Study Guide

Room What's Up With the Epigraph?

By Emma Donoghue

What's Up With the Epigraph?

          My child
Such trouble I have
And you sleep, your heart is placid;
you dream in the joyless wood;
in the night nailed in bronze,
in the blue dark you lie still and shine.

Simonides (c. 556-468 BCE),
"Danaë" (tr. Richmond Lattimore)

The epigraph sets us up for a superhero origin story. No, really, it does. Simonides was a Greek poet and this poem, the Lamentation of Danaë, is about a woman trapped in a chest and set afloat at sea. Hmm, being trapped in a small space and feeling lost and set adrift in the world? Yep, that's an appropriate epigraph for room. Ma feels the same way.

The child Danaë is talking to in this fragment isn't just any old snot-nosed kid. It's Perseus. Yes, that Perseus: the same Perseus who killed Medusa, slayed a sea monster, and married Princess Andromeda. Ma views Jack as her own little hero, and we see Jack free Ma from the box she has been trapped in for years.

Jack's heroic escape lands Old Nick in jail—which is the modern day equivalent of beheading a gorgon, for sure. We'll have to wait for Room 2: Room 2 Grow, or some other ludicrously named sequel, to see just how Jack grows up. Will he marry a princess of his own?