“The Hero is Married and Ascends the Throne”: The Economics of Narrative End in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Honor McKitrick WallaceUniversity of Tennessee
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring 2003), 173-191

This essay counters Vladimir Propp’s narratological premise with a theory—inspired by Slavoj Žižek—of economic desire in narrative and with an example of how a model of psycho-economic desire operates in the marriage plot of Shirley Jackson’s 1962 novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Any theory of narrative ending must be revised by consideration of how economic and narrative paradigms work in order for the female protagonist to receive a material reward at the end of her narrative. Along with Judith Roof, the argument comes close to despair of ever subverting structures of capitalist production and heterosexual reproduction in the face of “the logics of narrative and Western ideologies of gender,” in particular the logic of narrative closure. One way out of this narrative bind is to question what might be too much emphasis on closure. Readers are urged to resist elevating the formal movement of closure above other movements within the text as a whole, to focus instead on the subversive middle actions of a female protagonist, regardless of the ways she is or is not rewarded in the end.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]