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Critical Review of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

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Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, in which the house itself plays a significant role because the haunted house functions as a central focus of the novel. It is represented as an excellent vehicle that drives all the darkness and the power of supernatural manifestations. Hill House stands on the rural town of Hillsdale. The first paragraph of the novel depicts that it has stood there for about eighty years and might stand for eighty more. It means although the house appears well-built and brawny, it is surely ‘not sane.’ Additionally, when the writer mentions, “whatever walked there walked alone,” it assists the reader to interpret that something non-human, maybe supernatural walks over its floors. Dr. Montague was working on the causes and effects of psychic disturbances in a house commonly known as haunted. It is narrated that he had been looking for an honestly haunted house throughout his life and when he found it there was no chance of letting it go. Being careful and conscientious he short-listed the people with whom he can live in the house and see what happened there. He wrote a letter to a dozen people to spend all or a part of summer at the house mentioning the facilities it had. Only four people responded to his letter, out of which two agreed to come! The characters in The Haunting of Hill House are well-developed, with Eleanor Vance, the highly involved one. Eleanor, thirty-two, has spent most of her adult life caring for her manipulative mother, who always passed passive-aggressive comments to her. She got her name on Dr. Montague’s list because her family was involved in a publicized incident in which a shower of stones had fallen on their house when she was twelve. It is mentioned by the narrator that during her whole life, Eleanor was looking for something like Hill House which depicts that instead of having family and familiar surroundings she felt like a stranger between them. In context to Freud’s principle of repetition and mastery, Eleanor escapes from the reality of living with her sister and brother-in-law whom she never loved. Here, the invitation which she got from Dr. Montague acted like a dream to let her be free from the restrictions of her sister and brother-in-law who didn’t let her use the car that she helped purchase.

All events in the novel majorly revolve around Eleanor, she could not remember ever being truly happy. She lived a life full of isolation and solitary confinement. The obscurities of Hill House architecture run parallel to the obscurities of the human mind, especially Eleanor’s mind. Closed doors, confusing hallways represent the concealed emotions and inconsistencies inside Eleanor. Something important to note about Eleanor’s freedom is that she only lives in the illusion of her freedom but never gets it. On her way to the Hill House, she visualizes a plethora of lives she might live in all the distinct houses. Over and above that, Eleanor’s tour to the Hill House is instructed by Dr. Montague. He instructed all the ways and routes she should follow to reach the Hill House. So, it can be elucidated that she is restricted to the presumptions of a new parental figure, Dr. Montague. To exemplify, Freud discussed a child in his story “beyond the pleasure principle,” who would constantly throw a toy away from him. Then, he would pick his favourite toy and repeat the process. Freud hypothesized that the child was not trying to get pleasure by picking up the toy. Rather, Freud was trying to bring his mother back. Similarly, Eleanor was striving to get the pleasure which she could get in her childhood if she didn’t have such a shrewd mother. The only difference between the two cases is that child was contented in his mother’s presence while Eleanor is fortunate in her mother’s absence. Eleanor hated her mother because she was forced to spend eleven years of her life nursing her.

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Indeed, Eleanor addresses a significant expense to break free of the bonds in which life has placed her. The very vehicle that was both an instrument and a symbol of her escape from her sister becomes the instrument of her death and the gadget that makes her irreversible part of Hill House. She has fulfilled her belief that journeys end with lovers meeting. While heavenly contemplations are auxiliary in the novel, they are critical in the investigation of Eleanor. There is no clear evidence that whether ghosts are at play or the events happening inside the Hill House are generated by Eleanor’s clairvoyance. Eleanor deems that the library smells of death, and she cannot enter it whereas no one else notices the smell. Even, she hears a voice calling her along and she asked whether it belonged to her mother or not. At nighttime, Eleanor is stirred by the loud banging into her room entryway. She even dreams of the night her mother banged on the wall for help, and she didn’t bring the prescription quickly enough. One thing that the novel never explains is whether this oversight was coincidental or whether Eleanor may have mostly wanted or caused it. Thus, it can be explicated that Eleanor’s guilt about her demise is a significant main thrust behind the types of some of the demonstrations.

In a nutshell, it is crystal clear that just as the things are not sane inside the Hill House, where the events are weird and frightening, things are not right inside Eleanor. She is weighed down by guilt and loneliness. The freedom which she wanted is not fulfilled. The hauntings do not come to a halt until Eleanor slips from her room while everyone is asleep. She climbs an unsteady staircase as she was duplicating the companion’s death but was rescued by Luke. After this incident, Dr. Montague concluded that Hill House is having a devastating impact on Eleanor and she must leave. Not certain, but maybe she has caused the rain of stones as a child, the poltergeist type events happening in the Hill House may be the result of her insanity and neurosis. As she proceeds to leave, Eleanor feels she cannot leave Hill House. In a possessive effort to stay in a place which she now recognizes as her home and continuation of herself, she steers the car into the tree, still wondering why these things are happening and why others do not stop her. At last, she is free but she remains at the Hill House as a spirit to walk alone. Her destiny represented that one may get free from single bondage while a new type of bondage and isolation results.

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Critical Review of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Critical Review of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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