SHIRLEY JACKSON (1916-1965)
Shirley Jackson was an American writer, best known for her horror stories such as the novels "The haunting of Hill House" (1959, considered by critics one of the best horror novels ever written!) and "We have always lived in the castle" (1962, her last novel). The plot twist of this short story, "The pajama party" (1963, also retitled later as "Birthday party") however, gives us a domestic and somewhat boring story compared to her most notable works.
The short story is developed in a quite simple way: Jannie has asked (actually begged) her mother for a pajama party to celebrate her 11th birthday. In return, she promised she would behave and keep her room organized for a month. Her dad thought it was a terrible idea; her brother Laurie agreed and complained about the giggle noises the girls would do.
Eventually, Jannie's mom agreed with the party and began to arrange everything for the guests. She put extra beds into Jannie's room, which was very large and prepared cupcakes and candies. When the girls arrived ( Linda, Kate, Carole and Laura) they moved the party upstairs while Jannie's parents and her older brother enjoyed themselves downstairs.
"The pajama party" sounds different from Jackson's most celebrated stories, even though it's interesting to read a narrative that involves "normal children". The use of quotation marks here is to emphasize that the girls in the story already show adult characteristics such as their clothes (lace-trimmed nightgowns), their private joke "Dickie" and their romantic interests at this age.
The story works as a metaphor to show and explain the difficulties and steps that girls go through from childhood to teenage years. "They were like a pretty bouquet of femininity" showing their feminine characteristics. The pajama party, a traditional children's party in American culture, simbolyzes a route of passage as a last action of a child.
Even Jannie's birthday gifts express such passage - she got an Elvis Presley record (a singer her parents enjoy too). The way the story ends shows that the party itself wasn't even that important: the girls got together but they got "into a fight", which demonstrates imaturity because they're still too young to deal with some problems by themselves. It also shows how shallow their friendship is, meaning they're not real best friends as they claim to be.
Personally I believe the story is important and relevant because it talks about friendship on early ages and is worth knowing for the message it brings, specially for those who are in that "growing up" stage of life.
*Letícia Gomes Cardoso is an intelligent, brilliant and sensitive English teacher, also a student from the English Language Major Course. This review was part of an avaluation of the discipline "The use of Literature as a Resource for English Teaching", taught by me.