Room, by Emma Donghue


Summary: 5 year old Jack has never left Room. To him, it’s all of reality. But then his mom tells him of an outside world that she lived in before the bad man took her away. He has a hard time believing.



The following is my analysis adapted from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Educated Mind’s description of how to think about a novel. It will have spoilers. 

👽What is the most central life-changing event?

The life-changing event that actually is narrated in the book is when Jack and his mother escape Room and have to start a life outside. Everything seems so strange to Jack, he has to learn to talk to other people, to navigate stairs, to understand the “fame” that he has archived by simple fact of escaping.

👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

At first, I had difficulty with the voice of the narrator doing a 5-year-old voice, but I got used to it. After that, I was completely immersed in the story.

👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

Oh yes, from wanting to escape the room to wanting to go back to the room where he felt things were “normal” this book does a fantastic job of giving a realistic and sympathetic portrayal.

👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?


👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

Jack wants to please his mom, but he is not excited to be brave and escape the room, and when he does escape, he’d like to go back to where it’s safe, quiet, and small. But he can’t go back because the kidnapper has been arrested and, obviously, his mom won’t let him. He repeatedly asks his mom to take him back, or at least to have his stuff from his room. That is his one power, really, is to ask adults to give him what he wants.

👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

Jack is telling the story. As a 5 year old, I don’t think he’s lying, but I think some things may not be perceived the same as the would in an adult’s point of view.

👽Where is the story set? Is it natural or human constructed? If natural, does nature reflect the emotions and problems of characters? Or is the universe indifferent? 

The story is at first set in a room that they have been kept in since the kidnapping of ma and the birth of Jack. It was built by the kidnapper. This is a story in which the universe is indifferent to what happens to the characters. They must make their own way.

👽What style does the writer employ?

First person from POV of a 5 year old.

👽Images and metaphors. Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?

Wow, so many. Anything and everything in the room has a name and a significance to Jack. That’s why he yearns for it all when he escapes.

👽 Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

It does, the story is circular in that it starts in Room and it ends with a final visit to Room to say goodbye.

👽How might the writer’s times have affected her?

You know, I’m not sure. It was written during the Great Recession, but I don’t see how that, or Obama, or any other major event during that time changed the tone or voice of Room.

👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?

Not really, it’s a narrative of escape, a story and nothing more.

4 thoughts on “Room, by Emma Donghue

  1. The book sounds interesting and perhaps a little disturbing. I guess it is a story of our times as we have heard of similar, real life cases of Kidnapped people being held in this way in recent years. It is so ironic that the narrator wants to return to the room at one point.


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