We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood Character Analysis

Merricat narrates the novel. Though she is eighteen during the events she describes, she often acts much younger, smashing things when she’s upset and getting lost in her reveries of living on the moon. At the same time, she has a cold-blooded violent streak; she poisoned most of her family when she was twelve by putting arsenic in the sugar bowl one night when they sent her to bed without her supper. In an attempt to exercise her will over the world, Merricat practices what can best be described as witchcraft. She buries objects all over the Blackwood property as safeguards, and she tries to force Charles to leave by wiping out all signs of his presence in the house and smashing mirrors. Furthermore, Merricat follows a number of rules concerning what she can touch and where she can go. Though the reader might initially assume that Constance has set these rules, it later becomes clear that Merricat has set them herself. Though Merricat shows almost no outward remorse for murdering her family, the nature of these rules suggests that she might feel more guilt than she lets on.

Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood Quotes in We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The We Have Always Lived in the Castle quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood or refer to Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Female Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of We Have Always Lived in the Castle published in 2016.
Chapter 1 Quotes

...I wished they were dead. I would have liked to come into the grocery store some morning and see them all, even the Elberts and the children, lying there crying with the pain and dying. I would then help myself to groceries, I thought, stepping over their bodies, taking whatever I fancied from the shelves, and go home, with perhaps a kick for Mrs. Donell while she lay there. I was never sorry when I had thoughts like this; I only wished they would come true. “It’s wrong to hate them,” Constance said, “it only weakens you,” but I hated them anyway....

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Mr. Elbert, Mrs. Donell
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 8-9
Explanation and Analysis:

Merricat is in the Elberts’ grocery story to buy food, and all the other shoppers have frozen to watch her for the duration of her visit. When one of the villagers makes a comment about the Blackwoods’ food, Merricat can’t help but wish that all the villagers were dead.

This passage is the reader’s first glimpse into the cruel, violent side of Merricat’s nature. Although the villagers are certainly awful to Merricat, the vividness with which she imagines their deaths shows a horrifying delight in violence and a comfort with harming those who have wronged her. Passages such as this one foreshadow the eventual revelation that Merricat poisoned her family. The parallel is especially strong, since Merricat’s rage is, in both the poisoning and the grocery store, directed towards those who stand between her and food, which is, symbolically, the source of her power.

Constance’s feeling that Merricat’s hatred weakens her becomes most significant at the end of the book, when Merricat no longer hates the villagers, but instead begins to pity them. Though Merricat might not seem particularly weakened by her hatred now, she certainly seems much stronger when she finds it in herself to pity them instead of hating them, because it means she no longer cares what they think of her.

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Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, Constance Blackwood
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

The Harris boys initially chant this rhyme at Merricat as she walks home through the village, and the villagers often use it against the sisters throughout the book. The rhyme indicates that the villagers believe that Constance is guilty of the poisoning. Perhaps they also believe that Merricat lives in danger of being poisoned, or perhaps they only like to imagine that the sisters might turn on each other because it would disintegrate the love and loyalty that gives Merricat and Constance strength against the villagers. Additionally, Constance’s questions in the rhyme are particularly innocuous; they are questions that any mother-figure might ask with the best intentions. In this context, however, the questions take on a dark significance, lending danger to the traditionally comforting image of the nurturing woman.

The fact that this rhyme even exists suggests that Merricat and Constance have become almost unreal to the villagers, more like storybook villains than like actual people with complex lives. Even before they shut themselves away for good, they already have contributed to the folklore of the village, and afterwards, they become more mythical than ever.

Chapter 2 Quotes

She took the groceries carefully from the bags; food of any kind was precious to Constance, and she always touched foodstuffs with quiet respect. I was not allowed to help; I was not allowed to prepare food, nor was I allowed to gather mushrooms, although I sometimes carried vegetables in from the garden, or apples from the old trees.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs when Merricat returns from her trip into the village with the groceries she has bought. Constance unpacks the food, but Merricat is not allowed to touch it. This rule is one of many that Merricat follows, and Merricat’s lack of explanation seems to imply that Constance makes these rules. This seems to serve the purpose of leading the reader to suspect Merricat’s role in the poisoning by hinting that Constance does not allow Merricat to prepare food or gather mushrooms because these tasks would give her opportunities to poison someone else.

In fact, however, it becomes clear later in the book that Merricat makes these rules for herself, which changes the passage’s meaning entirely. Merricat seems almost to fear herself, and that she talks about these rules as though they were imposed by an external authority implies that she feels the need to prohibit herself from doing anything that could lead to her doing more harm than she already has. By this logic, it seems possible that she can’t entirely control her impulses, and so she creates rules to help her do so.

I must have known what she was going to say, because I was chilled; all this day had been building up to what Helen Clarke was going to say right now. I sat low in my chair and looked hard at Constance, wanting her to get up and run away, wanting her not to hear what was just about to be said, but Helen Clarke went on, “It’s spring, you’re young, you’re lovely, you have a right to be happy. Come back into the world.”

Once, even a month ago when it was still winter, words like that would have made Constance draw back and run away; now, I saw that she was listening and smiling, although she shook her head.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Helen Clarke (speaker), Constance Blackwood
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

When Helen Clarke comes to tea, she declares herself a close friend of Constance’s and takes it upon herself to offer advice. Constance has hidden away in the house ever since her trial, never appearing in public and only entertaining a few visitors.

Helen Clarke’s brief words to Constance betray a number of assumptions. First, she assumes that Constance isn’t happy in her current life. Second, by mentioning Constance’s appearance and the fact that it’s spring, a time associated with mating in animals, she implies that if Constance returned to the outside world, she would want to pursue a romantic attachment. She also assumes that such an attachment would make Constance happy. Essentially, then, Helen Clarke is suggesting that Constance should get married.

Helen Clarke’s suggestion comes off as benign and conventional, and Merricat’s horrified reaction shows how different Merricat’s values are from the villagers’. However, Constance’s receptivity to Helen Clarke’s suggestion reveals that Constance’s values and desires are not wholly aligned with Merricat’s, which (since all Merricat wants is Constance’s loyalty) propels the central conflict of the book. Merricat likely hates, in particular, the thought of Constance engaging in the patriarchal, heterosexual institution of marriage, as men and patriarchal institutions threaten the power of the sisters and the integrity of the world they have created.

“Another child, my niece Mary Katherine, was not at table.”

