Links & questions for East Side Readers discussion
  • How is Merricat Blackwood an unreliable narrator? How much of what she says is true?
  • Discuss the meaning of Constance's name in the story. Does she represent constancy? How so?
  • What are Charles's intentions when he comes to visit the Blackwoods. The author never tells us exactly, but what can you infer from his actions?
  • Compare and contrast Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Clarke. What are their motivations for visiting Constance? Who is a more honest character?
  • Do you think the villagers would behave differently toward the Blackwoods if they really knew them? Why or why not?
  • What do you think Mary Katherine was like before the murders?
  • Discuss Uncle Julian's relationship with Charles Blackwood. How does the relationship change over the course of the story?
NOTE: Many of these contain spoilers  Online discussion at Shelfari of the following questions (spoiler alert!):: (Click here to read online reader replies) --
  • How old did you feel Merricat was during the story? Did she seem younger than her chronological age? She has been described as a “feral, naive child.” What do you think about that description?
  • The house isn't referred to as a 'castle' until the end of the story, but the title says they have 'always' lived in the castle. Why did Jackson title the book this way?
  • Constance seems heavily tempted by the idea of a new life that Cousin Charles offers to her. Why does she stay with Merricat? Is she just spineless, or is there more to it?
  • Discuss the role of class envy in the story. Do you think the now-mutual dislike started with the Blackwoods, or with the townspeople?
  • What were your impressions of Helen Clarke and Mrs. Wright, the two women that came to visit the Blackwoods? Why were they, specifically Helen, still allowed to socialize with Constance? Why did they still want to? And why did Helen bring along Mrs. Wright that last time when she was so obviously aggravated by her questions?
  • What role does Uncle Julian play? Why is he included in the story?
  • Does Merricat actually have supernatural powers? Or is she just superstitious? What's the difference, in terms of her character?
  • What idea or concept in the book did you most struggle with?
  • Why do you think Constance was acquitted of the murder?
  • Is Constance afraid of Merricat? Why or how is she still able to love Merricat? Constance often makes affectionate comments - are these genuine, or is she simply pacifying her sister? 
  • Why do you think Merricat did it? According to her talk with Constance about the sugar, Merricat basically knew what would happen. Was that her whole plan? Was how the whole book ended, with it just being the two of them alone in that house, what Merricat wanted all along?
  • Were you shocked to find out it was Merricat and not Constance? Or was that already your suspicion? How and when did you come to suspect Merricat? 

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