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Closet Punishment

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"After all I've done for you, this is how you view me? You think I'm a monster, Isaac? I'll show you a monster!"
A stock way of implying an Abusive Parent is to have them lock their child in a closet as punishment. If not a closet then something similar like a cellar or attic also works. This trope is used by adults in general towards children, however it's most commonly done by parents.

The effectiveness of this as a punishment relies on childhood fears of Things That Go "Bump" in the Night and the Primal Fear of small enclosures.

Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!, Go to Your Room!, Time Out, and Dunce Cap are other childhood punishments. Compare Locked in a Room, where two or more characters are locked in a confined space and must spend the episode/chapter/etc. together, and Punishment Box, for when people (usually prisoners) are put in a small enclosure. See also Locked in a Freezer, Anti-Interference Lock Up, Iron Maiden, and Ten Minutes in the Closet.

If you're thinking about that closet, see Get Back in the Closet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In a rare heroic example, one early episode of Sazae-san has the lead locking her son in a shed for several hours and outright forgetting he's there.

    Comic Books 
  • In Blankets, after complaining about sharing a bed with his older brother, Phil gets locked in the "cubby hole", a small unlit room hidden in the playroom, that is covered in dust and filled with pests.
  • Batman: Stephanie Brown's abusive father would lock her in the closet when she was younger. It's played for Black Comedy when she and Cassandra Cain discuss their awful childhoods, as it pales in comparison to Cass's father straight up shooting her, leading them both to crack up and Steph to remark that she "can't beat [Cass] at anything."
  • In Seven Soldiers, Sally Sonic was shut away in a cupboard during her stay in the Orphanage of Fear.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Annie (1982), Daddy Warbucks claims that Miss Hannigan locks the orphans in the closet at her Orphanage of Fear.
  • In Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love, Barry and Suzie visit a special needs school, thinking they might send Raun there. They see a girl dragged kicking and screaming into "Time Out," which turns out to be in a locked cabinet. The girl screams and bangs on the walls while a guard sits calmly nearby. Barry and Suzie leave immediately after that.
  • In A Tale of Two Sisters, the Evil Stepmother finds out that her pet bird has been killed. So she cruelly locks Su-yeon in the closet and refuses to free her until she apologises.
  • The Wild Child: When Victor misbehaves, Itard locks him in a closet for about a minute. He is careful not to overuse the punishment, or it will lose its effectiveness.
  • Molly (1983): After Molly refuses to sing at an audition, Jones locks her in a closet in his apartment.

  • Carrie: Carrie's religious mother locks her in a closet and forces her to pray in it as punishment for starting her period (which she can't really control) and thus in her eyes sinning.
  • Divergent: One of Four's few fears is claustrophobia, represented in his fear landscape by the tiny closet his abusive father would lock him in as a punishment when he was younger.
  • In Goodnight, Mr. Tom, Will's mother strips him to his underwear and locks him in the cupboard under the stairs after finding out that his friend, Zach, is Jewish, saying he has "been poisoned by the Devil". Will protests that "Zach says Jesus was a Jew", but this only makes her angrier. Some time later, she throws her baby daughter, Trudy, in the cupboard as well; she then abandons both children to their fate. "Mr Tom" eventually comes to the rescue, but by then Trudy has died from starvation and Will is deeply traumatised.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: For his first ten years living with his abhorrent relatives the Dursleys, Harry was forced to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. Sometimes he was locked in there during the day too as punishment for accidental magic.
  • The titular character in Jane Eyre is locked in the Red Room after she fights off her bully of cousin. Said room is where her uncle died and not helping matters is Jane's active imagination, which goes into overdrive and leaves her panicking until the servants let her out.
  • Matilda: The "Chokey," a closet lined with spikes and shards of glass, thus like an Iron Maiden, in which there is just barely enough room to stand. Putting children in there for even the slightest misdemeanor is a favorite torture technique of Agatha Trunchbull, the cruel headmistress of Matilda's school.
  • The Private Parts Of Women: Trixie tells of a childhood punishment from her father, who desperately wanted a son. Trixie and her brother were born together, but her brother was born dead. Her father's punishment was to dress her in boy's clothes, and lock her in a wardrobe.
  • Strongly implied in Hogfather when Mr Teatime's hired muscle start getting picked off by... something in the realm of the Tooth Fairy that's tapping into their Primal Fear and ugly childhood memories. Catseye's fear is of the dark, and basements, prompting this exchange:
    Medium Dave: "Our mum used to wallop us if we tried to go in the cellar. She'd got her still down there."
    Catseye: "Yeah? Well, our dad used to wallop us if we tried to get out."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory apparently was punished by her mother this way on occasion.
  • One killer on Bones was repeatedly locked in a stall in the family stable, thus getting the claustrophobia with the addition of comparing her to an animal. She scratched so hard at the walls that, not only do the team find her finger impressions there thirty years later, she did permanent damage to her fingers (which Brennan is able to recognize from her bones) and messed up her ability to grow fingernails. It caused her to become a serial killer who harvested her victims' fingernails to replace her own.
  • In the first season of Jessica Jones (2015), Kilgrave sends the children of a family whose house he is inhabiting into a closet not for having done anything wrong, but just because them being there annoys Kilgrave. This despite the fact that the girl remarks she has to use the bathroom. We don't hear of the poor children again.
  • In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Scavenger", serial killer Humphrey Becker's hatred of mothers stemmed from his own mother locking him in a closet for hours on end so that she could go to the movies, which caused him to develop claustrophobia. After learning about it, the detectives exploit this by locking him in a closet until he gives up the location of his latest victim.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: One of the many things Garak's father did to him as a child. Garak developed a near crippling case of claustrophobia as a result. His father was Enabran Tain, head of the Obsidian Order.
  • In the Charlie's Angels episode "The Seance," Kelly is hypnotized into remembering how Beamish, the abusive orphanage matron, used to lock her in the closet. The hypnotist takes advantage of this information to hypnotize her into thinking that Jill is Beamish so she'll kill her.

  • Modest Mussorgsky's fragmentary piano suite Memories of Childhood has a second movement (unfinished by the composer) titled "First punishment: Nanny locks me in a dark room."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Get Fuzzy. When Bucky Katt has been particularly bad, Rob will order him to go to his closet and stay there for a while. He also sometimes locks him up in a pet cage, like the ones that are used to hold animals on airplane flights.

    Video Games 
  • In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, Touko explains that her parents used to lock her in a closet for several days straight as punishment. Because of this, she's very afraid of the dark.
  • A flashback in Harvest Moon 64 shows Karen's Alcoholic Parent Gotz locking her in the wine cellar as a child. The protagonist, visiting his grandfather one summer, helps her out.
  • The Binding of Isaac has this happen in one of the endings that came out in its 3rd DLC, Repentance. Isaac's mom catches him drawing a picture of a monster he labelled "Mother". Outraged, she throws him in a closet and leaves him to cry.

    Western Animation 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Stop, Look, and Ed", Rolf is reluctant in joining the other kids in their rule breaking, fearing he might be "banished to the cupboard" if his chores aren't done on time.