Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson Summary

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize 'Raising Demons,' which is the sequel to Shirley Jackson's 'Life Among the Savages'. While Jackson is best known for writing in the mystery and horror genre, this series is a humorous look at raising children.


Think about some of the interesting, humorous, and strange events that have happened in your family. In Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson, the author develops some of these things that have occurred in her own family into a series of short stories. Each of the stories in this anthology features a first-person narrator who represents the author, her four children, including the eldest son and leader, Laurie, the imaginative daughter, Jannie, the stubborn daughter, Sally, the baby son, Barry, and the narrator's often less-than-helpful husband. The stories humorously chronicle the struggles of an imperfect mother. Let's summarize this memoir.

Chapter One

The first chapter tells about the decision to purchase a new house when the narrator discovers they have too many things, people and animals for the big white house they have been renting for the past nine years. The husband does not agree with a move, but when the community hears the rumor, things move faster than they imagine. Realtors and bankers arrive to discuss the purchase of Mrs. Wilbur's house. The narrator's landlord and new tenants start making decisions about when the narrator should vacate and the 17 tenants currently living in the Wilbur house, which is divided into four separate apartments with four different entrances, are pressured to move. In the end, the family feels as if they don't have a choice.

The narrator and her family rent a furnished summer home and have a great time for several months while waiting for the tenants of their new home to vacate. Moving all of their things into the new space takes a couple of days. The narrator ''gave in to kind of irresistible nostalgia'' and drives by their old house, which is now unrecognizable as it is yellow and missing the four pillars.

Chapter Two

The next chapter describes a time that the narrator is invited to go out of town for two days to visit some friends. The husband encourages her to go, saying, ''I am perfectly capable of running this house…You just leave a list of things the baby eats and so on. And who to call if someone gets sick.'' The narrator arranges for each of the children to visit friends while she is gone, prepared meals for the family to eat in her absence, and creates an agenda of activities for her husband to follow. The narrator has a nice weekend with her friends and then returns to an empty house. Her husband has left a note that he has taken the kids to a hamburger stand.

She also discusses a car accident she has with another family while her children were in the car. Both parties blame the other. The other family apparently hopes to make a profit from the accident. The narrator is so upset that she can't speak. Laurie and Jannie invent a tale about moonshiners, cattle rustlers, and Confederates. The other family decides not to press charges. A week later, that family is in another wreck and sues the town.

This chapter is rounded out with some musings about the meaninglessness of birthday cards, and a nostalgic look at old family china and clothespin dolls.

Chapter Three

The third chapter describes the moment that Sally, who is in kindergarten, learns to read. Of course, this new event requires some adjustments to the home, such as providing her a nightlight and purchasing shelves of books. This creates a chain reaction as Laurie discovers that building shelves can be lucrative. He spends his earnings building a fort where he is caught smoking. All of the children vie for the opportunity to read and tell stories to Barry.

As Barry grows older, he begins to have his own opinions about things, such as what he wants to eat. The narrator comments on how difficult it is to form any plan of any kind with so many varying opinions. The narrator concludes that ''making dinner and cleaning up afterward every night was too great an effort to make if all I was going to get was complaints, and anyone who wanted to live on milk and peanut butter from now on was welcome to as far as I was concerned.'' Soon, Barry begins nursery school. The narrator relishes the quiet.

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