35.1 | Margherita Orsi

Food as Agency in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The present study expands on the relationship between Shirley Jackson and food by discussing her last novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). The fifties and early sixties were a time particularly characterized by the housebound nature of American women, who struggled to conform to what Betty Friedan called the “feminine mystique.” However, while Shelley Ingram and Willow Mullins claim that Castle “links food […] with the terror often wrought by the home” (342), it is also true that it presents food as a symbol of woman’s self-affirmation. This is demonstrated by discussing three ways in which Jackson confers agency to women’s cooking. Ultimately, the aim of this paper is to show how Jackson employs food not only as a symbol of women’s social constraints, but also as an ironic tool for feminist empowerment.