Study Guide

The Haunting of Hill House Chapter 4

By Shirley Jackson

Chapter 4

  • Eleanor wakes up after her best sleep in years—in Hill House, of all places.
  • Eleanor remembers being happy last night, too, though she wonders if the others found her silly for being so happy.
  • Theodora runs a bath for her roomie but demands that Eleanor hurry. The poor girl is simply starving for breakfast.
  • The two amigas search Hill House for the dining room, finding it just before resorting to a game of Marco Polo with the boys.
  • Dr. Montague and Luke say they left the doors open for the ladies but the doors all swung shut before Eleanor and Theodora could make their way. Hill House, it seems, is no gentleman.
  • The group decides it's probably best if they search the house after breakfast and get a feel for the lay of the land.
  • Dr. Montague takes this opportunity to discuss Hill House's floor plan. He uses words like "veranda," "billiard room," and "conservatory," so basically, they're staying in the Clue mansion.
  • Mrs. Dudley pops in to remind everyone that she clears the table at ten. She also talks about where the dishes are supposed to be kept. Fussy, fussy.
  • The quartet explores the mansion, propping open doors as they go.
  • When they get to the library, Eleanor decides she can't enter as the "cold air of mold and earth" overwhelms her (4.75).
  • Playing the tour guide, Dr. Montague points out the spiral stairway leading to a trap door in the room. It leads to the turret where that poor girl ended it all.
  • Theodora becomes confused and asks if there are two front doors. Dr. Montague—clearly pleased at getting to share his knowledge—explains that the house's angles are all slightly off. This feature makes it hard for people to make their way through the domicile and puts the place in league with other architectural oddities like the Winchester House.
  • Spooky Shmoopy Snack: The Winchester Mystery House truly is a bit of architectural and historical oddness. Sarah Winchester, née Pardee, married the son the Oliver Fisher Winchester, manufacturer of the famous Winchester repeating rifle. After her husband and son both died prematurely, Sarah fell into a depression and sought comfort in spiritualism. To keep evil spirits from following her around the house, she began adding some insane architecture to her Victorian mansion, including but not limited to: a séance room, doors opening to walls, stairs leading nowhere, seven flights of stairs only rising nine feet, and windows opening to the inside of the house. The mansion can still be visited to this day in San Jose, California (source).
  • Moving on to the drawing room, the group finds massive marble statuary of Hugh Crain and his daughters. Dr. Montague thinks it's a symbol meant to protect the house.
  • Theodora dances with the statue because… actually, we're not sure why. But after the dancing, everyone heads to the veranda. Eleanor and Theodora explore a bit and find that the veranda also connects to the kitchen, where Mrs. Dudley tells them to beat it (lunch isn't until one). A little more sleuthing reveals three doors, all in the kitchen, all heading for the veranda.
  • Back on the veranda, Eleanor observes the tower and imagines what it must be like up there. Luke pulls her back, and Eleanor realizes she's been leaning back over the railing trying to view the whole tower.
  • Eleanor is brought inside, and she's a little embarrassed about the incident. It turns out Mrs. Dudley has undone all that work of propping the doors open, and Dr. Montague says he'll nail the doors open if he has to (yeah, we bet).
  • Then it's off to lunch with Mrs. Dudley's soufflé. It must be a good soufflé, because the unpropping of the doors seems to be forgiven.
  • Then it's off to an afternoon nap. Eleanor doesn't sleep well, so she joins Theodora in her room to watch her friend paint her toenails.
  • Theodora tries to paint her girlfriend's toenails, but Eleanor's not such a fan. She can't stand having others do things to her.
  • After the polish dries, the women find Luke in awe that someday he'll own this house.
  • Dr. Montague comes and takes the guests to the nursery, the heart of the mansion. There's a ghostly cold in the room, as well as an air of overall neglect. Eleanor believes the cold is deliberate, "as though something watched to give [her] an unpleasant shock" (4.184).
  • Scooby Snack: In the world of paranormal investigation, cold spots are generally considered proof positive of a ghost's presence. Ghost hunters explain the phenomena as spirits "drawing the energy from the air in order to manifest." Scientists provide different explanations altogether (source).
  • After the nursery haunts and dinner, the group decides to hit the parlor, where there's a fire to warm their outsides and cocktails to warm the insides.
  • While Theodora and Luke update their fantasies from last night, the good doctor chats it up with Eleanor. He wonders how the house will come at them all and notes he's been waiting a long time for this.
  • Montague also requires Eleanor to promise she'll leave right away if she feels the house catching her.
  • That night, Eleanor hears her mother calling her and pounding on the door. She wakes up to care for the old biddy only to find that the call was coming from Theodora. The mother thing was a waking dream.
  • Eleanor asks Theodora what it is, but her BFF doesn't need to answer. She hears the eerie banging from down the hall.
  • The banging gets nearer and nearer, clearer and clearer. Eleanor throws herself into Theodora's bed. The room becomes ghostly cold.
  • Something crashes against the door. Eleanor can't feel an ounce of warmth, even with Theodora there. She screams that it can't get in.
  • It leaves, and Luke and the doctor arrive to check on the women. They ask if anything happened while they were gone, and the ladies laugh.
  • The men explain that they were chasing something—a dog?—through the house and outside.
  • They all get the feeling Hill House is trying to separate them.

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