In the novel Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson depicts values of people, their fears and terrors, and unveils the characters psychic and importance of sub consciousness. Haunting of Hill House was written in 1959 and is classified as a ghost and horror story. The novel is full of symbolic details and unique settings which help Shirley Jackson to create a unique atmosphere, to depict feelings and emotions of the main characters, their thoughts and inner states. Argument Shirley Jackson symbolically portrays human psychic as the ‘haunted house‘’ itself which influences its ‘master’, his/her destiny and actions.
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Using a unique setting of the house and its description, Shirley Jackson predicts and foreshadows the theme of death, paranormal events and feeling of horror. Using metaphors and similes, Jackson tells readers that the body and spiritual aspects of Eleanor have become so far separated that one can exist only at the expense of the other. “This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope” (Jackson, p. 35). Using a symbol of the ‘haunted house’, Jackson unveils problems and troubles faced by the main character, Eleanor. For Eleanor, the main problem was that she scarified her young years caring for the sick mother. When her mother died, she left unmarried, without money and source of income. Invited as a guest to the House, Eleanor differs from other guests: she does not experience fear or violence towards the house but perceives it as a living being, friendly and timid. A symbol of Hill House represents the infinite interrelations of the self and the world outside; she lives in such terror that her private mind-being might be destroyed that she creates the outer protective shell.
It is possible to say that the setting of the house is used as a study of the tripartite division and identity of the self. Jackson depicts the house as a living being which influences life of the main characters and their destiny; it considers the material world as manifestation of the spiritual. “It’s the crazy house at the carnival” (Jackson). The house is the total human being, its three parts functioning as one; the outside construction of the house is like the body; the dark tarn is a mirror or the mind: “now the house shivered and shook, the curtains dashing” (Jackson, p. 202). There is nothing intellectual here; everything is mad and improvisatory, and Eleanor succeeds just so far as he is able to adapt herself to a mad, paranormal world.
The actions and behavior of the characters are depicted through the symbol of death. Death became not an event or an action nor a condition of total non-being but a series of seductive postures. The main characters, Dr. John Montague, Eleanor and Theodore, Luke Sanderson, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley are all experience feelings of horror and fear. The feeling of isolation or the sense of personal loneliness can actually become means of insight into the nature of the self and the world. For somehow, the imagination tended to lose itself in the process of going out or of making the material world conform to the imaginative premise. Using metaphors and repetition techniques, Jackson unveils that the material world is too often unyielding; instead of the mind’s willing a comprehension, the mind lost itself and became the object as an act of submergence and identification. For instance, when Eleanor hears the sound she thinks: “the oddest part of this indescribable experience was that Theo should be having it too” (Jackson, p. 129). There is no verifiable consistency in any of these treatments of the human will and behavior; no one character is very much like any other and no single motive or action has very much relation to others. Using symbolic interpretations, Jackson forces readers to perceive the fracture or dislocation of human faculties as different every time such an event occurs. Eleanor suffers and commits a suicide because of the excess of emotion over intelligence, is impelled to give herself up and pay the death penalty because she may thereby return to full selfhood or primal being. Her psychic, as ‘the haunted house’ kills her: “I am really doing it, I am doing this all by myself, now, at last; this is me, I am really really really doing it by myself” (Jackson, p.245). Then, she thinks: “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?” (Jackson 245). Even if the argument is not true, the work has to be reevaluated: the house can be compared with the beyond and the paranormal outside control of human beings. Thus, in both cases, death will be the completion of the life cycle; it restores that totality of being with which one began existence or which one might have had in some prior existence but which, in the inevitable chaos of this earthly life, is more and more destroyed.
In sum, the only permission Jackson may have for such a psychology of human behavior is the apparent conviction she had that life consists of the disjunction of sides of the self. The protagonist, in another respect, is compulsively driven toward death because, if life is the condition of fatal separation of the human body, mind, and spirit, death or whatever afterlife there may be is the unification of these faculties
Jackson Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House, Penguin, 1984.