We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Book, 1962

“I would never live in a house with dirty windows” said Constance Blackwood. This is her response to her sister Mary Katherine’s suggestion that they let their windows get dirty to the point of opacity, as a way to prevent the townspeople from seeing into their house. Her response turns a blind eye to the fact that there are closed rooms of the house filled with broken things, the top half of the house has been burned away and the townspeople regard them as inhuman creatures. But as long as their windows are clean, they are leading a proper life. Some people are like this. They can ignore massive, fundamental problems in their lives by focusing on keeping up appearances. Constance’s aversion is to the situation of her family, who are outcasts due to the suspicious deaths of almost all of them six years prior. What grows between the remaining family members is an insular system of love and devotion, each protecting each other in their own disturbed ways. It creates a reassuringly justified agoraphobia, the “castle” of the title, perfect except for the gleefully ignored fact that they are actually serving penance.