An Analysis Of “The Haunting Of Hill House” Written by Shirley Jackson
The story takes place during the 1950s at a place called Hill House which has a miserable reputation of being haunted. Dr. Montague wants to investigate this supernatural phenomenon and decides to invite a group of people who themselves have had supernatural experiences to live with him in this stately home to improve his research. Two women named Theodora and Eleanor respond to his request and along with them is Luke, the heir to Hill House to observe it all. During their stay, they encounter many ghostly events but most of them revolve around Eleanor.
As time goes by, she shows her repressed inner emotions because she has never had this feeling of belonging which is a result of her imperfect childhood and how she is trying to get that feeling at Hill House as she finally has chance to do so. The more time she spends there, the more she starts to lose her sanity and enters this realm of absolute reality. If we look at the house itself, it is described as a place where there appears to be the line between sanity and insanity which leads to absolute reality, a place where the concept of reality does not exist.
In the first and the last paragraph of the text the author uses many commas, semicolons and periods to hold the words which are fixed together perfectly. This is because the structure of the house is very solid and is a well-constructed object. Example, “bricks met neatly”. Throughout the text, the author draws a lot of attention towards the structure of the house. Dr. Montague describes it as “a masterpiece of architectural misdirection. The double stairway at Chambord”. The structure of the house is very important because it shows that the house might appear normal at first, but any small changes to it can create an atmosphere of disorder.
On the other hand, Eleanor tries to build this sense of belonging within the house. Her notions of a permanent home are made clearer prior to her arrival at the mansion. One instance is when she passes a house pillared with a wall around it and has windows and doors which are guarded by stone lions and she thought she might live there. After passing it she is on the road and sees a line of oleander trees which form a square with an empty space around it. She thinks that these trees are a protective barrier against outsiders, and she is protected by them with the poisonous branches of the tree if she goes inside it. “Oleanders are poisonous, and could they be guarding something?”. She then talks about a fairyland and how she is protected poisonously from the eyes of the people passing by and if she goes through a protective barrier a spell will be broken. How a king’s daughter will walk upon it with her sandaled feet and the queen will wait for a princess to return and the spell will be broken.
The explanation for this is that when Eleanor was a child her father passed away and ever since then she has felt lost. She cannot remember being happy in her adult life. Most of it had been spent taking care of her mother whom she hated. Eleanor has had no one to love and that is why she is in a constant search for someone to love. One example is how she mentioned she wants to find a woodcutter who will give her shelter if she ever got lost in the forest. She thinks of the world in terms of a child. It might be because all those years of service to her mother and that she is still unconsciously controlling her even after her death like when she wanted to pull at the side of the road she thought “she would be punished if she did” remembering her mother who used to scold for every little mistake she ever made. When she says the spell will be broken she means that she will finally find that need for belonging. The magic world is the real world for her.
When Eleanor finally arrives at the house she thinks that she should have turned back at the gate. “The house had caught her with an atavistic turn in the pit of the stomach, and beyond everything else she was afraid, listening to the sick voice inside her which whispered, get away from here, get away.” She slowly starts to perceive Hill House as her true home. She has no place else to go to now and the sense of being in a home is getting stronger even when the house threatened her numerous times.
We also see how the house slowly starts to take the personality of Eleanor. At first when Eleanor and Theodora go to explore the house, Eleanor wears the red sweater and Theodora the yellow shirt. The color red over here could mean desire, longing, danger and yellow could mean caution and egoism which radiates the different personalities both the characters possess. Later when blood is spilled on Theodora’s clothes, she borrows Eleanor’s clothes and later wears her Red Sweater, a sign that she is taking the personality of Eleanor.
In the end Eleanor is finally consumed by the insanity of hill house. She climbs the stairway of the library where she says “I have broken the spell of Hill House, I am home…. now to climb.” Meaning that she has finally found that sense of belonging which she wanted all her life. But we know throughout the history of the house that whoever has been able to live in it has ended up dead which is surrounded by unnatural circumstances. Dr. Montague knows that these are signs that something terrible is going to happen and that is why he asks Eleanor to leave.
Eleanor was now “possessed” and in the state of absolute reality and when driving her car, she finally had the sense of belonging. She has finally broken the spell and now is in the middle of the oleander square where everything she thinks now is in terms of a fairy-tale. She crashed into the tree because Hill House is where she felt truly happy and did it because she wanted to become a part of the house. It also could be because she had no place else to go. The house had exploited her weakness and wanted her to become a part of it, and she did.
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