“She was in her room,” Mrs. Wright said.

“A great child of twelve, sent to bed without her supper. But she need not concern us.”

I laughed, and Constance said to Helen Clarke, “Merricat was always in disgrace. I used to go up the back stairs with a tray of dinner for her after my father had left the dining room. She was a wicked, disobedient child,” and she smiled at me.

“An unhealthy environment,” Helen Clarke said. “A child should be punished for wrongdoing, but she should be made to feel that she is still loved.”

Related Characters: Constance Blackwood (speaker), Uncle Julian Blackwood (speaker), Helen Clarke (speaker), Mrs. Lucille Wright (speaker), Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

When Helen Clarke and Mrs. Wright come for tea, Uncle Julian happily indulges Mrs. Wright’s curiosity about the poisoning by giving her a complete account of the night it occurred.

Though the reader doesn’t yet know it, Uncle Julian believes that Merricat is dead. His attitude in this passage demonstrates that he thinks she is of no significance to the poisoning. She wasn’t at the dinner and so was not affected, and the possibility that she was the murderer never even crosses his mind, probably because twelve-year-old girls are not expected to poison their families. Merricat finds his attitude funny, likely because of the irony that the only person he ignores is the one to whom he should pay the most attention.

The other characters’ comments on Merricat’s childhood give some insight into her potential motives for what she did. On the one hand, Constance calls her “wicked” and “disobedient,” suggesting that she was naturally inclined to wrongdoing. On the other hand, it is suggested that her parents, particularly her father, treated her harshly and excluded her from the family. Additionally, Merricat is so fixated on food and eating that being sent to bed without dinner might have been a far worse punishment for her than anyone understood. Denying Merricat food means denying her power.

“First,” she said, “she bought the arsenic.”

“To kill rats,” Constance said to the teapot, and then turned and smiled at me.

... “She cooked the dinner, she set the table.... It was Constance who saw them dying around her like flies—I do beg your pardon—and never called a doctor until it was too late. She washed the sugar bowl.”

“There was a spider in it,” Constance said.

“She told the police those people deserved to die.... She told the police that it was all her fault.”

Related Characters: Constance Blackwood (speaker), Mrs. Lucille Wright (speaker), Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, Uncle Julian Blackwood
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

While Mrs. Wright and Helen Clarke are having tea, Mrs. Wright engages with Uncle Julian in a detailed discussion of the poisoning. Forgetting all of her manners, she feels it necessary to lay out all of the evidence against Constance that was presented at the trial.

One must admit, first of all, that the evidence is rather powerful. Even if Constance didn’t actually put the arsenic in the sugar—which she didn’t—she also didn’t try particularly hard to save her family or find the culprit. In fact, it even seems that she may have actively colluded with Merricat to let her family die and cover up the evidence.

It’s unclear, however, whether Constance really wanted her family to die or whether she simply loved Merricat enough to forgive her actions and take the blame. The one conclusion that can certainly be drawn is that Constance didn’t want Merricat to face justice, and she was willing to sacrifice herself to save Merricat. Whether misguided or not, this is the sort of loyalty that makes Merricat love her sister so deeply and that enables the sisters to create their own isolated world.

Chapter 3 Quotes

All the Blackwood women had taken the food that came from the ground and preserved it, and the deeply colored rows of jellies and pickles and bottled vegetables and fruit, maroon and amber and dark rich green, stood side by side in our cellar and would stand there forever, a poem by the Blackwood women. Each year Constance and Uncle Julian and I had jam or preserve or pickle that Constance had made, but we never touched what belonged to the others; Constance said it would kill us if we ate it.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood, Uncle Julian Blackwood
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Merricat details her daily routines, including her work in the garden with Constance on Saturdays. Along with using the food from the garden for their meals, Constance also preserves some of it to add to the stores that generations of Blackwood women have established in the cellar.

These preserves symbolize the power of the female Blackwood lineage and the pride that Merricat and Constance take in it. As food preparation has long been considered a traditionally female task, often contributing to the oppression of women in the household, the fact that the sisters find power within this task demonstrates a subversion of patriarchal control. In other words, the Blackwood women find strength in the very task that could be used to control them.

Along the same lines, Merricat turns food against the family—a bastion of the patriarchy—when she puts poison in it. Constance seems to think that the preserves of their forebears would kill them, as well, which suggests that Merricat was acting within a tradition of Blackwood women when she made the sugar poisonous.

I ate tiny sweet raw carrots while Constance washed the vegetables and put them away. “We will have a spring salad,” she said.

“We eat the year away. We eat the spring and the summer and the fall. We wait for something to grow and then we eat it.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

One morning while Uncle Julian is still sleeping, Constance picks some vegetables from the garden and brings them to the kitchen. Food and eating permeate this book, but this passage is one of the only times when the characters directly acknowledge how central it is to their lives.

Constance is always cooking, and Merricat is always eating. In fact, this process comes to feel almost sinister, as though they are consuming the entire world around them. Merricat’s insatiable hunger, in particular, suggests that she will consume the lives of anyone who comes near her. Furthermore, as the sisters do little other than eat, this passage acknowledges the way in which the passage of time is marked by what they eat. Not only do they eat food, but they also eat time, as though the seasons wouldn’t change if they didn’t eat one away to reveal the next. Later on the sisters even more explicitly reject a relationship with traditional ideas of time. This comes in the destruction of the watch chain, and, once the house burns, in the sisters’ inability to distinguish one day from another.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“Merricat,” Constance said; she turned and looked at me, smiling. “It’s our cousin, our cousin Charles Blackwood. I knew him at once; he looks like Father.”

“Well, Mary,” he said. He stood up; he was taller now that he was inside, bigger and bigger as he came closer to me. “Got a kiss for your cousin Charles?”

Behind him the kitchen door was open wide; he was the first one who had ever gotten inside and Constance had let him in.... I was held tight, wound round with wire, I couldn’t breathe, and I had to run.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Charles Blackwood (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Merricat sees a stranger trying to get into the house and assumes he’s just one of the gawkers who comes to try to see Constance. However, when she returns to the kitchen she finds that Constance has let him in, and she immediately sees him as her enemy.

