Study Guide

The Haunting of Hill House Sacrifice

By Shirley Jackson


Sacrifice is often viewed as a noble trait in a lot of classic literature. The hero sacrifices his life for the sake of country and kin. The noble woman sacrifices her wellbeing for that of her family. The gods accept sacrifices as a means to maintain the order and balance of the cosmos. The Haunting of Hill House? Yeah, it's not too big on the whole sacrifice thing. The characters who ask for the sacrifice, like Eleanor's mother and sister, ask only out of self-interest. Then there is Eleanor herself, who sacrificed her own dreams for years. Ultimately, these sacrifices run Eleanor down to the point at which she has no defenses against the forces of Hill House.

Questions About Sacrifice

  1. Besides Eleanor, do you see any other character in the novel sacrificing their dreams for others? If so, who? What does this character add to the theme of "Sacrifice"? If not, then why do you suppose Eleanor is the only character to sacrifice her dreams?
  2. Why do you think mostly women sacrifice themselves for Hill House? What quality of the place leads you to your answer? (Note: the sacrifice can be a literal one, like suicide or death, or it can be a metaphorical sacrifice, like the sacrifice of hopes and dreams.)
  3. How do you read Eleanor's death at the novel's conclusion in relation to the theme of "Sacrifice"?

Chew on This

Sacrifice connects to the theme of "Family," since the sacrifices, literal and metaphorical, are made in the name of family.

No one makes any true sacrifices in this novel. Although it seems as if Eleanor sacrifices much for her family and friends, she's a selfish person who never gives without expecting to receive.

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