Study Guide

Howl's Moving Castle Freedom and Confinement

By Diana Wynne Jones

Freedom and Confinement

There are two kinds of obvious confinement in Howl's Moving Castle: there's magical confinement—like the contract that keeps Calcifer bound to Howl's fireplace—and there is also mental confinement, which includes all of the bad habits and destructive ways of thinking that keep some of our characters stuck in situations they don't like. The biggest example of this kind of confinement is Sophie's low self-esteem, but you could also argue that Howl's obsession with looking good interferes with his personal relationships.

No matter which kind of confinement a particular character might be facing though, it always has immediate bad effects on that person's moral and emotional state. The characters in this novel only seem to feel both emotionally and morally satisfied when they have the freedom to choose what they want to do.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Which of the characters in this book have to deal with some form of physical confinement? What is keeping them trapped, and how do they manage their restrictions?
  2. Which of the characters in this book seem trapped by the ways they view the world? How do they change their points of view?
  3. Who in this book has the most freedom, and when? How do they express this liberation?

Chew on This

While Sophie appears to feel much freer while she is under the Witch's old age curse, the curse actually provides another form of confinement that allows Sophie to avoid her problems for a time.

Not only is the Witch of the Waste magically confined by her relationship with her fire demon, but she is also emotionally confined by her extreme self-absorption.

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