Prof J recommended that I take a moment to think about the ethical and moral dilemmas inherent in using some of the material that I’ve been looking at–Philip Garrido, Josef Fritzl, Brian David Mitchell, other monomaniac sex criminals who kept young women as prisoners.
I understood and appreciated her advice in an intellectual way–the same way I’ve been analyzing and reading these cases–even reading Jaycee Dugard’s memoir–in a clinical fashion.
I didn’t know how clinical until I read Room, by Emma Donoghue. It’s a novel that uses as a loose jumping off point the Fritzl case, told from the point of view of the 5 year old who is born and raised in the Room in which his mother has been imprisoned. Jack, our narrator, lives–and some could argue, thrives–in a life of order; the mother raising her child with empathy and organization in an 11 x 11′ room. Frankly, the book destroyed me, and reiterated the idea of how to approach this material in an ethical fashion, because Donoghue does so scrupulously.
It’s an extraordinary book, and by using the notion of this entrapment isn’t about the sex crime or the sex criminal at all; the novel is a meditation on a child’s development, the mother-child relationship, the complex social and material dynamics of the world we live in.