This moment represents Constance’s first major betrayal of Merricat. On a basic level, Merricat and Constance live by rules of isolation that keep them safe, and for Constance to let a stranger in breaks all of those rules. On a more metaphorical level, Merricat has killed their family, particularly their father, to create a life of greater freedom for herself and Constance. Charles’s defining feature is that he looks like their father, so by letting him into their life, Constance is essentially undoing the gruesome work that Merricat has done. Charles will, indeed, act in ways similar to their father in order to subdue Merricat and her eccentricities and pull her apart from Constance.

Additionally, Merricat calls Charles “the first one” to get inside the house, indicating that his familial status makes no difference to her; she still categorizes him with all of the strangers who trespass on their land and take a rude interest in Constance. This take on him will prove perceptive. Constance thinks to trust him because he’s family, but in fact he will only hurt the sisters.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“In a tree,” he said, and his voice was shaking too. “I found it nailed to a tree, for God’s sake. What kind of a house is this?”

“It’s not important,” Constance said. “Really, Charles, it’s not important.”

“Not important? Connie, this thing’s made of gold.”

“But no one wants it.”

“One of the links is smashed.... what a hell of a way to treat a valuable thing. We could have sold it,” he said to Constance.

“But why?”

Related Characters: Constance Blackwood (speaker), Charles Blackwood (speaker), Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Because she wants to get rid of Charles, Merricat goes into his room and takes her father’s gold watch chain that Charles has been looking at. She nails it to a tree as a safeguard, and Charles finds it. His discovery disturbs him, partly because it’s an unusual use for a watch chain, but mostly because he values money so highly.

Throughout the book, Charles represents the patriarchal, capitalist emphasis on the importance of money. Scenes such as this one show that he has come more to seek his own financial gain than to help the sisters. The sisters, on the other hand, don’t care in the least about money, and really don’t see the point of it at all. This attitude is one of their rebellions against the outside world.

It’s also notable that Charles is disturbed by the financial significance of finding the watch chain nailed to the tree, rather than what turns out to be its supernatural significance. The chain is part of Merricat’s witchcraft, and its purpose—which will ultimately be successful—is to drive Charles out.

“We should have faced the world and tried to live normal lives; Uncle Julian should have been in a hospital all these years, with good care and nurses to watch him. We should have been living like other people. You should...” She stopped, and waved her hands helplessly. “You should have boy friends,” she said finally, and then began to laugh because she sounded funny even to herself.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Uncle Julian Blackwood, Charles Blackwood
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

After Charles has been at the house for a while, Constance says that Merricat isn’t allowed to wander anymore, and that the sisters should have been living differently ever since the poisoning.

In this passage, Constance is essentially parroting Charles’s words back to Merricat. Constance is somewhat susceptible to taking on the beliefs of those around her; before Charles arrives, she’s happy enough to live as Merricat wants them to live, but when Helen Clarke suggests that Constance should rejoin the outside world she thinks it might be a good idea, too. Now she is falling prey to Charles’s sense of how the sisters should live. The life she describes here is one that would be acceptable to the outside world, with the sick uncle in the hospital and Merricat subscribing to heterosexual norms.

Interestingly, Constance’s suggestion that Merricat should have boyfriends is the final straw that makes her realize how absurd the idea is. Merricat never expresses any sexual attraction, but the idea that she would ever be in a relationship with a man, when she appears to hate them all, probably seems ridiculous to Constance, Merricat, and the reader. It also adds to the sense that Merricat seeks to create a sort of feminist utopia where men are unnecessary.

Chapter 7 Quotes

“My niece Mary Katherine has been a long time dead, young man. She did not survive the loss of her family; I supposed you knew that.”

“What?” Charles turned furiously to Constance.

“My niece Mary Katherine died in an orphanage, of neglect, during her sister’s trial for murder. But she is of very little consequence to my book, and so we will have done with her.”

Related Characters: Uncle Julian Blackwood (speaker), Charles Blackwood (speaker), Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, Constance Blackwood
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

A very angry Charles is preparing to punish Merricat for filling his room with dirt and rubbish, but Uncle Julian calls him names and then insists that Merricat is dead. This is the first time that the reader realizes that Julian holds this belief, though, in looking back, one can see that the two characters never interact.

Ironically, Uncle Julian wants to note every little detail about every other person who was in the house the night of the poisoning—most of whom are dead, and so couldn’t have been the culprit—yet he doesn’t even think to consider Merricat. His belief that she’s dead seems to proceed from this general sense that she is “of very little consequence”; her general unimportance makes her entirely fade from Julian’s world.

Most surprising of all is Julian’s ability to continue in his delusion despite living alongside Merricat every day, but the atmosphere of the house is such that it supports whatever reality its inhabitants want to believe in. Constance, though more connected to an objective reality than Merricat or Uncle Julian, never disrupts their fantasies, and part of Charles’s crime is that he does.

Julian’s lack of regard for Merricat also suggests that the rest of her family might have seen her the same way, simply dismissing her existence because she was of no particular use within the family. If this was the case, it likely contributed to her desire to kill them.

“Mary Katherine should have anything she wants, my dear. Our most loved daughter must have anything she likes.”

“Constance, your sister lacks butter. Pass it to her at once, please.”

“Mary Katherine, we love you.”

... “Mary Katherine must never be punished. Must never be sent to bed without her dinner. Mary Katherine will never allow herself to do anything inviting punishment.”

“Our beloved, our dearest Mary Katherine must be guarded and cherished. Thomas, give your sister your dinner; she would like more to eat.”

“Dorothy—Julian. Rise when our beloved daughter rises.”

“Bow all your heads to our adored Mary Katherine.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood, Uncle Julian Blackwood
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 95-96
Explanation and Analysis:

After Merricat fills Charles’s room with dirt and sticks, he grows very angry with her and threatens to punish her. She runs out to the old, unused summerhouse, where she imagines this conversation among her dead family members.

This fantasy provides insight into Merricat’s psyche and her potential motivations for killing her family. Considering that Merricat was often punished and ignored (and that she was sent to bed without her dinner on the night of the poisoning), it seems that the devotion her family gives her in her imagination is exactly the opposite of how they acted towards her in real life. While they may have been unnecessarily harsh and unloving towards her, her fantasy suggests that she desires a ridiculous degree of reverence, almost as though she imagines herself to be a queen or a goddess. If this is true, then her family’s disregard for her may have caused her to react with the drastic step of killing them.

