The Mars Room is an American Novel written by Rachel Kushner based on Romy Hall, a prisoner serving her two consecutive life sentences at the famous Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility. Romy is convicted for the murder of her stalker, Kurl Kennedy, who was a client at the San Francisco strip club where she worked (Kushner 65). Kennedy stalks Romy’s movement as he believes that they have an intimate relationship. Romy is forced to move to Los Angeles to avoid Kennedy, but he gets her new address from the doorman at the strip club. Outside the prison in San Francisco, Romy has left behind her son, Jackson, under her mother’s care. Inside the prison, she gets to a new reality where there are thousands of women convicted of different crimes. Inside the prisoners, the women struggle to obtain essentials that are deficient yet needed for them to survive. The women are not allowed to talk about crimes that they are convicted of. Also, women are subjected to violence from the guards and their fellow inmates. The Mars Room is a novel that offers the perspective of prisons from a woman prisoner’s point of view on the inside and a free man who is a teacher of G.E.D classes in jail. Arguably, Kushner’s feminist takes on the justice system suggests the exploitive patriarchal system, which cannot accommodate their Frankenstein-like victim/creation. Having helped cause the problem, they seek to perpetuate it.
In the novel, Kushner argues that there is a strange take on morality about Romy’s conviction. Romy killed Kurl Kennedy, who was a client at the strip club, and used to stalk her (Kushner 11). Romy was not pleased with Kennedy’s actions and had to change her residence to stop Kennedy from stalking her. The doorman at the club gave Kennedy Romy’s new address, and he went to stalk her at her new place where she stubbed him on the porch. Romy’s actions were fueled by Kennedy’s behavior to stalk her by creating a monster in Romy as she was uncomfortable and felt insecure. The doorman contributed to murder because if he had not given Kennedy Romy’s address, he would neither have followed her nor meet his death. In the judgment of Romy’s case, morality is questioned because there is no evaluation of the actions of both Kennedy and the doorman, which played a significant role in the murder. There is no consideration of the unwanted pursuit of Romy by Kennedy, which is also a crime. Also, Romy tries to avoid Kennedy by moving to a different area that he was not aware of (Kushner 19). In the ruling, the justice system is unfair by not addressing the Frankenstein trails of Kennedy, which is a common factor in many murder cases.
Kennedy’s murder was a result of Romy stabbing him due to anger and immediate instincts. She was angry that Kennedy was still stalking her even in her new residence. According to the novel, the author is still puzzled about what forced Romy into committing a crime that would prevent her from taking care of her son, who was the most important thing to her. From Romy’s perspective, she explains that her fate had long been sealed before the murder of Kennedy. Romy highlights various attributes that led to her being imprisoned; they include the time she decided to take up the stripping job at The Mars Room, which was very notorious (Kushner 14). She also points out that the time she met Kennedy was an attribute to her fate in prison. Another contributing factor was the doorman when he jokingly gave Kennedy Romy’s new address. Under different circumstances, if Romy had not got the job at the strip club, all the proceedings events would have never occurred. Alternatively, Kennedy brought it all to himself as he decided to stalk Romy at her new residence.
The society plays a great role in each person’s life. Romy suspected that San Francisco, the area she grew up in, was cursed, and evil came out of San Francisco’s grounds (Kushner 11). Romy was brought up in a poor setup by her neglectful mother, who was divorced and addicted to painkillers (Garcia 6). The society was not welcoming to Romy as she was raped at a tender age of 11 years. She became a drug addict together with her friends and later turned into a sex worker. Society contributed to her drug addiction by making the drugs easy to access. There lacked community role models and centers that would have helped in shaping Romy’s character. Romy partly blames her society for providing an environment that had insufficient care.
To sum up, murder is one of the gravest crimes to commit and has unlimited factors that contribute to it. In Romy’s case, having had an undesirable upbringing and working at a notorious strip club, her character was negatively affected. Romy used her immediate instincts when she saw Kennedy at her front porch, and she stabbed him. She did not take time to think of her actions and the outcome of her being imprisoned for life. Various circumstances, such as Kennedy’s stalking habits, led into Romy murdering him. The judgment on Romy’s case was unfair and promoted patriarchy by not questioning Kennedy’s behavior as he had no right to stalk Romy. Also, the doorman had no right to give out Romy’s new address. Although Romy will never see the outside when in prison, she gets to read books brought to her by Gordon, the G.E.D teacher.
Garcia, Maria. Eden’s Inmates: The Inverted American Adam And Inevitable Entrapment In Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room. Diss. Weber State University, 2019.
Kushner, Rachel. The Mars Room: A Novel. Scribner, 2019.