Study Guide

Room Fear

By Emma Donoghue


The U.S. cover of RoomĀ looks pretty innocuous, a word which here means "unlikely to scare the bejeezus out of you." However, inside its covers, Room is pretty freaking scary.

Jack's five-year-old point of view softens the blow to the average reader, but here's what's really happening in blunt, condensed form: Jack's Ma was kidnapped when she was nineteen and locked in a shed. She's repeatedly raped, she had one child who died and one who lived (Jack), and she raises Jack fearing that she'll never escape. When it becomes likely that her captor will leave them to die, Ma convinces her five-year-old son to play dead and risk his life in order to break them out.

Thankfully, Ma's plan succeeds, but things don't get much less scary from there. The world is a scary place even outside of Room's four small walls.

Questions About Fear

  1. What does Ma make Jack afraid of? Why does she want him to fear these things?
  2. What new things does Jack fear in the Outside? Are there things that he should fear but doesn't?
  3. How does Jack use his fear to motivate himself?

Chew on This

Ma teaches Jack that it's okay to be both scared and brave at the same time. Maybe there's no way to be brave without being scared.

Bravery is more about outward actions than inner feelings. Whenever Jack feels scared, like when he's getting a shot, he acts brave. He gets the shot instead of running away from it, as he might have done if he weren't brave.