Also, Merricat’s fantasy involves her family not only allowing her to eat her dinner at the table, but constantly giving her more food. If food symbolizes power in this book, then it makes sense that Merricat is demanding that her family acknowledge her power. Additionally, Constance keeps herself in Merricat’s good graces in part by constantly providing her with food, as her family did not.

Chapter 8 Quotes

I brushed the saucer and the pipe off the table into the wastebasket and they fell softly on to the newspapers he had brought into the house.

I was wondering about my eyes; one of my eyes—the left—saw everything golden and yellow and orange, and the other eye saw shades of blue and grey and green; perhaps one eye was for daylight and the other was for night. If everyone in the world saw different colors from different eyes there might be a great many colors still to be invented.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Charles Blackwood
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:

Merricat goes upstairs to tidy herself before joining the family at dinner, and, in Charles’s room, she finds his pipe smoldering on one of her great-grandmother’s saucers. By sweeping the pipe into the wastebasket, she sets the fire that burns the entire top floor of the house.

Merricat is very angry at Charles, and has long been looking for an effective way to get back at him. However, the fire that she is setting in this passage does not seem premeditated. On the contrary, she brushes the pipe into the trash entirely without thought, or at least without any thoughts that she reveals in her narration, but this action nonetheless causes one of the pivotal events of the book.

This scene suggests that Merricat’s mind may block out her most wicked actions. Even when she sees the flames, she doesn’t recognize them as such, but instead thinks that her eyes are doing something strange. If this is the case, then it’s possible that she was in a similar state of mind when she poisoned her family, which would explain why she so rarely acknowledges that she did so. It would also explain why she sets so many rules for herself. If she does such things without really planning to, then her rules could keep her from having opportunities to kill people without realizing what she’s doing.

Finally, Merricat’s meditation on the different ways in which she thinks she’s seeing light also references her unique way of seeing the world and life in general. She seems to suggest that if everyone saw the world in such unconventional ways as she does, everything might be much more interesting.

Very carefully he put up his hands and took off his hat saying CHIEF and while everyone watched he walked slowly down the steps and over to the fire engine and set his hat down on the front seat. Then he bent down, searching thoughtfully, and finally, while everyone watched, he took up a rock. In complete silence he turned slowly and then raised his arm and smashed the rock through one of the tall windows of our mother’s drawing room. A wall of laughter rose and grew behind him and then, first the boys on the steps and then the other men and at last the women and the smaller children, they moved like a wave at our house.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Jim Donell
Page Number: 106-106
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim Donell is the chief fireman who leads the brigade to put out the fire at the Blackwoods’ house. He does his duty efficiently, even though the villagers tell him to let it burn. Once the fire is out, however, he no longer has to act as a fireman, but can instead do as he sees fit. In other words, he can express his hatred of the Blackwoods by inciting mob violence.

Jim Donell has always been one of the worst villagers, and now he leads the villagers in destroying the house. The fact that he puts the fire out before doing so actually makes it worse, as though he wants to personally be able to destroy the Blackwoods’ lives, rather than letting the impartial fire do it. Additionally, his extremely purposeful throwing of a rock expresses a deep, calculated desire to cause damage.

The other villagers act less purposefully, instead submitting to a mob mentality in which they follow the lead of the group in mindlessly storming the house. They act out of a desire for revenge. Though the Blackwoods’ offense remains vague, the villagers seem to want to punish the family for their long-standing sense of superiority as well as for living above the law. They seem to believe that Constance is guilty of murder, and should be punished.

One of our mother’s Dresden figurines is broken, I thought, and I said aloud to Constance, “I am going to put death in all their food and watch them die.”

Constance stirred, and the leaves rustled. “The way you did before?” she asked.

It had never been spoken of between us, not once in six years.

“Yes,” I said after a minute, “the way I did before.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

After the fire, Merricat takes Constance to her hiding place by the stream, where they settle down to sleep for the night. Though the reader probably already strongly suspects that Merricat poisoned the family, this is the first moment in which that suspicion is confirmed.

This passage also makes clear that the sisters have never spoken of this fact before, though they both knew it. This is rather an incredible secret to carry between them, unspoken, for six years, when it has affected every aspect of their lives and brought so much hatred and isolation down on them. As this disclosure comes at the very beginning of an indefinite period in which Merricat and Constance will live in complete isolation and only ever interact with each other, Merricat’s confession becomes a fitting opening to their new, more intimate life together. If Merricat has lived within her own mental world for many years, this moment helps her open that world to her sister, who is now ready to join her there.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“We are on the moon at last,” I told her, and she smiled.

“I thought I dreamed it all,” she said.

“It really happened,” I said.

“Poor Uncle Julian.”

“They came in the night and took him away, and we stayed here on the moon.”

“I’m glad to be here,” she said. “Thank you for bringing me.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Uncle Julian Blackwood
Related Symbols: The Moon
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

This conversation takes place in Merricat’s shelter by the creek the morning after the fire. Throughout the book, Merricat has daydreamed about living on the moon, where everything is exactly how she wants it to be and no one disturbs her and Constance. If the moon is Merricat’s ideal place, and she feels that they are now on the moon, then she seems to feel that the fire was beneficial rather than destructive—which does make sense, since she started it.

Merricat knows immediately after the fire that their lives are going to be completely different from now on, and this is the sentiment that prompts her to declare her victory even before seeing what’s happened to the house. She instinctively knows that she and Constance will no longer interact with anyone else, and so her own version of reality will be allowed to reign in their house. Most of all, Merricat is thrilled that she will have Constance all to herself.

In the past, Constance has reacted to Merricat’s talk of going to the moon by calling her silly or by playing along only to humor her. Now, however, when Constane says, “I’m glad to be here,” she might mean the shelter by the creek, or she might mean the moon, which Merricat has just referenced. This dialogue indicates that Constance is already giving in to Merricat’s view of the world more than she has in the past. Merricat will be allowed to sketch the fundamental lines of their new life.

I could feel a breath of air on my cheek; it came from the sky I could see, but it smelled of smoke and ruin. Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky.

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker)
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

After the fire, Merricat and Constance close up the drawing room and the dining room, and then Merricat looks upstairs to the burned part of the house, which is now open to the elements. This is the only mention of the house as a castle, and thus the only direct connection of the title to the text. Ironically, the house only becomes a metaphorical castle in its most ruined state, after the fire, though a castle is usually thought of as a royal, elegant building.

