We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Constance gives Charles the shopping list and a key to the gate. When she gives him grocery money, he protests that it isn’t safe to keep the money in the house. Merricat waits till he’s gone, then tells Constance he forgot the library books because he doesn’t know how things work in this house. Constance remarks on the warm weather, and Merricat tells her how wonderful life is on the moon. Constance wonders when to start making gingerbread for Charles. Merricat thinks about the villagers waiting to see her come into town and seeing Charles instead. Then she suggests that Constance could make a gingerbread Charles and Merricat could eat him, which irritates Constance.
Charles is beginning to show his fixation on the sisters’ money. Merricat tries to prove to Constance that he doesn’t belong here. Her mention of the library books also reminds the reader that some event is approaching that will cause the library books never to be returned. Charles’s presence is dividing the formerly united sisters, as they now have opposite goals—Merricat wants to ostracize Charles, but Constance wants to make him feel welcome. As Merricat eats constantly, she wants also to consume Charles.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Merricat goes to her father’s room to look for a magic object to use against Charles. Since Charles is staying here, the room is filled with his things. An open drawer shows that he’s been looking at her father’s expensive jewelry. Merricat takes her father’s gold watch chain and brings it into her room. She decides to nail it to the tree where the book fell down, and in the meantime she lies on her bed and plays with it.
Charles wants to get his hands on the money and valuable objects in the house, echoing the sisters’ father’s similar greed. Merricat, on the other hand, cares nothing the value of money, and she tries to remove the watch chain from Charles’s masculine world of money and bring it into her feminine world of witchcraft.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Later that day, Charles brings the watch chain to the kitchen, having found it in the tree. He’s enraged that something so valuable would be damaged in such a way. Constance doesn’t think it’s important, and he tries to impress its monetary worth on her. When he says they need to figure out how the chain got on the tree, Constance tells him that Merricat put it there, like she always does. Charles looks closely at Merricat. When Constance helps Uncle Julian into bed for a nap, Charles asks Jonas what Merricat would do if Constance didn’t love her and turned her out of the house.
Charles tries to force a capitalist obsession with money onto a house removed from such concerns, as proven by the fact that even Constance doesn’t care about the damage to the watch chain. Constance prefers Merricat to be happy than to have a watch chain that does no one any particular good—money is irrelevant to the sisters. It’s also notable that the sisters disregard the watch chain, since it’s associated with their father. This shows their antipathy towards him, even after his death.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Merricat decides that the next step is to ask Charles politely to leave, before he leaves his mark on the house any more than he already has by leaving his pipe and tobacco and newspapers lying around. After he’s been there three days, Merricat asks Constance whether he’s mentioned leaving. Constance gets cross when Merricat brings this up, even though she was never cross with Merricat before. Merricat says Charles makes Uncle Julian sicker, and Constance says that Uncle Julian shouldn’t think about the gloomy past so much. She says she’s been undutiful to him and to Merricat, who runs wild. Merricat begins to say what life is like on the moon, but Constance stops her. She says Uncle Julian should be in a hospital. Then she becomes her old self again and says Merricat is being silly.
Pipes, tobacco, and newspapers are all very masculine objects, and by leaving them around the house, Charles corrupts this female-ruled space. He’s beginning to change Constance, too, making her see their lives from the point of view of the outside world, rather than from a point of view sympathetic to the worlds Uncle Julian and Merricat create in their minds. Significantly, she no longer wants to hear about the moon, which stands for Merricat’s ideal imagined world. Even though she quickly repents, it seems only a matter of time before Charles gains complete control over her.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
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Merricat goes outside to ask Charles to leave. She tries to be kind to him in her thoughts, but when she thinks of his face she wants him to die. She approaches him in the garden and politely asks him to leave, but he refuses. He’s wearing her father’s watch. He wonders aloud whether he’ll be there in a month, or she will. Merricat runs up to her father’s room and breaks the mirror with a shoe.
Merricat now makes some effort to control herself, trying to be kind and rationally asking Charles to leave. Once this fails, she has no choice but to abandon rationality and kindness once again, particularly as Charles continues to threaten her. Now wearing her father’s watch, Charles almost begins to creep into her father’s skin.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Merricat has been doing a better job of being kind to Uncle Julian. Charles hates watching Uncle Julian eat and says he should wear a bib. Charles eats huge breakfasts in the kitchen, and if Uncle Julian calls from his room, Charles tells Constance she shouldn’t wait on him. Merricat avoids eating breakfast with Charles. She looks in Uncle Julian’s window from the outside and pities him. When she asks Constance to make Uncle Julian a cake, Charles says that Constance is too busy.
Charles now starts to act as an awful, controlling husband who keeps his wife constantly busy serving him in the kitchen. He says that Constance is too busy to do anything for Uncle Julian, but she’s only busy because of the demands Charles puts on her. If food is a symbol of power, his consumption of large amounts shows his increasing influence.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
One afternoon, Merricat follows Charles to the edge of the village, where she sees him sit down with the village men. When she returns home, Constance asks where she’s been and tells her she’s no longer allowed to wander. Constance says she’s been wrong to shut them away from the world, and Merricat should have boyfriends. Then she realizes how ridiculous she sounds and they both laugh.
Charles isn’t so different than the village men in his cruelty to Merricat. Constance continues to think in the way Charles is teaching her to, even trying to impose heterosexuality on Merricat. The fact that they find this ridiculous shows how far outside mainstream culture they are.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Merricat goes to look for Jonas, and Charles returns with a scarf that Merricat had used to tie the gate shut. He’s irritated that she used it that way because it’s expensive. He wants to look over their father’s clothes and papers in his study, which is where the safe is. Merricat isn’t allowed to open the safe, and she avoids the study in general. She thinks that being a demon and a ghost must be hard for Charles, because he has to constantly pretend he’s human.
Merricat continues to annoy Charles with her disregard for monetary value—she even seems to be repulsed by the place where money is kept. Meanwhile, Charles is coming closer and closer to getting his hands on the money he’s been seeking. Merricat sees the world as supernatural, and she fits Charles into it as a supernatural evil. Her vague pity for him gives her power.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Later, Merricat goes into the kitchen, where Constance and Uncle Julian are. Uncle Julian demands a box for his papers so that Charles can’t touch them. He calls Charles dishonest and a bastard. Constance brings him a box from the cellar, but Uncle Julian temporarily forgets why he wanted it. Constance says she should have put him in a hospital, and she might have to, though Merricat says it wouldn’t be kind. Merricat feels like time is running out and is considering smashing the mirror in the hall when Charles comes downstairs for dinner.
Uncle Julian finally becomes entirely hostile to Charles, who presents a challenge to his comfort and his ambitions. Under Charles’s influence, Constance is now considering abandoning Uncle Julian to the outside world, which Merricat believes to be the worst fate possible. Merricat has to do something before Constance completely changes her thinking to match with Charles’s objectively realistic viewpoint.
Themes
Isolation Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
That evening, Constance plays songs that their mother played on the harp in the drawing room. Charles is restless while he listens, but doesn’t dare put his feet on the furniture. Uncle Julian says all the Blackwood women had a delicate touch. Charles takes a Dresden figurine off the fireplace, asking whether it’s valuable, but Constance says it isn’t. He says it’s time for her to stop playing, because they have to discuss plans.
The drawing room can be read as a female space, having belonged to the sisters’ mother. Charles, however, tries to make it masculine by ignoring the beauty of the figurine in favor of his obsession with money. The nature of his plans with Constance is left vague, but they undoubtedly involve change, which Merricat dreads.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon