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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - American Literature Essay

7 pages
1781 words
Harvey Mudd College
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The Haunting of Hill House is an American gothic novel which was authored by Shirley Jackson in 1959. The story follows the supernatural mansion, Hill House, which was built many years before the composition of the story, with four main characters who are the occupants of the house. In the beginning, Dr. John Montague who is an investigator of supernatural is interested in finding out if there are ghosts in the Hill House, and that makes him hire the house for the summer so that he can conduct his investigation. Although Montague decides to invite other people, only Theodora and Eleanor show up for the summer and Luke is sent by his aunt who is the owner of the mansion. The investigator starts conducting his inquiry, but they are faced with challenges as they experience unusual happening during the night. Apart from hearing scary sounds and seeing ghosts move in the halls, the occupants of the house also suffer weird writing on the walls of the Hill House. Mrs. Montague joins the house later in the story, and at this time, Eleanor is possessed thus the need to leave the mansion and go home. Whereas she declines Dr. Montagues request to return home, she decides to depart on a later scene but commits suicide after driving her car into a tree. The primary objective of this reading is to highlight the importance of community, the way the surroundings influence peoples personality, and how the society might determine individuals fate.

First, Shirley Jackson applies the theme of dissatisfaction in explaining the influence of community in peoples lives. Eleanor is the protagonist of the story, and it is evident that she is dissatisfied with her life because of societal influence. Arguably, discontent is what forces Eleanor to move into the mansion although people believe that ghosts possessed it. Previously, her mother and the family as a whole urge Eleanor to stay at home, but she goes against their wishes and decides to move into Hill House. Afterwards, Eleanor is not content with the other members of the house as they develop a weak relationship at a later stage in the reading. Lack of contentment between her and the other tenants creates a lousy atmosphere which forces her to leave the premises (Boyle 415). Moreover, Dr. Montague who is the investigator is not content with his education as well, hence the need to take a break during the summer so that he can carry an assessment of the house. Lack of gratification for Dr. Montague is influenced by the society since he has the pressure to achieve the best from his career. Theodora was yet another occupant of the house, and the main reason why decided to move into Hill House during the summer was that she was not okay with her roommate. Arguably, Theodora might have had higher expectations from her roommate, but she was disappointed, thus displeasure and the need to stay away from her friend for a while. Lastly, while Luke is another member of the house, he does not display dissatisfaction like the other members, but it is his aunt who sent him to Hill House since she was not comfortable with Luke. Relatively, Lukes aunt is not pleased with his presence since the community has its standards which Luke has failed to meet so that he delights his aunt.

Second, the writer of The Haunting of Hill House uses fear as a theme to emphasize the influence of the community on humans lives. Dr. Montague depicts fear of failure as he decides to move into the house so that he can prove other people that he is the best investigator. Although many people have deserted Hill House, Dr. Montague believes that that the house is free from spirits and that is what pushes him to conduct investigations in the house. Moreover, it is the fear of loneliness which forces Montague to invite assistants in Hill Houses while conducting investigations. Whereas he believes that he can achieve the results alone, the investigator is not ready to live alone in the house especially during the night. Comparatively, Eleanor who is the protagonist in the reading is pressured by the society, and that is the reason why she cannot live on her own. Although demons possess the lady, she declines to leave Hill House because the other three members are like family to her, hence the fear of loneliness (Heitman 31). Furthermore, Shirley Jackson manages to use fear of commitment in displaying how the community has power in peoples decisions. After Montague hired the Hill House for investigations, the owner of the mansion decides to send her nephew, Luke, to live with the occupants since she was not dedicated to providing for Lukes daily needs. The Hill House community is gothic, resulting in the creation of fear at night. The text provides that the house had assistants called Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, but they refuse to stay overnight since they are afraid of demons that live in the mansion. Later that night, the supernatural takes charge of the house, and the four individuals who are inside are scared because of the weird activity happening in the mansion.