It’s reasonable to assume that Merricat begins to think of the house as a castle as part of her reframing of their entire life after the fire. Castles are associated with fantasy and the supernatural, which fits with the alternate reality in which Merricat and Constance live, as well as with the fear with which the villagers now regard the house and the sisters. Castles are also fortifications—they are known for keeping enemies out, and this is precisely what the sisters hope that the house will do. In addition, Merricat thinks of herself as being terribly important and deserving of veneration. As she is the ruler of the sisters’ new reality, she becomes almost like a queen who reigns over her castle while being served food by her worshiper Constance.

“She certainly wanted her tea,” I said to Constance when I came back to the kitchen.

“We have only two cups with handles,” Constance said. “She will never take tea here again.”

“It’s a good thing Uncle Julian’s gone, or one of us would have to use a broken cup.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Uncle Julian Blackwood, Helen Clarke
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

The day after the fire is the day of the week that Helen Clarke comes to tea at the Blackwood house. She and her husband come knocking at the door, wanting to bring Merricat and Constance home with them to help them. Although the sisters hear Helen Clarke calling out her intentions, Merricat insists on believing that she has come for her tea, showing the extent to which Merricat lives in her own reality and depends on routines to keep her life in order.

In fact, this entire passage demonstrates the absurdity that the sisters increasingly embrace after the fire. Constance attributes Helen Clarke’s absence from their house on their lack of cups, which is a miniscule problem compared to the fact that their house is entirely in shambles and they have no desire to interact with anyone else ever again. Taking this absurd fixation on the need for unbroken cups even further, Merricat actually expresses gladness at Uncle Julian’s death. She essentially says that the tragedy of his death is less severe than the tragedy of using a cup without a handle.

It is important to note here that Constance participates in Merricat’s absurd vision of the world. She supports Merricat’s assumption that Helen Clarke wants her tea, and she doesn’t protest Merricat’s relief about Uncle Julian’s death. Before the fire, Constance allowed Merricat to live in her own world, but she kept herself somewhat more connected to reality, often calling Merricat silly or reminding her that they didn’t really live on the moon. Now, however, Constance surrenders herself fully to Merricat’s reality, meaning that within their house, everything takes on a different level of importance than it does in the outside world.

“Will you sleep in there? In Uncle Julian’s bed?”

“No, Merricat. I want you to sleep in there. It’s the only bed we have.”

“I am not allowed in Uncle Julian’s room.”

She was quiet for a minute, looking at me curiously, and then asked, “Even though Uncle Julian’s gone, Merricat?”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Uncle Julian Blackwood
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

The day after the fire, Merricat and Constance clean up what they can of the house, and Constance says that she’ll clean Uncle Julian’s room the next day so that Merricat can sleep there. Merricat, however, has never been allowed into Uncle Julian’s room, and she insists that this rule has not changed. While the rules she obeys seem for most of the book to come from Constance, Constance’s powerlessness in this scene proves that Merricat is, in fact, making the rules for herself, though she obeys them as though someone else is enforcing them.

It seems likely that Merricat’s rules stem from her need for order in the world, also seen in her insistence on having a routine for certain days. Additionally, she might make these rules to keep herself under control—her state of mind when she sets the fire suggests that she isn’t entirely aware of her actions, and so she might have been similarly removed from herself when she poisoned her family. Rules such as staying out of Uncle Julian’s room would prevent her from having the opportunity to kill him. If this is the reason for her rules, it suggests that she does feel guilty about murdering her family and does not necessarily have control over her impulses.

“I was very wicked,” she said. “I never should have reminded you of why they all died.”

“Then don’t remind me now.” I could not move my hand to reach over and take hers.

“I wanted you to forget about it. I never wanted to speak about it, ever, and I’m sorry I did.”

“I put it in the sugar.”

“I know. I knew then.”

“You never used sugar.”

“No.”

“So I put it in the sugar.”

Constance sighed. “Merricat,” she said, “we’ll never talk about it again. Never.”

I was chilled, but she smiled at me kindly and it was all right.

“I love you, Constance,” I said.

“And I love you, my Merricat.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

After Jim Clarke and Dr. Levy try and fail to get the sisters to open the door to them, Constance apologizes for the night before, when she acknowledged for the first time that she knew Merricat had put the arsenic in the sugar that killed their family.

Ironically—yet in keeping with the irrational nature of what these characters consider to be important—Constance has no sense that Merricat has done wrong by committing the crime, but she feels that she herself has done wrong by reminding Merricat of her crime. Besides, she somehow thinks that by not talking about Merricat’s role in the crime, Merricat can forget what she has done. This idea seems particularly ridiculous in light of all the characters’ constant references to the poisoning, and the way it affects their lives every single day. Through her belief, however, Constance reinforces the idea that within the house, the sisters can create whatever reality they like.

Merricat’s horrified reaction to Constance discussing the crime suggests that she does feel guilty about what she has done, though she never directly expresses sorrow for it. Her explanation that she strategized to keep Constance from eating the arsenic is surprisingly tender, and both sisters’ declaration of love for each other is simultaneously moving and frightening—they are bonded by their knowledge of the truth, and yet Constance’s unshakeable love for the murderer of her family is rather disconcerting.

Chapter 10 Quotes

“I believe the one you are wearing now was used for summer breakfasts on the lawn many years ago. Red and white check would never be used in the dining room, of course.”

“Some days I shall be a summer breakfast on the lawn, and some days I shall be a formal dinner by candlelight, and some days I shall be—”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

Constance realizes that she and Merricat don’t have anything left to wear other than the dresses they had on when the fire began, as everything else was burnt. Merricat refuses to wear Uncle Julian’s clothes, but she’s happy to wear tablecloths instead.

Throughout the book, Merricat has constantly been consuming the food that Constance spends all her time cooking. Food can be read as a symbol of power in this story, particularly as Merricat turns the traditionally female duty of cooking against her family when she puts poison in their dinner. Merricat now goes a step beyond simply eating all the time—she begins wearing the accessories of a meal and metaphorically thinking of herself as different kinds of meals depending on which tablecloth she’s wearing.

In this isolated world that Merricat and Constance have created, Merricat is free to completely give in to her fixation on food. She and her sister spend most of their time either preparing or eating food, they live almost entirely in their kitchen, and now she’s literally clothed in tablecloths. If food is power, Merricat has the ultimate power in this situation, dictating the very reality of the world in which they live.

