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an image of a burnt tarot card in front of a dark red sky
Cover of first edition
AuthorShirley Jackson
CountryUnited States
GenreSpeculative fiction | Gothic fiction
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Young
Publication date
ISBN978-0143107040 current edition, published by Penguin
Preceded by'The Road Through the Wall 
Followed by'The Lottery and Other Stories 

Hangsaman is a 1951 gothic novel by American author Shirley Jackson. The second of Jackson's published novels, Hangsaman is a bildungsroman centring on lonely college freshman Natalie Waite, who descends into madness after enrolling in a liberal arts college.[1]

The novel takes its title from an old folk ballad and was partially inspired by the disappearance of Paula Jean Welden in 1946.[2][3][4][5][6] Jackson's text mixes satire with psychological elements as her protagonist spends half her time in an imaginary world.[7]


In Jackson's papers, currently held at the Library of Congress, she indicates that she was partially inspired to write Hangsaman after the disappearance of 18-year-old Paula Jean Welden, who set out for a "long walk" on December 1, 1946, and never returned.[1] At the time, Jackson was living in Bennington, Vermont, as her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, was employed at Bennington College, where Welden also attended university.[1]

Plot Summary[edit]

Hangsaman tells the story of Natalie Waite, whose longing to move away from an oppressive home environment sees her attend a liberal arts school similar to Bennington College.[1]