Study Guide

The Haunting of Hill House Fear

By Shirley Jackson

Fear

We know what you're thinking. It's a story about a haunted house; how can fear not be on the list of themes? You're right, and here it is. But the fear on display in The Haunting of Hill House isn't just the dread of unknown things hiding in cobwebbed corners waiting to jump out and go boo. Sure, that's here, too, but the characters display much more intimate types of fear: fear of love, fear of commitment, fear of failure, fear of loneliness, and even fear of fear itself. The horrors hiding in Hill House understand these intimate fears and use them to make those boos all the more terrifying. And what's more terrifying than the fear of loneliness?

Questions About Fear

  1. Which manifestation of the supernatural do you think scares Eleanor the most? What does this tell you about her and about the nature of fear in the novel?
  2. Why do you think Mrs. Montague and Mrs. Dudley remain unfazed by fear in Hill House? Do these characters share a trait making them immune to Hill House? If so, what is it, and does it connect the theme of fear to another theme in the novel? Explain.
  3. Do you think Hill House fears anything? If so, what, and why? If not, then why not? Don't forget to support your answer with evidence from the text.

Chew on This

Hugh Crain uses fear to teach his daughter his special brand of morality. Depending on how you read Hill House's history, it's possible that this book is the source of Hill House's haunts.

Theodora never mentions what she saw that scared her by the brook. Her fears are deliberately kept from the reader to keep her more distant than Eleanor.

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