Ah, the home. It's a place of comfort and solace, where the fire always warms, the food is always tasty, and the laughter rings out like a bell on a crisp Sunday evening.
If you live in a Hallmark card, that is. The Haunting of Hill House proposes the home to be a very different sort of place. Hill House is a place that conjures fear and cold terror. It feeds off the souls of its residents to sustain its own sense of self. Big Bad Haunted Self, that is. Okay, sure: Hill House can become a place of comfort, solace, and warmth.
But only at the cost of your sanity and your life.
Questions About The Home
- Double back and check out the homes Eleanor encounters before arriving at Hill House. These include her mother's house, the house with the stone lions, and the oleander house. Why do you think these homes are included in the lead-up to Hill House? Do they prepare us for Hill House in some way? Do they contrast it? Do they provide vital information about Eleanor? Explain your answer.
- Which character is least affected by the "home sweet haunted home" aspects of Hill House? Why do you suppose he or she is not affected, and what does this say about the theme of the home in the novel?
- Because Hill House is all evil and such, the home generally doesn't get the best rap in this novel. But do you see the novel portraying any positive aspects of home life? If so, which aspects? How does this change your reading of the theme? If not, then what's the purpose of all that negative press? Remember to support your answers with some choice quotes.
- Reread that ending. Do you think Eleanor finds her true home—the place she where belongs—at the end? Why or why not? Based on that answer, what does the ending signify about the theme of home?
Chew on This
Every character in the novel is searching for a home to call his or her own. Only Eleanor, tragically, finds it.
Hill House is not evil. It's a place of warmth, family, and good brandy. These features, however, are twisted by the characters' desires for solace in others, especially Eleanor's.