Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Shirley Jackson

Go To

"I delight in what I fear."

Shirley Hardie Jackson (1916–1965) was an American author known for her dark stories of mystery and horror.

Jackson's best-known work is the short story "The Lottery", about the dark underside of American small-town life, which has been adapted to film three times. Her novel The Haunting of Hill House has been adapted for film twice, and several of her other works have been adapted for the stage or screen. She only wrote about half-a-dozen novels, but was a prolific short-story author.

In 2007, the Shirley Jackson Award for outstanding achievement in psychological suspense and dark fantasy was created in her honor.


Works with a page on this wiki:

Other works include:

  • Hangsaman (1951)
  • The Bird's Nest (1954)
  • The Road Through the Wall (her first novel, 1948)
  • The Sundial (1958)

Tropes in her other works:

  • Deal with the Devil:
    • In "The Smoking Room", the Devil appears to a wily college girl and her roommate. After discovering that the Devil Never Learned to Read, the girls quickly draw up a contract they insist is more legally binding, convince the Devil to give them several million dollars and passing grades in calculus, then have him sign it. Only then they reveal that, amid the legalese, the contract actually states that the Devil has agreed to grant their wishes and give them his soul—for a dollar.
    • Advertisement:
    • "Devil of a Tale" sets the same theme in medieval times, with a much darker outcome.
  • Horny Devil: A recurrent figure in Jackson's short story is a mysterious man in blue calling himself James Harris, who may or may not be a supernatural creature. Though he rarely appears directly, women seduced by him abandoned their lives and families to pursue him...only to find themselves stranded and alone when he vanishes. (The original edition of her short story collection The Lottery was even subtitled "The Adventures of James Harris" and the collection ends with the ballad of the Daemon Lover.)
  • Lovecraft Country: Jackson lived most of her adult life in Vermont, and many of her stories have the requisite flinty creepiness.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: The short story "Louisa, Please Come Home" concerns a nineteen-year-old girl who runs away from home and returns three years later only to find that she Can't Go Home Again. Because her family thinks she's an imposter after the reward money. Dramatic Irony ensues.
  • Old, Dark House: Almost all of Jackson's major works and several short stories contain a central image of an Old, Dark House that dominates the work. Notable examples are the unnamed house in "The Visit," Blackwood House in We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Halloran House in The Sundial, and the titular Hill House in The Haunting of Hill House. The Road Through the Wall is centralized around two strange houses: the mansion at the end of the street which dominates the neighborhood and a single mysterious house-for-rent that seems unable to retain a family even though it is outwardly identical to every other house on the street.
    • Jackson was fond of these in real life, too. Both her collections of family stories begin with the family required to move into a new, larger home that invariably becomes its own character: the house with the pillars in Life Among the Savages is reputed to be haunted, while the house with gateposts in Raising Demons has a confusing layout of rooms that seem to move around and choose their own functions.
  • Rape as Drama: Natalie Waite in Hangsaman flirts with a man at her father's cocktail party and he drags her off. In so many words, the narrative reveals that he raped her. When she gets to college, she refuses to tell a gathering of the school's Girl Posse whether she's a virgin.
  • Spooky Séance: Angela in the never-finished Come Along With Me holds a seance. She's a real medium; spirits constantly come to her, but it's very random, so she's not even always sure if she's talking to the loved ones of her sitters. The messages she does get don't fit their preconceived notions, and they leave unsatisfied.
  • Verbal Tic: In The Road Through the Wall, Beverly, a young girl with an unspecified mental disability, tends to repeat entire sentences.


Example of: