Study Guide

Room Freedom and Confinement

By Emma Donoghue

Freedom and Confinement

Part 1: Presents
Ma

"Why am I hided away like the chocolates?" I think [Ma is] sitting on Bed. She talks quiet so I can hardly hear. "I just don't want him looking at you. Even when you were a baby, I always wrapped you up in Blanket before he came in." (1.289-1.290)

Jack isn't just confined in Room, he's sometimes confined in a Wardrobe within Room. That's double confinement. Just as parents want to protect their kids from things in the outside world, Ma has to find a way to protect Jack even though their "world" is only 121 square feet.

After nap we do Scream every day but not Saturdays or Sundays. We clear our throats and climb up on Table to be nearer Skylight, holding hands not to fall. (1.499)

Jack thinks this is just another activity he and Ma do, like Catch or Track. He doesn't quite understand why they sit silently afterwards. What they're doing is screaming for help. Ma hopes someone will hear them and let them out of Room.

I think [Ma]'s still cranky about moving the furniture, that was a crazy plan. (1.535)

For Ma, it would be nice to mix up the furniture arrangement inside Room. That's about all she can do to keep it fresh. But Jack enjoys the way everything stays the same, so she doesn't do it; she wants to keep him comfortable.

Another rule is, the wide of the walls is the same as the wide of Floor, I count eleven feet going both ways, that means Floor is a square. (1.185)

And that means that Ma has been inside an 11x11 room for eight years. It's all Jack knows, and he's small, so it's not that strange for him, but Ma's claustrophobia must be out of control.

Jack

"Do we go into TV for dreaming?" "No. We're never anywhere but here." Her voice sounds a long way away. (1.601-1.602)

Although Jack can pick up on the change in Ma's tone of voice, he doesn't understand why she sounds this way. She's been trapped inside Room for eight years, with nowhere else to go. Not a day goes by without her wishing she was out of there.

Part 2: Unlying
Ma

"I knew my only chance was to make [Old Nick] give me the code. So I pressed the knife against his throat, like this." (2.770)

We doubt Ma is normally a violent person, but being trapped will make a person go to extremes. Ma would probably kill Old Nick, given the chance, if it meant that she could get out of Room for good.

Ma stops, she puffs out a long breath. "I need to hit something," she says, "but I don't want to break anything." "Why not?" "Actually, I'd love to break something. I'd love to break everything." (2.605-2.607)

With the power out in Room, Ma feels increasingly trapped and she wants to break out even more. But she can't. So the urge to break out becomes the urge to simply break something in order to vent all that pent-up rage at being pent up.

Part 3: Dying
Jack

"We could smash down the walls." But we don't have a jeep to smash them down or a bulldozer even. "We could… blow up Door." (3.81)

Jack is coming up with ideas from cartoons, which is a nice thought. If only escape in real life was as easy as it is in the cartoons. Our calls to Acme for a big crate of dynamite always go unanswered… and probably have us monitored by the NSA.

Oh, I have to Wriggle Out, I was forgetting. I start to do like a snake, but Rug's got tighter I don't know how, I'm stuck I'm stuck. (3.730)

Jack goes into claustrophobic panic at being stuck inside Rug. We have to wonder if this is how Ma feels inside Room, which feels like it's getting tighter and tighter around her every day.

Part 4: After
Ma

"Not just children," says Ma. "People are locked up in all sorts of ways." (4.1319)

Ma is irritated about having to talk about her captivity on TV, because she knows that others have been through it and are going through it all the time. She isn't special. She's talking about both literal captivity—whether it's other girls like her, or the slaves of the past—and the figurative captivity that comes from, say, being in an abusive relationship. Everyone wants to break free of something, and that is why so many people identify with Ma and Jack and their plight.