The Mars Room Themes & Motifs

Rachel Kushner
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Rules and Authority

Kushner’s novel offers strident critiques of the contemporary prison system, none more severe than the excessive presence of rules and authority that deny prisoners dignity and autonomy. There are rules that cover every possible behavior or thought in Stanville. As Romy muses after first arriving, “there were rules about everything, appearance and thought and letters and language, food and attitude and scheduling, tools and implements and use” (81). The run-on sentence and use of repetition here (with that continuing strand of “ands”) dramatizes the saturation of rules into every aspect of prison life. The rules are so ubiquitous that they can be contradictory, leading to a sense of perpetual guilt—and constant threat of punishment—among the inmate population. The rules also essentially function as a challenge to the inmates’ humanity, by treating them as interchangeable units who have to behave in an identical...

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This section contains 2,230 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Mars Room Study Guide
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