate quarters and meet only on rare and uncomfortable occasions. All this is enabled by highly advanced holographic communications and innumerable robots.
  • Two of the top five players in OASIS are directly described as being this in Ready Player One. It takes one of them getting killed by the Corrupt Corporate Executive to get the other to leave his home and find safety.
  • Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, who reacts to being jilted on her supposed wedding day by locking herself away in one room of her house for thirty years.
  • Victoria Victrix from the Secret World Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey became one of these through a combination of being betrayed by a lover and set on fire by a crazy relative. Her writing career allowed her to make a living without needing to leave her apartment for anything other than the horrifically stressful ordeal of grocery shopping, which she has to steel herself to perform for days, and does as early in the morning as possible so that she doesn't have to encounter many people. She starts opening up more after becoming a superheroine, but her duties to her team are still arranged so she can perform them without leaving home, and her idea of hanging out with her teammates is to send an elemental to the bar where the others are hanging out to pick up drinks while she chats with them over the radio.
  • The Girl from the Miracles District
    • Karma never leaves her house, which is secured and armoured like a fortress, to the point Nikita nicknames it Castle in her narration. She's rather antisocial, tolerating only Nikita and Ilya (her caretaker) in her vicinity, and spends most of her time in front of the computer.
    • Kosma never leaves his library and tries to limit his interactions with other humans to a minimum, as he's afraid that any factor of his life that he cannot control will cause his berserk spirit to manifest. As of the end of the second book, he's starting to overcome it with Nikita's help.
  • The Reformed Vampire Support Group: Most vampires end up this way. Most ordinary people think of vampires as the deadly predators they're portrayed as in the media. However, in reality, vampirism is a debilitating and unpleasant disease — which means that someone acting out a heroic fantasy of slaying evil vampires is really dangerous, and the safest way to prevent that is to prevent anyone from learning that vampires are real.

    Live Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: In the episode "Gavin Volure", the eponymous character (played by Steve Martin) fakes being this trope. It turns out he's actually a white-collar criminal under house arrest.
  • Barney Miller: In one episode, Wojo arrests a man after the man's landlord complains of non-payment of rent. The man hadn't left his apartment for 20 years; shortly after coming to the precinct, he dies.
  • Better Call Saul: Jimmy McGill's brother Chuck suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, and at the beginning of the show, he is revealed to have been a complete shut-in for years, aided by his assistant Ernesto. At the beginning of the show, his house is merely devoid of technology and he wraps himself in a tin foil blanket. Throughout, he ventures outside a few times but sometimes falls back harder. Near the end of season 2, he converted his living room into a Faraday cage.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Threshold of Fear", Jessica investigates a mystery involving her agoraphobic neighbor who has not left her apartment in 5 years.
  • Seinfeld: In the pilot (but not the series) Kramer is said to never leave the building.
  • Sherlock: Mycroft Holmes is portrayed as morbidly obese shut-in who was barely able to move in The Abominable Bride.
  • Star Trek: In the Star Trek franchise, including the Expanded Universe, most emergency holographic personnel cannot leave whatever room they are designed to serve. This was the Emergency Medical Hologram's fate in Star Trek: Voyager, though later on an EMH Mk II was able to roam a prototype ship in the Alpha Quadrant, the Prometheus. Mobile emitters like The Doctor's grant holographic personnel true freedom.
  • The Twilight Zone: The episode "Nothing in the Dark" featured an old woman who has refused to leave her apartment for years after seeing Death take a young woman. She believes that if she stays in the apartment that Death can't reach her. Unbeknownst to her, she was right, but she unwittingly invited Death in anyway.
  • Curtis from the Canadian series Twitch City can be interpreted as a Western example. He's an agoraphobic Canadian TV otaku who never leaves his Toronto apartment if he can possibly help it.
  • The title character of Monk, Detective Adrian Monk, was a complete shut-in immediately after his wife's death. The canon story was that while he was always a neurotic freak, Trudy Monk was the one person who helped him keep his anxieties at bay and function normally. Once she died, he had a Heroic B.S.O.D. and shut himself up in his San Francisco home, not leaving for three years straight. It isn't until the arrival of his nurse Sharona that he starts transitioning back into society — well, transitioning as best as Mr. Monk can. Even as the series progresses, Mr. Monk is still getting used to simple things like going outside.
    • Later on it's revealed that his brother Ambrose has the same condition, though Ambrose hasn't gotten over his. He's eventually forced outside by Monk because his house was on fire.
  • In K9, Professor Gryffen becomes this after having accidentally killed his wife and children in a science experiment. He manages to overcome this in Eclipse of the Korven at the end of season one.
  • Played for Laughs in The Big Bang Theory episode "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification." Sheldon becomes obsessed with extending his life expectancy. Deciding that the outside world is too dangerous, he shuts himself in his room and builds a remote-controlled "Mobile Virtual Presence Device," equipped with a monitor, camera and speakers so that he can interact with others.
  • One episode of Wonderfalls concerns a morbidly obese man who hasn't left his trailer for a very long time. It turns out that he actually isn't morbidly obese anymore, but he still sees himself as fat. At one point, the protagonist Jaye admits to him that a part of her envies the Hikikomori lifestyle, and that she'd be tempted to try it if she thought her family would leave her alone.
  • Twin Peaks has Harold Smith, whose secluded nature is due to agoraphobia (a fear of open spaces).
  • An episode of The Pretender had Jarod helping a woman who had not left her home since being raped a second time. This was actually intentional on the rapist's part, as the second rapist was actually the first rapist, who attacked her again because she had been recovering from the first assault.
  • Stephen Kepler in Dollhouse is this, or so it would seem...
  • Dorothy has a run-in with one in an episode of The Golden Girls when she's helping Sophia with Meals on Wheels. Martin Mull plays a hikikomori who hasn't left his apartment since the '60s because it's "just too hard out there".
  • Mollwitz in Fame. He's 38 and living with his mother, who doesn't allow him to talk to women. He has an office job, but refuses to actually do work or talk to people.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: SVU, the Victim of the Week was a woman who had been raped several times in her life and in particular was being stalked by her rapist as well, and as a result, she almost never leaves her house. She has a neighbor pick up groceries for her, and works from home (only stopping by the office once a week to deliver paperwork).

