Childhood in Stasis

The night of the exorcism, Merry acts as if nothing is wrong, clinging to Marjorie’s back and asking her to carry Merry away like a backpack. Although young Merry does change throughout the filming of the show, she forces herself to act as if everything is fine and at least somewhat the same. Sometimes, this is for the cameras, as Merry notes when she goes into the basement to look for a snack because she would “feel pressure to perform” for her father and the TV producers if she went into the kitchen (118). She also launches herself around the room while the family watches TV the night before the exorcism, as energetic as she had been before Marjorie became ill and looking to receive a “sign of approval” from Ken and Barry (194). When the TV crew comes into Marjorie’s room to set up for the exorcism, Merry yells for them to stay out, hoping she can remain with Marjorie and their mother, safely sequestered away from the men and their prayers downstairs.

In her blog post, Claire discusses the idea of the liminal in the novel and how the exorcism should serve as a sort of rite of passage but leaves Marjorie hanging in the air forever. Merry is similarly in a sort of stasis, trapped by her desire to keep the family unchanged, or at least to avoid this particular night/rite. *Spoilers ahead* When the rest of the family dies, they end up at the table, eating pasta exactly like they did in the beginning of the book, before Marjorie really showed signs of mental illness. Merry is found under the table, hiding like she did so many times. These parallels lock Merry’s childhood into a sort of loop, one that we never see break, just as we never really see Marjorie fall.

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