Reconstructing the Gothic villain: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
Regarded as one of the staple twentieth century ghost fictions, Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House recounts the tragic fate of Eleanor Vance, a young woman who takes part in a disastrous research project of an ill-reputed mansion2. The narrative’s central plot revolves around a field study of the eponymous Hill House led by one doctor John Montague, an academic and a stern believer in the existence of the supernatural, who embarks upon an in-depth investigation aided by a group of individuals he has invited to the endeavour on account of their more or less subdued psychic abilities3. One of them is Eleanor ← 163 | 164 → Vance who sees doctor Montague’s offer as a chance for changing her drab urban existence. For Eleanor, Hill House becomes something more than just a site of supernatural phenomena – it becomes a promise of a new life altogether. “During the whole underside of her life, ever since her first memory, Eleanor had been waiting for something like Hill House”, we learn at the beginning of the novel (Jackson 2006: 7). Intriguingly, as the text makes clear soon enough, Hill House seems to have been waiting for Eleanor as well. At the generic level, Jackson’s narrative employs numerous Gothic conventions: its very plot...
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