    Music 
  • In the Pink Floyd album The Wall, the main character Pink shuts himself in his hotel room half way through the album upon completing his personal wall. Although this is darkly subverted when his manager literally breaks down the door to force him to perform that night, casing him to crack and lose what little sanity he had left and become even worse.
  • The Simon & Garfunkel song "I Am A Rock" is basically the Hikikomori theme song.
  • Nerdcore artist Ultraklystron has a single devoted to this.
  • Entertainment for the Braindead portrays herself this way in some of her song lyrics. In "Resolution" she has to resolve to "leave the house at least once a day", and in "Relapse" she says, "I don't plan on leaving the house this year / If by then you still remember me, you'll find me here".
  • The song Flowers On The Wall is apparently about someone who is afraid to come out of his room.
  • "Isolated" by Chiasm is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Alison Moyet - "Invisible", which reflected her real life situation for many years.
  • The video to Kim Wilde's Kids in America is about an agoraphobe, despite the song's lyrics.
  • Oingo Boingo's song "Private Life" is about a man who wants someone to save him from his room, his lack of friends, and his Porn Stash.
  • The Pub Rock song "Who Can It Be Now?" by Men At Work. When getting a knock on his door, the singer makes excuse to why he shouldn't answer or actively sneaks around to make others think he's not home. He caresses his "childhood friend" (a guitar amplifier) while insisting that his mental health is fine.
  • Daniel Amos's "My Room" (from ¡Alarma!) is about a man who locks himself in his room, except for one day a week when he locks himself in a bigger room with other shut-ins. The song is a satire of Christians who don't socialize with anyone outside their church.

     Newspaper Comics 

    Theatre 
  • Laura in The Glass Menagerie.
  • Princeton becomes this at the end of Act 1 of Avenue Q. The second act opens with his friends coming to get him... after two weeks. Good to know they care.
  • RENT: Between Collins' departure and the "one magic night" Roger has barely left his house if at all.
  • In the third scene of Vanities, Kathy has holed up in an unidentified friend's apartment after a nervous breakdown due to her obsession with "an organized life". She copes with it by reading all the books she was assigned but never read in college, which leads her to become a novelist in the final scene of The Musical.
  • Johanna Barker from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is kept a prisoner in her own home by her tyrannical guardian Judge Turpin, who wants to shield her from the outside world and all its iniquities and has also come to desire her as more than a daughter (her having more than a passing resemblance to her mother Lucy Barker, who he had a serious lust for, did not help things at all).

