Merricat is unique in our list of literary horror heroines in that in addition to being the protagonist of her horror story, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, she's also the monster. The textbook definition of an unreliable narrator, Merricat is the youngest surviving member of the Blackwood family, most of whom were poisoned several years before the story begins. Merricat's the only one of the Blackwoods who has any contact with the nearby villagers, who shun the family out of their belief in older sister Constance's guilt. It's only near the end of the novel that we find out Merricat is the one who murdered her family.
The revelation doesn't come from nowhere—seeing the story through her eyes, it's apparent that something's not quite right with Merricat. She never admits the murders, though, even to herself, which makes the following exchange, after Constance and Merricat have escaped a mob of angry villagers, all the more unsettling:
One of our mother’s Dresden figurines is broken, I thought, and I said aloud to Constance, “I am going to put death in all their food and watch them die.”
Constance stirred, and the leaves rustled. “The way you did before?” she asked.
It had never been spoken of between us, not once in six years.
“Yes,” I said after a minute, “the way I did before.”
I wouldn’t expect anything less from Jackson, though; one of the few commercially successful female writers of the ‘50s and ‘60s, she’s best known for short story The Lottery and seminal horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, neither of which skimp on the creepiness.
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