‘The link between this book and another subversive fairy tale, Orwell’s Animal Farm, might not be apparent, but in fact Orwell’s is simply a politicized treatment of the theme Jackson confronts on a social level: ignorance is bliss. But it’s rarely accidental. In an ironic gesture of fate that I’m sure she would appreciate if not exactly welcome, Jackson’s relegation to high schools and rural libraries has left the intellectual audience she wrote for ignorant of her words, whereas the rural clod hoppers she wrote about have access to her books but pass by them unknowingly. Only their children read them, and, I imagine, learn from Merricat’s example: if the life you see is ugly shut your eyes, and dream of a better one. My mother’s grave is yellow, would you like a cup of tea? The poison in Jackson’s cup is the dark side of the imagination, the unconscious, but it’s also the bitter antidote to a more quotidian but no less certain death, of conservatism, or provinciality, or just plain old-fashioned boredom.‘
This 1997 essay by Dale Peck, written during the wilderness years when Shirley Jackson was largely out of print and unappreciated, discusses her posthumous relegation to the dimmest corner of his school library and weaves personal recollection with a colourful appraisal (with spoilers) of We Have Always Lived in the Castle.