“If you let me go this time, you’ll never see me again. I mean it, Connie.... Take a last look,” he said. “I’m going. One word could make me stay.”

I did not think he was going to go in time. I honestly did not know whether Constance was going to be able to contain herself until he got down the steps and safely into the car.... Charles looked back once more, raised his hand sadly, and got into the car. Then Constance laughed, and I laughed... and we held each other in the dark hall and laughed, with the tears running down our cheeks....

“I am so happy,” Constance said at last, gasping. “Merricat, I am so happy.”

“I told you that you would like it on the moon.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Charles Blackwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Moon
Page Number: 144-45
Explanation and Analysis:

One day Charles drives up to the house trying to lure Constance out for a picture. From outside, he shouts to Merricat and Constance, apologizing for the damage he’s done and begging Constance to come outside.

In this passage, Constance confirms her complete conversion to Merricat’s reality—to living “on the moon,” as Merricat puts it. The main immediate conflict of the book is Charles’s invasion of the house and the threat of him taking Constance away from Merricat. That conflict is only partly resolved when Charles leaves after the fire. To completely expel his influence, Constance must reject him, since she almost gave in to his attempts to draw her into a romantic engagement, which symbolizes Constance’s near conversion to the logic of the outside world.

Here, Constance finally sees Charles for what he is and rejects him entirely, also rejecting the heterosexuality and male influence that he represents. Furthermore, she rejects him through laughter and derision, a method perhaps more effective than Merricat’s violence, since it entirely strips him of any authority. Merricat’s victims, on the other hand, retain some power through being the wronged dead. Finally, Constance confirms her happiness in the all-female, completely isolated space of the house, where Merricat’s reality reigns and Charles can never come between the sisters.

“I wonder if I could eat a child if I had the chance.”

“I doubt if I could cook one,” said Constance.

“Poor strangers,” I said. “They have so much to be afraid of.”

“Well,” Constance said, “I am afraid of spiders.”

“Jonas and I will see to it that no spider ever comes near you. Oh, Constance,” I said, “we are so happy.”

Related Characters: Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood (speaker), Constance Blackwood (speaker), Jonas
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Merricat and Constance take to sitting inside their front door and watching everyone who goes by their house. Children are afraid of it, and one day they hear a woman tell some children that the ladies inside the house will eat them if they go too near.

In her compulsive, unhindered consuming of food, Merricat comes almost logically to the question of whether she could eat a person. Considering her ability to poison most of her family, it doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility that she could eat a child. The fact that Constance is willing to joke with Merricat about this question demonstrates the extent to which Constance now subscribes to the alternate reality that Merricat has created within the house. Furthermore, joking about eating children represents a complete rejection of motherhood, the mainstay of traditional feminine roles. Eating a child suggests the very opposite of birth, and the endpoint of Merricat’s rejection of traditional gender roles and male power.

However, this passage also deals with the ways in which houses come to be seen as haunted. Haunted houses are commonly thought to be inhabited by witches who will eat children, but in this case, the reader sees the perspective of the supposed witches. The sisters have spent much of the book being afraid of the villagers and the outside world, but they now expel that fear from themselves, allowing the villagers to be the only fearful ones. Constance is left with only her fear of spiders, which was her excuse for washing out the sugar bowl after her family’s poisoning. Her reference to this fear now seems to cement her collusion with Merricat in covering up Merricat’s crime, and thus assures the sisters’ unity in living happily within their chosen reality.