    Webcomics 
  • Jack (David Hopkins): Used very nastily in the story arc "Two For You". A loser is offered what looks like a sweet deal — free room and board in a premium-luxury apartment as an advertising promotion, "So well cared for that you'll never have to leave this apartment again!" Of course there's a catch: he's unwittingly sold his soul in exchange for a "Matrix"-type illusion, and then he loses even that.
  • Not usually, but when her friends are absent for a while, Jodie from Loserz becomes this: [[//web.archive.org/web/20160412055942/http://the-qlc.com:80/loserz/go/279 here]].
  • In Questionable Content
    • Marigold starts out as a recluse obsessed with anime (especially hentai) and World of Warcraft, who works on a family company website from home and almost never leaves her apartment. Once she's introduced to the other characters, she starts to get out more.
    • Hannelore's backstory is an extreme example. She suffers from some very severe OCD and grew up on a space station as a nervous wreck, drugged into insensibility half the time and incapable of surviving without constant supervision. By her first appearance in the comic, she had learned to manage her condition enough to get out and socialize, and continues to grow more comfortable in company. When she visits the station and is finally able to hug her father without freaking out from human contact, everyone present who knew her only as a child is shocked.
    • Bubbles is a retired combat android who lives at her workplace and almost never goes outside, thanks in large part to crippling self-consciousness about being seen by people. Faye takes it upon herself to bring Bubbles out of her shell, with some success.
  • Dr. Schlock from Sluggy Freelance has been devolving into a shut in after taking charge of Hereti corp, often using video conferencing or inflatable decoys to communicate with people while staying locked in his office. His growing list of enemies and set backs is not being kind to his sanity.
  • Rob, a side character in Ménage à 3, lives in the same building with the protagonists, and apparently hasn't left his apartment since the '80s.
  • Tower of God: Jaina Repellista Zahard is one of Zahard's Princesses, but ever since she got that sweet lighthouse she never left her room, spending her days spying on the tower and playing video games like Skyrim.
  • Cadis Etrama Di Raizel from Noblesse used to be this. He would never leave his mansion unless personally summoned by the Lord of Lukedonia.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: Brian has to do community service for a DUI, so he's made to be a home health aide, to a grouchy and mean elderly woman named Pearl and, eventually, falls in love with her, when he finds out that she used to be a great singer but, when she went to go big (she used to sing jingles), she got dissed and hasn't left her house in years. He sings an Emmy Award-winning song to her, convincing her to leave her house — and she's immediately hit by a car.
  • Gravity Falls: In the episode "A Tale of Two Stans", it's revealed that Stan refused to leave his brother's house for several days after he inadvertently shoved him into an interdimensional portal, until he ran out of food. When he went to buy food from a nearby store, the people there gave him the idea to impersonate his brother in order to make some desperately-needed cash by inviting them to the Mystery Shack, thus averting this trope.
  • Kim Possible: Wade, a genius hacker who occasionally helps the main characters, never left his house during the majority of the series. He was only seen outside in late season 3 and season 4, and no reason for his prior status was ever given.
  • King of the Hill: A one-off King of the Hill gag featured a ghoulish looking kid who is homeschooled and never leaves the house, being plastered to his computer while awake.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In one episode, Piglet is too afraid to leave his house after getting carried away by the wind during a storm. The others try to get him to come outside again, but it takes Pooh getting caught in another storm for Piglet to snap out of it and go save his friend.
  • The PJs: Juicy's parents can't leave their apartment because they're too obese to go through the door. His dad eventually does leave the apartment, though, in a later episode.

    Real Life 
  • The Collyer brothers were compulsive hoarders who eventually gained fame. This fame led them to shut themselves in their houses until the first died in a freak accident, causing the second, dependent on his brother, to starve to death.
  • Howard Hughes shut himself inside his Desert Inn suite for long periods of time. He purchased the Desert Inn writ large, along with a number of other casino hotels for often trite reasons...such as to remove a neon sign that shone through his drapes. After his nine year stay in said suite, his drapes were found to be rotten and never opened.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheShutIn