By Nava Atlas On Comments 0 Shirley Jackson — occasionally turned to true crime news stories as jumping off points for her novels of psychological terror and suspense. This was apparently the case for her second novel, Hangsaman She went out for a hike on December 1, , and simply never returned. There were, and have since been, theories about what might have happened to Weldon , but neither she —nor her body — were ever found. Slack it for a while.
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It is chilling, hyper-surreal, and told with a mind-altering narrative voice. A girl, Natalie, attends a dinner party where she is possibly assaulted, starts college, drinks a lot of martinis with professors, and goes on long, thought-addled walks.
She manages to create a dense atmosphere of isolation that permeates the spaces between the non-events. Instead, Jackson gives the reader access to only the reverberations of the event.
Several girls report being slapped awake in the middle of the night, but are too startled to identify the culprit. Is it Natalie, slapping and stealing? Jackson litters the work with half-hints I read with the excitement of discovering something amazingly rare in a pile of moldering leaves. For example, Natalie writes gut-wrenching letters home to her father, but the missives may or may not have been intercepted by her mother.
Natalie may or may not be in a sexual relationship with a girl in the dorm, or Natalie may or may not "simply" have an alternate personality brought on by the trauma that we never see directly.
The narrator is a wily one, and it is unclear where Natalie ends and the narrator begins. The two bleed into one another until you cannot distinguish your vantage within the story. Natalie has no "I," and Jackson wisely steers clear of trying to force one.
Jackson leverages the strange, blended narrative persona to excellent effect right from the opening scenes. A detective "interrogates" Natalie… in her mind.
It is only on a second or third read that it sinks in that the exchange between Natalie and her imaginary detective is so very, very strange because the detective is prescient.
His questions can be applied to multiple situations that arise throughout the novel, and it is illuminating that at the time the questions are shared with the reader, they are entirely out of context. I came up from reading it feeling deeply affected, infected.
Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman: What does it mean?
It is chilling, hyper-surreal, and told with a mind-altering narrative voice. A girl, Natalie, attends a dinner party where she is possibly assaulted, starts college, drinks a lot of martinis with professors, and goes on long, thought-addled walks. She manages to create a dense atmosphere of isolation that permeates the spaces between the non-events. Instead, Jackson gives the reader access to only the reverberations of the event.
Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
Her father is a domineering and egotistical writer who keeps a tight rein on Natalie and her long-suffering mother. Little by little, Natalie is no longer certain of anything—even where reality ends and her dark imaginings begin. Chilling and suspenseful, Hangsaman is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of a Bennington College sophomore in Published in , Hangsaman is nominally a bildungsroman about a college freshman named Natalie Waite who attends a Bennington College-like institution.
Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson (1952) – a review