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Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood Character Timeline in We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood appears in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Family and Gender Theme Icon
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The narrator introduces herself as Mary Katherine Blackwood (or Merricat) and says she lives with her sister, Constance. She wishes she had been born a... (full context)
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Merricat recalls that she got the library books on one of the terrible days when she... (full context)
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Merricat carefully chose library books for herself and Constance. In the evenings, Uncle Julian liked to... (full context)
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Wealthy people like the Clarkes and the Carringtons live outside the village, and Merricat doesn’t understand why the villagers are friendly towards them but not towards the Blackwoods. Village... (full context)
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When Merricat does the shopping, she pretends she’s playing a board game in which various circumstances make... (full context)
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When Merricat crosses the street, local drivers always give her dirty looks. She imagines that if she... (full context)
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Constance has made Merricat a shopping list. The villagers hate the fact that the Blackwoods always have enough money,... (full context)
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Merricat tells Mr. Elbert which food items she needs. When she mentions Uncle Julian and sugar,... (full context)
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As Merricat leaves the store, she hears the shoppers behind her preparing to go about their business... (full context)
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There’s a crack in the sidewalk in front of Stella’s café. Merricat remembers roller-skating and bicycling over it when the villagers didn’t yet express hatred of her... (full context)
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...with the insurance money after her husband’s death, but it’s almost the same as when Merricat and Constance used to come here after school. When Merricat enters, Stella greets her and... (full context)
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Merricat only comes to the café for reasons of pride, so she orders black coffee even... (full context)
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Stella tells Jim Donell to leave Merricat alone, but he continues wondering aloud why the villagers are saying that the Blackwoods are... (full context)
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Jim Donell remarks on the Blackwoods’ isolated way of life. Merricat knows that he could go on talking for a while. She imagines she lives on... (full context)
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Stella tells Merricat that she should go home. Jim Donell lets her get off her stool, saying they’ll... (full context)
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Merricat realizes the Harris boys are in their yard, but she doesn’t want to have to... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Merricat goes through the gate to the path on her family’s property. Before her father closed... (full context)
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Constance meets Merricat at the end of the garden, teasing that before long she’ll be going all the... (full context)
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...at his desk in the corner of the kitchen. Constance puts the groceries away, since Merricat isn’t allowed to deal with the food. Constance plans their lunch, remarking how happy she... (full context)
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...any information on whether the girls’ father had a cigar on the morning he’s studying. Merricat watches Constance put the library books on the shelf, where they’ll stay forever, and prepare... (full context)
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Merricat teases that the Carringtons might bring her a horse if she asked, then says she... (full context)
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...room perfectly, and her portrait hangs there. Constance serves tea just where her mother did. Merricat isn’t allowed to pour the tea. Constance sets the table as usual for this visit,... (full context)
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Merricat watches at the window. She asks whether Constance is frightened, which Constance denies. When Helen... (full context)
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...corner, while she herself sits too close to Constance. They chat about gardening, and only Merricat can see that Constance is nervous. Mrs. Wright says she would love to meet Uncle... (full context)
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Helen Clarke says she’s going to give Constance advice, as a friend. Merricat has a bad feeling about this advice. Helen Clarke says that Constance should return to... (full context)
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Merricat realizes that three times today, Constance has mentioned entering the outside world. She begins to... (full context)
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Merricat brings a cup of tea to Mrs. Wright, whose hand shakes when she takes it.... (full context)
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Helen Clarke eats numerous sandwiches. Merricat believes that Helen Clarke thinks she can act however she likes because the sisters are... (full context)
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Merricat thinks Constance is beginning to look tired. She hears Uncle Julian coming and opens the... (full context)
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...talking about it, but he mentions tasting arsenic and Mrs. Wright wants to know more. Merricat and Constance look somber, but are actually happy that Uncle Julian has an audience. Mrs.... (full context)
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...family, but they feel they must keep it. He says the family was generally happy. Merricat wonders what Mrs. Wright would do if she met her in the village. Uncle Julian... (full context)
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...with her image of the murderer. Helen Clarke finally tells Mrs. Wright that she’s leaving. Merricat points out that Mrs. Wright hasn’t drunk any of her tea. The guests say their... (full context)
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Constance expresses exasperation with Helen Clarke and points out that Merricat was teasing Mrs. Wright. Merricat says she always wants to increase the terror of frightened... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Merricat is the only one who can tell that a change is coming, though Constance might... (full context)
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When Merricat doesn’t have to go into the village, she does her work. On Wednesday mornings she... (full context)
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On Saturday mornings, Merricat helps Constance in the garden. Their cellar is filled with jars of food that have... (full context)
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...he dies, someone who isn’t too worried about truth must write his book for him. Merricat hopes that this morning he’ll be able to sit in the garden. She tells Constance... (full context)
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Constance brings Uncle Julian his tray, and Merricat hears him ask whether her father is home. At first, Uncle Julian thinks that Constance... (full context)
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Later, Constance runs down to the garden to gather vegetables while Merricat listens for Uncle Julian to awaken. A little after eleven, Constance goes to her room.... (full context)
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...since he has too many details to write down about the day of the poisoning. Merricat and Jonas follow them inside. Merricat asks whether Constance will take care of her when... (full context)
Chapter 4
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On Sunday morning, Merricat feels the change coming nearer, but she refuses to think her three magic words. It... (full context)
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Merricat and Jonas go to the long field, where the grass is moving like an ocean... (full context)
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Merricat kills a nest of baby snakes because she doesn’t like them. On her way home,... (full context)
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As Merricat and Constance have lunch, the approaching man is trying to find a way in past... (full context)
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Merricat sees the man coming up the steps and tells Constance to lock the kitchen door,... (full context)
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Merricat knows that the man will look for a face in the upstairs windows, and then... (full context)
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Merricat says that they were supposed to be safe until someone said her three magic words.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Merricat returns to the kitchen to find Constance making Uncle Julian’s breakfast. She says that he’s... (full context)
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Merricat and Constance are talking about breakfast and planting leaves when Constance says that Charles is... (full context)
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...he didn’t like them, but as soon as his father died, Charles came to them. Merricat says he can’t help them because they’re already happy, and she feels better because she... (full context)
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...they’ll neaten the house after Charles wakes up. She sweeps up the broken glass while Merricat eats breakfast. Constance brings Uncle Julian to his papers in the kitchen, and he says... (full context)
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Merricat can’t see Charles clearly, either because of his size or because he’s a ghost. She... (full context)
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...Charles does. Uncle Julian suddenly needs Constance to confirm that the poisoning really did happen. Merricat is angry with Charles for being cruel to Uncle Julian. Constance takes Julian outside into... (full context)
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Jonas sits in the doorway. Charles tells Jonas that Merricat doesn’t like him, and asks how he can make her like him. Merricat wonders if... (full context)
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While Merricat and Constance clean the house, Constance often goes to the window to check on Uncle... (full context)
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Next, the sisters dust the drawing room and Merricat pretends that the ceiling is the floor as she dusts the trim. Constance remarks that... (full context)
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...Charles is smoking. When Constance goes outside to get Uncle Julian, Charles tells Jonas that Merricat doesn’t like him and wonders whether she knows how he gets back at people who... (full context)
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At dinner, Charles watches Constance helping Uncle Julian eat. Merricat doesn’t eat because Constance put dressing on her salad and because Charles is there. Charles... (full context)
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...that she keeps their money in the house, in their father’s safe. He says that Merricat will have to find another job, now that he’s going into town. Merricat begins to... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...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... (full context)
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Merricat goes to her father’s room to look for a magic object to use against Charles.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Merricat decides that the next step is to ask Charles politely to leave, before he leaves... (full context)
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Merricat goes outside to ask Charles to leave. She tries to be kind to him in... (full context)
