"The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
A Reading Experience (Pt.40)
I first read this book when I was about fourteen years’ old and honestly I can say that I lost a lot of sleep afterwards. I found it in the library and the copy was a bit tattered and old, it looked like it had been there for a while and I took it home to read at night time. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be that bad because by that time, I’d already read and watched William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist” and read a bit of Stephen King. I was pretty solid during my teens. But this book is a book that literally chilled me because different to all of those, it was a book in which your mind is completely turned and twisted and even the language makes you swallow your pride. The book is a reality of one woman who slowly loses it and yet, you lose it with her. It’s almost impossible not to feel the book in your body whilst your going through the insanity of its history, its story and every single one of its three dimensional, dark and flawed characters. Before you ask, I wasn’t a big fan of the TV show even though I did watch it - it didn’t seem to have anything similar to the book but the name. I hope they don’t do the same thing with “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. I really hope they don’t. But, Carla Gugino was stunning as always.
My favourite character was obviously Eleanor Vance. She seemed to be the most emotional character in the whole book. Her character was made great by her ability to relate to both the reader and the author. I felt like she had parts of Shirley Jackson herself within her and her detachment from reality was taken from a very real place. However, Eleanor’s character flaw is the one thing that causes her downfall and that is simply because she is mostly overwhelmingly emotional. Her emotions become more and more frantic as the novel moves along and as we see her become more and more obsessed with the house, we see her emotions become more and more voiced through the house. It is the house that embodies her emotional state and that’s possibly why she identifies with it so much. It is one of the most peculiar and dark aspects of the book and yet, it is something that the book would not be the same without. Eleanor represents the humanity of the book and even though in the style of her character she may be difficult to relate to, in what she does and how she feels - she is easy to identify with. She draws the reader into her as a pitiful character and when she starts to flourish, we are already attached to her. She is the humanity of the book which is slowly consumed by the house.
My favourite theme in the book was possibly destruction of the soul. If you look at every character in the book, you will see that they all have some sort of plight on their soul, something that they feel strongly about that they cannot voice. Something is there in each of them and as the book progresses, we see that the ones who do voice it become more and more consumed by the house and the house understands that. The house plays with the character of Eleanor Vance and because of her plight, she is made to believe that the house can befriend her and treat her like a real being as opposed to what other people treat her as, which is possibly less than human. This theme represents the way in which the house itself consumes the character - it destroys their soul and eats them up from the inside.
I wish more people did read this book purely for the fact that it is a great book and not because of that strange TV Show that came out of it. The book on its own is one of the greatest things ever written and in the realm of horror, it has been an amazing influence on the way in which they have been written as well. Personally, I read the book purely because it said ‘haunting’ in the title but I had no idea what I was in for. For everything that walks in Hill House, walks alone.