Room, the 2010 novel by Emma Donoghue is the story of a mother confined in a 12X12 shed for seven years. She creates a world of wonder for her now five-year-old son Jack out of the meager resources available to her. This is a story in the tradition of the 1997 Italian film Life is Beautiful and Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road. All three of them are about a parent navigating a threatening and horrific world with his or her son – Life is Beautiful is set in the holocaust, The Road in a post- apocalyptic landscape and now Room, in the narrow confines of a shed, pits a mother against a jailer upon whom she is totally dependant. Each narrative describes a grim and beautiful task, that of protecting a child against the obvious threats of an evil world. In so doing, each of the parents preserves the human nature, the joie de vivre, and the integrity of their child from a soul-killing world. I can’t help but wonder about this theme resurfacing in these three popular works in part because each of them also resonates with the everyday and very complicated task of raising a child in our current environment, one that appears benign (especially in comparison to these three universes), but one that actually contains insidious threats posed by everything from fast food, internet porn, and school bullying to our own distraction from the task of parenting by all the demands in our adult worlds.
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