Study Guide

Mr. and Mrs. Dudley in The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson

Mr. and Mrs. Dudley

Mr. and Mrs. Dudley have been the caretakers of Hill House for as long as anyone can remember. Eleanor meets Mr. Dudley briefly when he lets her through the gates of Hill House, and the characters occasionally run into Mrs. Dudley in the kitchen as she's preparing their meals. Neither Dudley stays at Hill House after dark.

The Dudley duo mostly serves as comic relief—especially Mrs. Dudley, whose stringent time schedule and sense of order are almost obsessive-compulsive.

But the Dudleys also serve another purpose. Like Arthur and Mrs. Montague, they seem completely immune to Hill House's haunts, though we can't say for certain why. Perhaps Hill House finds them amusing. Alternatively, if the bogeymen originate from Eleanor's mind, maybe it's just that Eleanor pays them no attention, so they fly under her macabre radar. Or maybe the house only preys on people with psychological problems. Even if they're a little weird, both Dudleys, like Mrs. Montague and Arthur, seem pretty stable, after all.

But our favorite explanation is simply that the Dudleys lack imagination. Mrs. Dudley and Mr. Dudley see the world in a very ordered manner. Look at how they keep Hill House in tip-top shape, for example. Everything runs like clockwork. This worldview of pure order means that the disorder of the paranormal just doesn't register with the Dudleys. They're like colorblind people who can't register certain colors on the spectrum. Sure, they refuse to stay after dark, but that doesn't mean they've necessarily seen anything scary. It could be superstition, or it could just be the time they decide to punch the clock.

Either way, these two have survived Hill House for years and will probably survive it for many more.

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