Room is a fiction novel written by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue. The story is narrated from the perspective of a 5-year old boy named Jack and his experiences being held captive in a small room along with his mother. The book was published in 2010 and it was honoured several awards including the 2011 Commonwealth Writer’s regional Prize and long listed for the 2011 Orange prize. Furthermore, it is a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, the 2010 Roger’s Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the 2010 Governor General’s Awards.
The story begins in Jack’s perspective on his fifth birthday. Like any other morning, he begins his day inside a small, white room, which he calls Room. Room is the only real world he has ever seen and is aware of. It consists of four walls, a closet, a sink, a drawer, a bed, a television, a rug, a shelf with some books, and a chair rocker. We learn that a man who is only mentioned as Old Nick kidnapped his mother, Ma, when she was a college student seven years ago. Her captor raped her and Jack was born as an aftermath. Ma, however, does not remorse Jack and instead loves him with all her heart. She strives to raise him well with what little access they have to. She keeps Jack healthy by making him stay on a nutritious diet, doing physical exercises, and on strict body hygiene. Furthermore, she teaches him that the rest of the world only exists on television in order to douse any of his confusion.
One week after Jack’s birthday, Ma learns that Old Nick has become unemployed and that his house may be up for foreclosure. She is certain that Old Nick will kill them before letting them free. As a result, she devises a plan to free Jack. Jack is puzzled by the concept of leaving Room and interacting with other people, but he is eventually persuaded to go along with the plan. After some tribulations, he ultimately escapes Old Nick by freeing himself from a wrapped rug. Although he is afraid and confused of being away from Room for the very first time, he manages to find a friendly stranger who contacts the police. In spite of his chaotic emotions, he leads the police to free Ma from Room as well.
Shortly after, the two victims are taken to a mental hospital where they receive psychological and medical help. The police find Old Nick and prosecute him with numerous charges of abduction, rape, and child abuse that will prospectively jail him for life. Ma is finally reunited with her family and begins to relearn how to communicate with the world again. However, Jack is overwhelmed by the new experiences and sudden changes. He wishes to return to the safety of Room. Meanwhile, Jack and Ma’s story attracts the attention of the public and mass media. Myriads of people seek to be in contact with them, which makes it more difficult for the two to recover. As a consequence, Ma experiences a mental breakdown and attempts to commit suicide. This event leads Jack to live with his grandmother for several days during which he becomes even more flustered because he has never lived a day without his mother.
Following Ma’s recovery, she and Jack move into an independent living home in order to freshly restart their lives. Within the safety of their new house, they eventually overcome their struggles and gradually become accustomed to living a more normal life. With Jack’s request, they finally muster up the courage to visit Room one final time. As they return to their place of captivity, Jack recognizes that he no longer feels any emotional attachment towards it. Mother and son ultimately bid farewell to Room and leave their past along with it.
This novel sheds light on several of the most common violation of human rights that people are often exposed to. A few of these include rape, confinement, and child abuse. Knowing this, we must question why such crime rates remain so high even though we live in a society with countless of laws and safety barriers. With so many cases happening worldwide, it is only natural that people become curious to these stories. Similarly, Emma Donoghue was inspired to write this story based on a true case in Austria in which Josef Fritzl was discovered to have kept his daughter in a cellar for 24 years. However, it is not the author’s intention to focus on the sad aspects of crime, which is what people usually seek attention to. It is to emphasize that even in the cruelest of situations, the more significant aspects should be on hope, a child’s innocent perspective, and a mother’s indestructible love.
Eunice Jung-min Her (Intern)