Quotes from Hangsaman

Shirley Jackson ·  225 pages

Rating: (2.3K votes)


“Poor things, she thought - do they have to spend all this energy just to surround me? It seemed pitiful that these automatons should be created and wasted, never knowing more than a minor fragment of the pattern in which they were involved, to learn and follow through insensitively a tiny step in the great dance which was seen close up as the destruction of Natalie, and far off, as the end of the world.

They had all earned their deaths, Natalie thought, by a job well done - the woman in the seat ahead who had never needed a face, had perhaps been given for her part only the back of a head and a dark cloth coat collar, the man in the seat next to Natalie, a full-dress part, even to the watchchain and the grimy shirt collar - had not this same man, as a matter of fact, been close to Natalie in the station, memorising her face so that although when next they met she would not know him, he would be able to identify her, winking and gesturing with his head to the others, murmuring perhaps to the bus driver, 'That one, there.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“Perhaps tomorrow I shall pick up one of the houses, any one, and, holding it gently in one hand, pull it carefully apart with my other hand, with great delicacy taking the pieces of it off one after another: first the door and then, dislodging the slight nails with care, the right front corner of the house, board by board, and then, sweeping out the furniture inside, down the right wall of the house, removing it with care and not touching the second floor, which should remain intact even after the first floor is entirely gone. Then the stairs, step by step, and all this while the mannikins inside run screaming from each section of the house to a higher and a more concealed room, crushing one another and stumbling and pulling frantically, slamming doors behind them while my strong fingers pull each door softly off its hinges and pull the walls apart and lift out the windows intact and take out carefully the tiny beds and chairs; and finally they will be all together like seeds in a pomegranate, in one tiny room, hardly breathing, some of them fainting, some crying, and all wedged in together looking in the direction from which I am coming, and then, when I take the door off with sure careful fingers, there they all will be, packed inside and crushed back against the wall, and I shall eat the room in one mouthful, chewing ruthlessly on the boards and the small sweet bones.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“The gap between the poetry she wrote and the poetry she contained was, for Natalie, something unsolvable”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“She brought herself away from the disagreeably clinging thought by her usual method - imagining the sweet sharp sensation of being burned alive.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“You see,” said Tony, her voice still soft so as not to be overheard, but somehow fierce and angry, “it frightens me when people try to grab at us like that. I can’t sit still and just let people watch me and talk to me and ask me questions. You see,” she said again, as though trying to moderate her words and explain, “they want to pull us back, and start us all over again just like them and doing the things they want to do and acting the way they want to act and saying and thinking and wanting all the things they live with every day.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman



“My ambitions for you are slowly being realised, and, even though you are unhappy, console yourself with the thought that it was part of my plan for you to be unhappy for a while. The fact that you associate intimately with girls who do not care for the things you do should strengthen your own artistic integrity and fortify you against the world; remember, Natalie, your enemies will always come from the same place your friends do.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“It isn't any single thing," Mrs. Waite repeated earnestly, the tears on her cheeks, "It's just that—well, look, Natalie. This is the only life I've got—you understand? I mean, this is all. And look what's happening to me. I spend most of my time just thinking about how nice things used to be and wondering if they'll ever be nice again. If I should go on and on and die someday and nothing was ever nice again—wouldn't that be a fine thing? I get to feeling like that and then I think I'll make things be nice, and make him behave, and just make everything all happy and exciting again the way it used to be—but I'm too tired.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“On either side of Natalie as she walked toward her own room were doors: perhaps behind one door a girl was studying, behind another a girl was crying, behind a third a girl was turning uneasily in her sleep. Behind a certain definite door downstairs Anne and Vicki sat, laughing and speaking in loud voices whatever they chose to say; behind other doors girls lifted their heads at Natalie's footsteps, turned, wondered, and went back to their work. I wish I were the only person in all the world, Natalie thought, with a poignant longing, thinking then that perhaps she was, after all.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“It really is an instinct, the knack of dealing with irrational people, Natalie was thinking; I suppose any mind like mine, which is so close, actually, to the irrational and so tempted by it, is able easily to pass the dividing line between rational and irrational and communicate with someone drunk, or insane, or asleep.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“For one thing, it had suddenly come to Natalie that when people were sober they repudiated everything they had done when they were drunk, and when they were drunk they repudiated everything they had done when they were sober.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman



“Dearest dearest darling most important dearest darling Natalie-this is me talking, your own priceless own Natalie, and I just wanted to tell you one single small thing: you are the best, and they will know it someday, and someday no one will ever dare laugh again when you are near, and no one will dare even speak to you without bowing first. And they will be afraid of you. And all you have to do is wait, my darling, wait and it will come, I promise you. Because that’s the fair part of it—they have it now, and you have it later. Don’t worry, please, please don’t, because worrying might spoil it, because if you worry it might not come true.
Somewhere there is something waiting for you, and you can smile a little perhaps now when you are so unhappy, because how well we both know that you will be happy very very very very soon. Somewhere someone is waiting for you, and loves you, and thinks you are beautiful, and it will be so wonderful and so fine, and if you can be patient and wait and never never never never despair, because despair might spoil it, you will come there, someday, and the gates will open and you will pass through, and no one will be able to come in unless you let them, and no one can even see you. Someday, someone, somewhere. Natalie, please”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“He seemed about to go on in this strain, which was a favorite of his, but then recollected himself, and said wryly, "I reveal myself more with every word. I am honest, Natalie, and sometimes ashamed of it."

"I always am, when I'm honest," Natalie said.

"Are you?" he asked with interest. "Do you know when you're being honest?"

"Usually," Natalie said. "If I'm surprised at myself for saying it thinking it, it's honest.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“Perhaps—and this was her most persistent thought, the thought that stayed with her and came suddenly to trouble her at odd moments, and to comfort her—suppose, actually, she were not Natalie Waite, college girl, daughter to Arnold Waite, a creature of deep lovely destiny; suppose she were someone else?”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


“What a silly routine, Natalie thought, not realizing, sitting there alone on the stool in the center of the ring of girls, how she was jeopardizing her own future in college, her own future for four years and perhaps for the rest of her life; how even worse than the actual being a bad sport was the state of mind which led her into defiance of this norm, this ring of placid, masked girls, with their calm futures ahead and their regular pasts proven beyond a doubt; how one person stepping however aside from their meaningless, echoing standards, set perhaps by a violent movement before their recollection, and handed down to them by other placid creatures, might lose a seat among them by questions, by rebellion, by anything except a cheerful smile and a resolution to hurt other people.”
― Shirley Jackson, quote from Hangsaman


About the author

Shirley Jackson
Born place: in San Francisco, California, The United States
Born date December 14, 1916
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