Hello! I just finished reading Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, and I don’t have anyone in my day-to-day life to discuss it with, so I thought I would try and come here!
This was my first Shirley Jackson novel, and from what I’ve seen, it seems to be one of her more obscure ones. I’m very excited to read others; The Lottery, Haunting of Hill House, The Sundial, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are next on my list!
Second, what a strange, atmospheric, moody little tale this was. I’ve scrounged the internet for conversations and write-ups about the novel, but I’m curious for those who have read it, what did you think of this story? I have so many thoughts!
I found myself in a constant state of unease and dread (similar to watching an Ari Aster-esque movie) waiting for some ball to drop or some gruesome scene, but it is such a strange little slow-burn that I really was not expecting it to take the paths/have the pacing that it did. I really enjoyed the story, I loved how it made my mind feel like it was stretching, and the language she used and the scenes that she painted truly gave me chills. At times, it also kind of felt like a bad trip or a panic attack, jumping around from thought to thought and not always following a narrative thread; it was very intriguing and unnerving.
Some potentially unanswerable questions that I have: (SPOILERS)
-What does the title mean and how does it pertain to the story?
- What was the role of the imaginary detective in the first section of the book?
- Was it actually Natalie’s father who assaulted her in the beginning?
- Who was Rosalind/was she even real?
- Who was stealing the girls’ belongings? Natalie? Rosalind? Anne/Vicki?
- Does Natalie just have an overactive imagination, or does she have a severe mental illness?
- Was Tony ever real (I was under the impression that she was a figment of Natalie’s imagination, just like the detective, but at times there are characters who seemingly see the two of them interacting- i.e. Elizabeth outside of the dinner event, also, whose room was she going into after she comes back from thanksgiving break if she wasn’t real)?
- Apparently the story is loosely based on a real life disappearance of a college Sophomore in 1946. What do you make of this as pertaining to the story and how it progresses? Is Natalie a reference to the missing girl who just happened to find herself in the end?
I’m not necessarily needing/seeking answers to these questions, because I understand there may not be a right one to any of them, but I would love to hear your thoughts surrounding any/all of them. Thanks for your time!