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The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House


by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Do you see Hill House's horrors as being different for its male and female inhabitants? If yes, then what differences did you notice, and how do they suggest the novel's take on gender issues? If no, explain why you don't see any differences, and what this equal-opportunity terror has to say about gender in the novel?
  2. Assume that the ghostly manifestations are the result of Eleanor's blooming telekinetic ability. What does this suggest to you about the character of Eleanor?
  3. The Haunting of Hill House was first published in 1959. What aspects of 1950s culture or society do you see the novel critiquing, criticizing, or commenting on? Suggestions: family life, economic disparity, descriptions of womanhood or manliness, or, hey, maybe even the Cold War.
  4. Imagine that the events of Hill House took place this year. How would the story, themes, and characters change to become relevant for our brave new(ish) world?
  5. Most Gothic novels are written in an ornate style, but Jackson chooses a simplistic style with a conversational word choice. What does it add to this harrowing tale? Do you find that it detracts in some places? Finally, why do you think Jackson writes the novel in this style? Does she hit that mark successfully?
  6. While we're discussing style, how about we touch on tone? There are a lot of pretty funny moments in the novel. What purpose do you think these comedic asides serve in this horror story?
  7. For most of the novel, we're glued to Eleanor and her perspective. But at the very beginning and very end of the story, the narrative voice moves into full-on omniscient voice. Why do you think the narrative is structured like this? What does this add to the story? Does it take away from Eleanor's story to not have her center stage the whole time? (Check out our "Narrator Point of View" section if you need help getting started.)
  8. The Big One: what is it about Hill House that allows it to consume Eleanor's sanity so efficiently? Or, what is it about Eleanor that allows Hill House to consumer her sanity?
  9. Pop that popcorn and get a big gulp of soda because it's a double-feature matinee. Snatch up a copy of both the 1963 and 1999 versions of The Haunting. What aspects of the novel do you see these two films working with? How are they different from each other, and how do they diverge from the novel? Finally, write down the theme for each movie (a sentence or two). How do these themes compare to the themes of the novel, and what does this suggest to you?
  10. Adaptation Time. If you had a chance to adapt this novel into any other format, what would it be? Graphic novel? Video game? Facebook social media attraction? Painting? Get as imaginative as you'd like. Please remember to explain your choice and what aspects of the novel you'd hope to play with in your adaptation. How would you do it?

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