Shirley Jackson Biography Essay

Shirley Jackson Biography Essay-33
For her part, Jackson was sure at the start of their relationship that she could control Hyman, and he didn’t dispute that claim.

For her part, Jackson was sure at the start of their relationship that she could control Hyman, and he didn’t dispute that claim.

(Jackson died of an apparent heart attack in 1965, only 48.) The importance of keeping up appearances in polite society was central to Jackson’s affluent upbringing in Burlingame, California, and Rochester, New York.

Her mother’s family was firmly grounded among San Francisco’s wealthy elite, and her father was an executive in the printing business.

She struggled with anxiety, struggled with her weight, struggled with nightmares and sleepwalking.

Like many women of her generation, she was prescribed tranquilizers for her problems.

As Franklin keenly observes, “One of the ironies of Jackson’s fiction is the essential role that women play in enforcing the standards of the community—standards that hurt them most.”In a biography densely packed with anecdotes, letters, highly detailed descriptions, and lengthy, thoughtful analyses of most of Jackson’s work, Franklin paints a picture of Jackson as creatively fulfilled but isolated and unhappy.

She relied on Hyman for critical feedback, but resented her dependence on him.Reading her work today sometimes feels like discovering a detailed prophecy not just of rape culture but of the vitriolic thugs who seem to rule the internet and have somehow invaded politics lately.Seven decades before Donald Trump’s outraged mobs, Jackson unveiled the brutality and contempt that lurk beneath the surface of neighborly human interactions.In the novels and many of the stories she wrote in the middle of the 20th century, the polite banter of seemingly innocent common folk develops into outright mockery, subterfuge, or even violence.When confronted by an unexpectedly hostile world, Jackson’s female protagonists experience a climactic rush of bafflement and betrayal that inevitably spills over into a more private realm of second-guessing, self-doubt, and paranoia.But Hyman soon proved an emotionally inconstant mate, alternating between adoration and dismissiveness.He regularly cheated on Jackson, then relayed the details of his dalliances in letters to her.Jackson relished untangling the process by which women lose themselves.She could stretch the ordeal out over the course of an entire novel, as she did in The Haunting of Hill House (1959), with the slow unraveling of lonely 32-year-old Eleanor Vance.But appearances were something Jackson rejected from an early age with her unruly auburn hair, unconventional style of dress, caustic wit, and swagger.And even though Jackson was confident and outspoken, she could find intimacy dangerous, a dark realm of judgment and scrutiny and deeply personal insults that—not surprising, given her mother’s fixation on social standing—seemed to carry the verdict of the wider culture.


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