Study Guide

Room Society and Class

By Emma Donoghue

Society and Class

Society is governed by so many different rules that it's hard to keep track. We have laws, customs, codes, etiquette, guidelines, regulations, and common courtesies that we have to keep track of and abide by every day. Many aren't written down, and even the ones that are written down are hard to find, hard to understand, or both. We're looking at you, IRS.

In Room, the rules Ma sets for Jack are much simpler: Don't watch too much TV. Take care of yourself and all of your things. Love each other. We almost feel that if everyone lived their lives by these three simple rules, the world would be a better place. But as Jack finds out, people get hung up on all the other rules and conventions, like boys shouldn't have long hair and you shouldn't steal from the mall. Oh, those silly short-haired law-abiding citizens…

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Do you think Jack understands the difference between a rule and a convention? What is the difference between the two?
  2. What customs and manners are totally new to Jack in the Outside? What has he already learned?
  3. Which social norms do Ma and Jack find ridiculous after their return to the Outside? Which do they abide by anyway? Which do they rebel against, and how?
  4. Which social norms do Grandma and the rest of Jack's family try to enforce? Would Ma agree with the things they are teaching her son?

Chew on This

Living in the Outside totally sucks. Jack has to compromise some of his beliefs and behaviors in order to fit into the real world, like cutting his long hair and not giving hugs to strangers.

Or, living in the Outside totally rocks. It'll be hard at first, but Jack is going to become an even better person after he learns all the rules and customs of the Outside.