We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Merricat decides that Thursday is the day to get rid of Charles. Constance makes spice cookies, which is a shame because they’ll go to waste since it’s the last day of their former life. Merricat watches Charles trying clumsily to fix the back step. She creeps upstairs, finds her father’s watch on his dresser, and twists the winding knob backwards until the watch breaks. She feels like she has finally attacked Charles effectively. She knows she can’t get rid of his mark everywhere, but she hopes that if she changes the house enough, he’ll become lost and leave.
Charles tying to fix the back step symbolizes his trying to fix what he perceives to be broken in the sisters’ lives. Merricat attacks him through her father’s watch, rather than through any possession of his own, adding to the sense that he has taken her father’s place. Her attempt to disorient Charles indicates that she really does believe he’s a supernatural being, as a human wouldn’t become lost in a house he knows.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
The night before, Merricat brought baskets of wood and leaves in from outside. Now she takes her father’s things from his room and replaces them with these scraps. She pours water on the bed and tears down the curtains so Charles will have to see the road leading away. In this room, he won’t know who or where he is.
Though Merricat loves and needs her house, she doesn’t seem to care much about the actual appearance and structure of it—the atmosphere of safety and isolation is more important. She doesn’t hesitate to ruin an entire room, acting in opposition to the conventional female role of homemaker.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Merricat is lying in her room when she hears Charles shouting angrily to Constance outside. He hasn’t managed to mend the step. He’s carrying the silver dollars that Merricat buried, and is enraged that so much money would be buried. Constance tells him that Merricat did it, and is entirely unconcerned. Merricat thinks that perhaps Charles finds money no matter where it is, or else he’s methodically digging up all of the land.
Charles’s failure to mend the step foreshadows his failure to, in his eyes, mend the sisters’ lives. Though Merricat doesn’t care about money, she’s aware of it enough to have noticed that Charles cares deeply about it. He can’t stand the irrationality of Merricat’s actions.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Constance goes inside to answer Uncle Julian’s 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 him inside a tree or burying him. She finds the hole where the money was and imagines him digging it up. She scratches a face on a stone and buries it in the hole, imagining that it’s Charles’s head.
Merricat seems to practice a sort of voodoo here, attempting to have an influence on the real Charles by burying a model of him. The urgency of the situation is reflected in Merricat’s new witchcraft. Rather than trying to doom Charles through objects associated with her father, she has acknowledged Charles’ own power by burying objects that represent Charles directly. This is perhaps a result of Charles now having access to the safe.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
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Merricat cleans out her shelter because Charles was so close to it. She returns home when she gets hungry, and Charles is shouting in the kitchen. Merricat wonders whether he’ll start squeaking if he shouts long enough, and whether Constance would laugh if he did. He stops shouting when he sees Merricat and says that whatever punishment he comes up with, she’ll remember. Constance says that it’s all her fault. Merricat begins listing poisonous plants and their properties, but when she says she came home for lunch, Constance tells her she has to explain herself to Charles.
Charles wants to frighten Merricat, so in remaining perfectly aloof in her interactions with him, she conquers him in a small way. Furthermore, she can tell that Constance laughing at Charles would be a sign that she is out from under his influence, so making Constance laugh at him becomes a goal of Merricat’s—one that seems notably tied to reality in contrast to her witchraft.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
Charles has brought a handful of 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 Charles say he’s fed up with Uncle Julian because Uncle Julian can’t remember Charles’s name. Merricat thinks she must be kinder to Uncle Julian. Charles tells her to explain why she dirtied his room, but she ignores him. Uncle Julian thinks that Charles is the sisters’ father, John, and advises him not to get involved in their wives’ arguments. Charles says Constance must get out of this environment, and Uncle Julian says that he and his wife will leave if John insists.
This scene becomes a nightmare for Charles, who wants to be in control and have people listen to him. Instead, Merricat ignores him entirely and Uncle Julian doesn’t even know who he is, but wants him to shut up nonetheless. If Charles is trying to create an orderly, rational reality in the house, this scene tears it to shreds. Significantly, Uncle Julian now thinks that Charles is the sisters’ father, rather than Charles’s own father, another indication that he’s acting like John Blackwood.
Themes
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
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 by saying she’ll clean his room. Charles goes to Uncle Julian, and Julian tells Charles to stay away from his papers and calls him a bastard. Charles wants to convince him that he’s not John Blackwood, but Julian suddenly seems to know exactly who he is and wants him to tell his father that Julian said Charles was a bastard.
Notably, Charles calls the house crazy rather than naming its inhabitants. The sisters often refer to the house as though it’s alive, and Charles’s comment suggests that the craziness of the inhabitants comes from the house itself. Uncle Julian’s revenge on Charles feels more satisfying than Merricat’s, perhaps because he gives a real-world sort of insult that Charles can understand.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
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 hardly matters to his book. Charles is outraged and points out that Merricat is right in front of him. Julian just tells him to be quiet. Merricat laughs. Julian asks Constance why his papers are in a box and when Charles is going to leave. Charles says he’s staying.
It may come as a shock to the reader that Uncle Julian believes Merricat is dead, but the two characters have never directly interacted. This is perhaps the main illusion of Uncle Julian’s internal reality, and it’s striking that this mistake doesn’t seem to bother Merricat. This is the first time that Charles says he intends to stay indefinitely.
Themes
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
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 needs to be punished. Merricat asks whether he’s going to send her to bed without her dinner. She runs out to the field and sits in the middle with Jonas, where the high grass hides them.
If Charles is becoming trapped, it’s because he can’t understand the personal realities in which Merricat and Julian live, and which Constance accepts. Merricat was sent to bed without her dinner on the night of the murders, so her bringing that up now does not bode well. Charles has treated her as her family did, behavior that led her to kill them.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon
A while later, Merricat goes to the summerhouse her father had built, which she hasn’t visited for six years. Her family never liked the summerhouse because something bad had gotten into it when it was built. Merricat never buried anything around it. The trees grow close to it and the flowers around it have died. It’s so ugly that her mother wanted to burn it down. Merricat sits on the floor and imagines her dead family as they would sit around the dining room table.
The summerhouse, an ugly, closed-off, and uneasy place, seems to represent Merricat’s sense of insecurity about Charles’ presence (as opposed to the safety of the main house). Since her father built the summerhouse, Merricat’s fear seems related to the way that he (and Charles) made her feel.
Themes
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Merricat imagines her family’s conversation. They say she should have anything she wants. They all love her, and she should never be punished because she never does anything wrong. Most of all, she must never be sent to bed without her dinner. They pass her more food, rise when she rises, and bow their heads to her.
In imagining how she wishes her family had treated her, Merricat reveals how they did treat her. Judging from this scene, they ignored her, disrespected her, and punished her. However, this scene also shows that Merricat has a swelled sense of self-importance, almost imagining herself a queen.
Themes
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
The Relativity of Truth Theme Icon