American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-5-1973


The dissertation is a critical study of the fiction of Shirley Jackson. It uses a story published shortly after her death in 1965 to express the key to the main themes and concerns of her fiction: "The Possibility of Evil." It is the thesis of the study that Shirley Jack­son's fiction portrays the many incognitoes of evil and the demonic in contemporary life. Through the use of gothic conventions Jackson re­veals the contours of human madness and loneliness in a disintegrating world generally bereft of the meliorating power of love and forgiveness.

Each of her six novels is treated fully: The Road Through The Wall (1948); Hangsaman (1951); The Bird's Nest (1954); The Sundial (1958); The Haunting of Hill House (1959); and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). In addition, the study explores her two collections of short stories collected under the titles The Lottery (1949) and Come Along With Me (1968), as well as numerous uncollected stories.

Shirley Jackson's fiction is part of the American tradition of the gothic romance or tale of terror, and her relation to such authors as Poe, Hawthorne, Henry James, and Flannery O'Connor, among others, is shown throughout the study. With these authors she shares a dark view of human nature. But through the use of gothic, terror, and the gro­tesque, Jackson's fiction not only explores the inner experience of con­temporary life, but also suggests that the recognition and confrontation of the evil in man may be the first step in transcending it.

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Joel M. Jones

Second Committee Member

Gene Frumkin

Third Committee Member

Ferenc Morton Szasz