Study Guide

The Haunting of Hill House Family

By Shirley Jackson


It's hard to really pin down The Haunting of Hill House's view of the family. On the one hand, we have characters like Eleanor's sister, Hugh Crain, and Mrs. Montague. These guys aren't exactly a ringing endorsement for family reunions. Eleanor's sister tries to prevent her sister's journey of self-discovery; Hugh Crain writes what might be the most harrowing Chicken Soup for the Daughter's Soul book ever; and Mrs. Montague constantly burns her husband.

On the other hand, there's a moment or two when Eleanor truly seems to find happiness, and that comes when she finds (or thinks she finds) a place she where belongs, in a surrogate family made up of Dr. Montague, Theodora, and Luke. Ultimately, the novel seems to say home is where the family is, but whether that's good or bad is another question altogether.

Questions About Family

  1. Why do you think the novel contains such a vivid history of Hill House's original owners? How does this set up or change your reading of this theme in the novel?
  2. Do you think Eleanor finds a family—or a home—in the trio of Dr. Montague, Theodora, and Luke? Whether you answer yes or no, be sure to give some evidence.
  3. Why does the character of Mrs. Montague show up so late in the story? Do you think her belated appearance has any affect on the theme of "Family"? Why or why not?
  4. Who do you think is the most family-oriented character? Who is the least family-oriented? Compare and contrast these characters to answer the question: is family a positive or negative force in the novel?

Chew on This

The character of Hugh Crain was designed to show the downfalls of a family structure centered on a sexual repression.

Eleanor's ultimate downfall is her overreliance on family to give her a sense of self.

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