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Merricat has been doing a better job of being kind to Uncle Julian. Charles hates watching... (full context)
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One afternoon, Merricat follows Charles to the edge of the village, where she sees him sit down with... (full context)
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Merricat goes to look for Jonas, and Charles returns with a scarf that Merricat had used... (full context)
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Later, Merricat goes into the kitchen, where Constance and Uncle Julian are. Uncle Julian demands a box... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Merricat decides that Thursday is the day to get rid of Charles. Constance makes spice cookies,... (full context)
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The night before, Merricat brought baskets of wood and leaves in from outside. Now she takes her father’s things... (full context)
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Merricat is lying in her room when she hears Charles shouting angrily to Constance outside. He... (full context)
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...call, and Charles follows. When Charles goes to put the silver dollars in the safe, Merricat runs outside. She considers turning Charles into a fly in a spider web or trapping... (full context)
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Merricat cleans out her shelter because Charles was so close to it. She returns home when... (full context)
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...sticks and dirt from his room and placed it on the kitchen table. He tells Merricat to listen, and Uncle Julian asks Constance to tell Charles to be quiet, which makes... (full context)
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Constance looks like she’s going to cry, and Merricat calls Charles evil. He says the house is crazy, and Constance tries to pacify him... (full context)
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Uncle Julian tells Charles to be quiet, and Charles says he has to deal with Merricat first. Julian, however, says that Merricat died in the orphanage during Constance’s trial, and she... (full context)
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Constance cleans the dirt off the table while Charles looks baffled, and Merricat thinks Charles is becoming trapped. Constance tells him to go rest, but he says Merricat... (full context)
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A while later, Merricat goes to the summerhouse her father had built, which she hasn’t visited for six years.... (full context)
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Merricat imagines her family’s conversation. They say she should have anything she wants. They all love... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Merricat can’t let the family eat dinner without her. When she returns, she and Jonas stand... (full context)
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Merricat goes upstairs and creeps into Charles’s room. Constance has cleaned the dirt out and now... (full context)
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Merricat brushes the pipe and the saucer into the wastebasket, and they fall onto newspaper. One... (full context)
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Suddenly Charles smells smoke. Constance checks the kitchen and Charles the hall. He suspects that Merricat is somehow the cause of the smoke, but then Constance reminds him of his pipe,... (full context)
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Constance helps Uncle Julian to his room while Merricat looks upstairs. She can see the fire in her father’s room. The fire doesn’t seem... (full context)
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Merricat guides Constance onto the porch just as fire engines roar into the driveway. Constance covers... (full context)
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Someone asks where the sisters and Uncle Julian are, but Charles says they’re fine. Merricat thinks Uncle Julian must have gotten out the back door, but in any case the... (full context)
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Merricat can’t distinguish any faces in the crowd in the yard. She thinks of the fire... (full context)
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Merricat is tired and hungry and wonders how long the firemen will make the fire last,... (full context)
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...help him with the safe. The villagers begin to chant the rhyme about Constance poisoning Merricat. As they approach the sisters’ hiding place, Merricat tells Constance they need to run, but... (full context)
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Merricat and Constance have to run through the headlights of the cars to get to the... (full context)
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Merricat helps Constance down the steps. Someone sees them and shouts, and then the villagers surround... (full context)
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...Uncle Julian’s heart failed. Jim Clarke pushes the villagers towards their cars, and they go. Merricat pulls Constance into the trees. No one sees them. When they reach the path Merricat... (full context)
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As Merricat leads Constance to her shelter by the stream, she thinks how glad she is that... (full context)
Chapter 9
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During the night, Merricat hears an ambulance take Uncle Julian away. People call for the sisters, but no one... (full context)
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It’s Helen Clarke’s day to come to tea, but Merricat and Constance will have to straighten the house instead. Merricat decides that in the future... (full context)
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Constance washes her face in the stream while Merricat folds Uncle Julian’s shawl, which Constance has been wearing. Merricat has never touched the shawl... (full context)
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The ground floor seems unharmed, so Constance opens the kitchen door. Merricat fears this will make the house collapse, but it doesn’t. Constance can hardly bear the... (full context)
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Constance prepares to make breakfast while Merricat begins to look for items that are still intact. Constance brings food up from the... (full context)
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Merricat puts three unbroken chairs around the table and drinks chicken soup. Time and orderly days... (full context)
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The library books are still sitting on their shelf, and Merricat thinks this is because anyone who destroyed them would be fined. Constance sits still, staring... (full context)
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Constance takes up the figurine and says that everything was her fault. Merricat says she loves her and requests a cake for herself and Jonas. Constance says she’s... (full context)
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...opened it. They close the drawing room door, and no one ever goes in again. Merricat closes the shutters over the dining room windows, and then they lock the front door... (full context)
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Merricat and Constance go through the trash on the kitchen floor to find everything that’s still... (full context)
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The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
...door, and they run into the cellar. Helen Clarke begins to call their names outside. Merricat wonders if she has come for tea. She comes around to knock on the kitchen... (full context)
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Merricat thinks they’ll have to cover the kitchen window so Helen Clarke won’t be able to... (full context)
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Constance asks how they’re going to live a normal life, but Merricat isn’t worried. There’s a dirty mattress on the stairs, and they pull it out onto... (full context)
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Constance makes an onion pie while Merricat covers the kitchen windows with cardboard so that no one can see in. She says... (full context)
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
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Merricat makes sure the front door is locked. Constance says that tomorrow she’ll clean Uncle Julian’s... (full context)
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A car stops in front of the house. Merricat makes sure the kitchen door is locked. There’s a knocking at the front door, but... (full context)
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...feel differently about their friends if they saw all the flowers that have been sent. Merricat doesn’t understand why flowers would make them feel differently. Constance takes a bite of her... (full context)
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Constance apologizes for being wicked the night before and reminding Merricat of why their family died. Merricat is chilled and tells her not to remind her... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...the sisters develop a pattern for their days and create a happy life. Every morning Merricat makes sure the front door is locked. Now that the gates to the path are... (full context)
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One night Merricat barricades the sides of the house with pieces of junk. If anyone tries to get... (full context)
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During breakfast one morning, Merricat laughs that they’re on the moon, but it’s not as she imagined. Constance thinks it’s... (full context)
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...and puts it down in the cellar for safekeeping, as she thinks he would want. Merricat goes to check the front door. Whenever she does this, the children are playing on... (full context)
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...suits in Uncle Julian’s room. She barely remembers him going to buy a suit once. Merricat asks what he would have been wearing on the night of the poisoning, because he... (full context)
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Constance laughs and gets tablecloths out of the pantry. She says Merricat can wear those, and Merricat is pleased. However, Constance has no sewing materials, so Merricat... (full context)
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Merricat convinces Constance to wheel Uncle Julian’s chair out to add to the barricade. Merricat can... (full context)
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...the food. Sometimes there are notes in the baskets apologizing for breaking different household items. Merricat and Constance never retrieve the baskets until they can be sure no one is around. (full context)
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Merricat discovers that she’s not allowed to go to the creek anymore because Uncle Julian is... (full context)
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...Charles arrives in a car with another man. They walk up to the steps, and Merricat remembers the first time Charles came, thinking that this time he won’t get in. Constance... (full context)
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The man hides behind the car and Charles calls out to Constance. Merricat can tell that she now sees Charles for what he is. Charles says he wants... (full context)
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...man wants to leave, and Charles tells Constance that he’s never going to come back. Merricat is afraid he’s not going to leave quickly enough for Constance to contain herself. He... (full context)
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...They wear Uncle Julian’s clothes and the tablecloths. There are always flowers on the table. Merricat is no longer allowed to go to the field, and she feels that the safeguards... (full context)
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...a dare, someone leaves a basket of food with a note of apology that night. Merricat wonders if she could eat a child, but Constance said she probably couldn’t cook one.... (full context)