Window Symbolism in Room

Windows have always been an object of symbolism in art and literature. They can be interpreted as a sign of life and hope connecting the inside to the out but they can also symbolise the complete opposite. They can make you feel trapped and isolated as you stare out to the world beyond.

That trail of light often cast by windows can be seen as a glimmer of hope or change yet to come. This is heavily referenced in the 2015 film ‘Room’. Brie Larson plays a mother who has been held captive for years in an enclosed to space. Along with her young son (Jack), she finally gains their freedom which enables the boy to see the outside world for the very first time. The opening scene of the film shows a skylight which provides almost all of the natural light for this single room.

Narrated from Jack’s point of view, the dialogue covering the shot of the window consist of him telling the story of how it brought a sense of life back to his mother. “Once upon a time before I came, you cried and cried and watched tv all day. Until you were a zombie. But then I zoomed down from heaven through skylight into Room. And I was kicking you from the inside and then I shot out onto rug with my eyes open and you cut the cord and said, “Hello, Jack”.” Already we begin to associate the window with being a beacon of hope, through Jack’s eyes he came through the window into the room to bring life and purpose back to his mother.

When it appears for a second time it’s narrated again by Jack again “There’s Room, then outer space with all the TV planets, then heaven.” He’s lying on the floor staring up to, what could almost be considered as a portal to another world. One that so far in five years of his life he is yet to see except on TV. What lies beyond the window is excitement but perhaps also fear as to what’s outside the safe comfort of ‘Room’.

The next time it shows up is only brief. After we see that ‘Ma’ is upset, this time there is rain on the window reflecting the melancholy mood inside, as she reflects on what’s happened to her. Jack’s childhood innocence of what is real and what’s not, acts as a constant reminder of what they are missing. The raindrops trickling down like a tear on a person’s cheek.

A small corner of the window appears when they are stood screaming, first thinking that maybe it’s a way for them to amuse themselves before quickly realise it’s a cry for help. Ma is stood beneath the window in the hope that it’s a weak point in their abusers attempt to sound proof Room. This provides another sign of hope, not just the light shining through but even the glass can be seen as only thin barrier to the outside world that they are hoping to penetrate.

After a traumatic event the window appears to provide hope again, a leaf is stuck on the window. After discussing the real world with Jack, Ma holds him up to the window in an attempt to show that there really is a world beyond. The leaf provides proof of that. The window this time is acting as a bridge between this almost fantasy land with reality. This metaphor reaches its climax when Jack manages to escape room, lying down in the back of the truck he stares up at this open blue sky, which before he had only seen through the window. The hope they both saw through the window has been realised.

Room is based on a book by Emma Donoghue, during the first chapter she writes how Ma and Jack tell what time of day it is through the skylight; "skylight’s getting brighter” “It’s dark in skylight now”. It is also mentioned that their captor installed a soundproofed skylight, so their screaming in the film would have been useless. In literature windows sometimes symbolise an intolerable situation the needs to be escaped and that’s exactly what Donogue intended in this situation . In the current global pandemic, I’m sure that’s how a lot of people are looking at the world. Through closed windows to a world beyond we never could have imagined. High streets abandoned, social distancing in place; to many this is an intolerable situation we can’t escape. We are trapped inside with no clear end date in sight but especially in cities windows remind us of life outside and the world we are trying to get back to.