Imagine being a child and only knowing the world through what you parents have told you exist and what you see through the screen of your tv. Well that is exactly the take that the story room takes. In the beginning section of the room we get introduced to young Jack. A bubbly, energetic four year old turning five. He lives in a secured single-room outbuilding containing a small kitchen, a bathtub, a wardrobe, a bed, and a TV set. He lives with his mom who goes by Ma. All Jack has ever known of is what he has either seen on tv or what his mom has told him. He lives his life only knowing what exists in the 4 walls that he stays in.
The first five years of his life have been spent in a single room, and the only person he knows is his mother, whom he calls Ma. Instead of friends and family, his drawings might detail the other objects in his surroundings—he and his mother refer to “Room,” “Wardrobe,” and “Bed” as if they were other characters in the novel. Donoghue’s novel is not dissimilar to the simple drawings of a child, in which the lettering is plain, but the colors, values, and strokes of the crayon are detailed upon closer inspection.
The character of Jack brings more to the story than just a little kid with his mom. The story being told from his perspective leaves the reader in awe at what a five year old would be feeling while going through something like this. For example like it was mentioned in the paragraph above they have come up with names to objects. So the door is literally a character in the book to Jack. That’s all he knows. Which is eye opening to any reader to find out what a little kid would be going through at a time like this.
As I was reading the section it was definitely eye opening. Things such as when Jack would be sleeping in the wardrobe so that old nick would not see him. And him literally counting squeaks he hears from the bed gives us that rush of how a child would not have any idea about what was going on.
Later on as he sees the marks on his mom he as a child thinks (or at least hopes) that they are dirt but later goes on to realize that they are from old nick. Once Jack had reached the age of five you definitely saw that significant change in his personality. He was constantly asking more and more questions and not just from a child hood wonder. He was asking because he actually wanted to know what was going on around him.
The childhood innocence that was being portrayed throughout the first section was almost eye opening. One part that I found to be shocking was when Jack had said that every night he counts the squeaks that come from the bed while old nick is over. At our age we know exactly was happening but since we see from a child’s perspective it adds a layer to it.
The fact that the whole story was told from the five year olds point of view really made me realize that that is how children go through the world. They do not think that things are as bad as we make them out to be. Which was especially shocking to see that the author would choose to take the story in a new direction per say.
Now throughout the first section I was really able to see Jack grow as a character. At the beginning he only thought how his mom had taught him. He contradicted nothing and just went with it, no questions asked. But once he turned five we begin to see him switch into a very outspoken child. Who is constantly questioning his mom. Thats where I feel that his child hood innocence disappears in a way. His mom accidentally slips things in about the real world and Jack just does not want to believe that they could ever be true.
Tying back into the innocence factor, at one point in the text where it quotes.
“After Nap, Ma and Jack climb up as close to Skylight as possible and play Scream. That’s when they “shout holler howl yowl shriek screech scream the loudest possible” (1.499). This quote as a child is just a game that they play. When in reality being the readers we know that it is the moms attempt to get someone to rescue them. Another moment of innocence is when Ma tells Jack that Old Nick goes into the TV and gets things there.
Jack believes her, but Ma can’t believe that she told that lie, so she tells him the truth. “What we see on TV is… it’s pictures of real things” (2.101).
Well, except for Dora and SpongeBob. Sorry, Jack.
Jack’s mind is totally blown to find out that there’s a whole life Outside Room that isn’t Outer Space. He can’t sleep all night. I find that that part really brings out that innocence that I was talking about. He hears what his mom is saying but because he has only ever lived in room he does not know if he will be able to believe his mother.
As a child when you hear things from your parents you automatically know that they are true, because as your parents they will never lie to you. But when Jack finds out that everything he knows is wrong it deals him out and he does not know if he can believe it.
Which is why I find that the scene where they plan their escape is so fascinating. Because we can read what Jack is thinking we know that he really doesn’t want to try and escape. After one failed attempt he finds it ever harder to process that his mom wants him to pretend that he is dead.
I found that the inclusion of child innocence was used very well to aid in the story. Hearing jacks point of view to things really made me realize how kids think through situations, and why they probably feel overwhelmed with the breaking of the illusion that their parents have left for them their whole life.