Escape is an aspect that people yearn for at least once in their life. Whether it be from a relationship or a situation as toxic as being held hostage, the notion that escape will lead to a content life is not always true. In the novel Room, Emma Donoghue proves how one’s escape does not define their freedom and peace but rather leads to feelings of disillusionment, distressed family bonds, overwhelming uneasiness, and a need for closure.
The feeling of disappointment as a result of discovering something that is not as promising as one anticipates it to be is strongly portrayed through the protagonists, Jack and Ma. Their freedom, which is what they have been eager to obtain for many years, is blighted by the strong presence of paparazzi. Throughout the novel, the paparazzi are referred to as vultures, symbolically representing how they are constantly hunting for a captivating story. Jack begins to understand their intentions when he says, “We don’t want to be bugged by the paparazzi which is the vultures with their cameras and microphones” (Donoghue 191).
Later on, when Ma and Jack are finally able to step outside the clinic, their time is cut short when Jack sees a “helicopter full of paparazzi trying to steal pictures of him and Ma” (212). Ma’s belief that the outside will be just as she left it is another example which portrays her feelings of disappointment. After the escape, Ma is given new clothes and is told, “That’s how they’re wearing them these days” (186), which shows how society has continued to change during her years of confinement. When deciding whether or not to do an interview, Ma is told that “sooner or later there is going to be bills like she would not believe” (199), and she realizes that she is no longer a teenager, but rather a single mother with responsibilities. Eventually, Ma comes to understand that the life in the outside world does not stop just because her life seems to come to an end. She then concludes, “Everything feels different, but it’s because I’m different” (231). Readers are shown how Ma’s sudden change in lifestyle prevents her from realizing that the outside world is not how she left it.
Jack also struggles with strong feelings of disappointment as he experiences life outside Room. During his therapy sessions with Dr. Clay, Jack constantly compares his life in Room with his life now: “I never know when sounds are going to happen and make me jump.
… In Outside, the time’s all messed up, I can hardly guess what time it is” (192). When Dr. Clay attempts to explain that the outside world is safe, Jack goes on to say that “In Room he was safe and Outside is the scary” (219). Readers are able to see the disillusionment that is created by hope and excitement causing Jack and Ma to be disappointed by the reality of their situation. Secondly, despite the extremely strong mother-son relationship that Jack and Ma possess, their great escape results in them becoming distressed with one another.
When they are “in Room, Jack and Ma have time for everything” (286), because they only have each other. During Ma’s interview, she admits, “When our world was eleven foot square, it was easier to control” (236). Unfortunately, the real world outside of their confined shed consists of many more people than just Ma and Jack, and Jack begins to feel neglected because he does not have her all to himself like he did in Room. When Ma receives a phone as a gift from her brother, Jack aggressively uses it and is told to be gentler because it is her gift, not Jack’s.
Jack replies by saying, “I didn’t know it was hers-not-mine. In Room everything was ours” (220). Readers are able to see how the outside world has started to perturb on their seemingly unbreakable bond. Another example of a distressed family bond is the relationship between Grandpa and Jack. Upon their first encounter, Grandpa is “looking at the table, he is all sweaty on his face” (225). He then admits to his actions and says, “I can’t be in the same room. It makes me shudder” (226).
Not only do his fearful actions affect his relationship with his only grandson, they also negatively impact his relationship with his only daughter. Jack means everything to Ma, but Grandpa believes “she would be better off without him” (227). Hence, it is clear that separation from one’s family for a long period of time does not unquestionably mean that one will be on great terms with them.
Moreover, the past can truly define an individual’s future, as it inundates one’s decisions and leads to an overwhelming sense of uneasiness and anxiety. This is strongly portrayed through Jack and Ma’s separation anxiety from each other. After the escape, Dr. Clay tries to give Ma a checkup in another room without Jack, to which Ma immediately replies, “Jack stays with me … he’s never been out of my sight and nothing happened to him … all these years, I kept him safe” (167).
Despite being across the hall from each other, Ma feels uneasy about leaving Jack under someone else’s supervision. Similarly for Jack, mundane tasks such as sleeping in separate beds and taking showers one at a time becomes an arduous burden. Ma tries to console Jack but must force herself to remember that Jack is starting a completely new life rather than simply returning to an old one. Another example of overwhelming discontent is Jack’s separation anxiety and uneasiness from being away from Room. Despite the numerous weeks passing, Jack struggles with adjusting to the standards of a regular life and Ma must remind him that “they do not have to do the same as they used to” (184). As more weeks pass and Jack is walking the streets with Grandma, “in a store window he sees squares that are like Room, cork tiles, Grandma lets him go in to stroke one and smell it but she will not buy it” (286). This portrays Jack’s compelling connection to Room and how he must face the struggle of slowly withdrawing himself from that emotional connection. The novel Room also portrays Ma’s concern for Jack that he will not behave normally because of his uncommon childhood.
During her interview, Ma insists, “Jack had a childhood with her, whether you’d call it normal or not” (237). Despite this, the interviewer argues, “Everyday he needed a wider world, and the only one you could give him got narrower. You must have been tortured by the memory of everything Jack didn’t even know to want” (237). Not only does this further Ma’s worrying for Jack’s future, but it is also what unfortunately triggers Ma’s suicide attempt.
Readers can therefore distinctly see how attempting to escape the past leads to overwhelming and uncontrollable unease which may direct an individual in the opposite direction from their future plans. Furthermore, Donoghue proves how escapism advances the need for closure. Attaining closure means to have found the ability to give something up that was once very important in life. Grandma finds closure for Ma’s absence by grieving her loss, and then gathering her strengths: “She always told herself their precious girl must have had her reasons for disappearing and one fine day she’d get in touch again” (188). As Ma asks more questions, Grandma answers them and admittedly says, “A social worker told us kids your age sometimes just take off” (188).
After being asked where all of Ma’s old belonging are, Grandma “feels just terrible about dropping it all off at the Goodwill, it is a counselor at the grief group that advises it” (225). Readers are able to comprehend that Grandma grieves her loss by consulting a social worker as well as a counselor at the grief group. Despite this, she gathers her strengths by remembering Ma in a positive manner. Another prominent example of finding closure in the novel is when Jack yearns to go back to see Room. Upon seeing it after numerous weeks, Jack says a final goodbye to all the objects he once personified as his friends. As he leaves, Jack says, “I look back one more time.
It’s like a crater, a hole where something happened. Then we go out the door” (321). This moment is pivotal in Jack’s character development, and readers see how if Jack were to come back to Room days after his escape rather than weeks, he undoubtedly would have wanted to stay. Nevertheless, Jack finds his closure and is able to give up the only world he has ever known.
Therefore, Jack and Grandma demonstrate how it is possible to composedly move on from something that was once very important to them. Succeeding the analysis of numerous passages throughout the novel, whether it is a minor example or a plot-twisting event, Emma Donoghue clearly portrays plentiful examples of how escape does not define one’s freedom and peace. Despite the many motivating and pivotal character developments, Room argues how negative outcomes such as perceiving the world as a disillusion, afflicted kinships, overwhelming malaise, and a need for closure can result from escaping a pernicious situation.