Third, the family also makes up the community, and that is why Shirley Jackson exhausts the power of family as a theme. Although Eleanor is interested in leaving their home so that she can go on a journey of self-discovery, her sisters are not happy, and they try to bar her from leaving. Still, Eleanor manages to go to Hill House where the theme of family recurs as the protagonist achieves happiness from her new family. The author provides that Eleanor was happy at the houses since she did not want to leave even after the supernatural possession (Heitman 35). Perhaps, the sole reason for writing about the relationship between Eleanor, Luke, Theodora, and Montague was to depict that family as a community controls peoples decisions. Furthermore, the author introduces the reader to Mrs. Montague later in the reading as she decides to visit the house for investigation. It is likely that Mrs. Montague went to Hill House to aid with assessment since her husband had failed to achieve the expected results.

Furthermore, The Haunting of Hill House makes the use of freedom as a theme in discussing the powers of the community. It is possible to observe that Eleanor is the central character in the reading as she is used to highlighting freedom. While at Hill House, Eleanor seeks freedom, but she is not successful as she loses stability. Subsequently, Dr. Montague forces her to leave the mansion since she is possessed and that hinders her from achieving freedom. Lukes aunt is fed up with his nephew and seeks freedom by sending him away to the house. Arguably, Luke might have denied his aunt freedom since he depends on her for basic needs. However, there is a possibility that the aunt would feel she is free from bondage if she starts to live alone (Boyle 418). Relatively, the author also uses Theodora to communicate to the reader about importance liberty in the society. At the opening of the reading, Shirley Jackson states that Theodora left her roommate since they had disagreed, hence the confinement feeling. Theodora moved to Hill House so that she could enjoy freedom from her roommate.

Moreover, the novelists also themes sacrifice as a noble element which can change the society. Dr. Montague sacrifices his time so that he can better the community by investigating the issue of supernatural at the house. It is essential to understand that Montague hired the house during summer when other people were out having fun. Moreover, the house at the hill was deserted by everybody since it was infamous with the supernatural. Regardless, Montague sacrifices his time so that he can find a solution concerning the mater. Although he fails to realize success during his assessment, Mrs. Montague also forfeits her time and moves into the house during a later stage to assist with the inquiry. More so, Eleanors sisters and mother request her to sacrifice her interest of exploring the world so that she can remain at home. Despite Eleanors decline to sacrifice for the family, it is evident that sacrifice is an essential factor in the community and the sisters and mother would have benefited if she did not leave. Whereas Luke was sent away by the aunt who is the owner of the mansion, he could have declined her request but sacrifices his happiness so that the aunt can achieve freedom.

In conclusion, the primary objective of this reading is to highlight the importance of community, the way the surroundings influence peoples personality, and how the community might determine individuals fate. The setting of the story in the discussion is a mansion which has supernatural, and that is the reason why Dr. Montague hires the house for investigation. Dr. Montague lives with three other people in the house, and that is how the author manages to create various themes which are associated with the community and its influence on human beings. First, Shirley Jackson has used different types of fear to describe its impact on the community. For example, Lukes aunt is afraid to commit herself to caring for the nephew, hence the reason to ask him to go to Hill House. Furthermore, Dr. Montague faces the fear of loneliness which creates the urge to invite other people to the house. While he could have just carried to investigation alone, he is not ready to be lonely, hence the arrival of Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke. Moreover, the paper has provided details on dissatisfaction which is evident in all the characters. For instance, Theodora is frustrated with her roommate, and that is what makes her go to Hill House to seek consolation. Relatively, Dr. Montague is not satisfied with his careers progress since he has not managed to carry out a successful investigation. The urge to satisfy the community based on his profession makes him hire the house during summer so that he can achieve success in detecting whether there are supernatural or if the house is convenient for human stay. Moreover, sacrifice is a noble element in the society, and the author entirely utilizes it in the reading. It is evident from the start that Eleanors sisters and mother urge her to sacrifice her dreams of exploring the world for so that she can stay at home.


Works Cited

Boyle, Molly. ""Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life" by Ruth Franklin." TCA Regional News 2.45 (2016): 410-420.

Heitman, Danny. "Shirley Jackson, master of Halloween fright, was also the owner of an unusual house." The Christian Science Monitor 32.12 (2015): 30-38.


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