We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The Safe Symbol Icon

Constance and Merricat keep most of their money in their father’s safe, which sits in his study. Their father was very good at managing money, and Charles, like their father, fixates on the safe as the ultimate object of his desire. In contrast to their male relatives, Merricat and Constance completely disregard the value of money, seeming confused by Charles’s obsession with it. They generally use money only to buy groceries, and after the fire, they don’t use money at all, since they depend entirely on their vegetable garden and the food that the villagers leave for them.

The safe can be said to represent the male Blackwood lineage of wealth and social status, as well as the broader capitalist patriarchy of America. By repudiating the need for money and happily removing themselves from participation in capitalism, Merricat and Constance deal a blow to this institution which is so often viewed as essential. Notably, the safe remains in their house despite the best efforts of Charles and the villagers to remove it. Thus, the sisters distance themselves from money not because they don’t have access to it—they do—but because they simply see no need for it. Furthermore, if Blackwood masculinity depends largely on wealth and others’ recognition of it, Merricat and Constance destroy the oppressive Blackwood men not only by killing or rejecting them, but also by ignoring the material riches they left behind and thus banishing them to irrelevance.

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The Safe Symbol Timeline in We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Safe appears in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
...is concerned to discover 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... (full context)
Chapter 6
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Female Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
...his papers. Charles flees to get help, telling Constance to put the money from the safe in a bag. (full context)
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
...up the front of the house. Charles is yelling for the men to get the safe. Constance is worried that people might be able to see her. Merricat looks out to... (full context)
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
...suggests that they let the house burn, and Charles is still saying to get the safe out. The firemen insist that they have to put the fire out. The smoke obscures... (full context)
Guilt and Punishment Theme Icon
...harp, laughing all the while. Charles tries to get someone to help him with the safe. The villagers begin to chant the rhyme about Constance poisoning Merricat. As they approach the... (full context)
Chapter 9
Female Power Theme Icon
Family and Gender Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
The safe is on the ground, and they laugh at the fact that no one got it... (full context)