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The Haunting of Hill House features many characters as they stay a summer in a supposedly haunted house. However, one character is affected by its presence more than anyone. The story is strongly centered around Elanor as a protagonist and details how she handles the supernatural phenomena in the house. The way Shirley Jackson sets up Eleanor’s character in the introduction gives importance and context to hauntings that occur later. In fact, the drive to Hill House is the considerable one of the most important sections of the story. Through closely analyzing Elanor’s characteristics in as she travels to the house, one can see the purposeful foreshadowing of events and themes to come from the development of her character and conclude to an overall greater understanding of the hauntings at hill house.
One of the first characteristics that the reader learns about Elanor is that she has a very active imagination. She practically is lost in thought about the things surrounding her as he travels to the house in a frivolous, juvenile sort of manner. The most ordinary objects are almost romantic and enthralling to her. She basically lives in a completely different mindset from the indifferent, sane, adult world she actually lives in. A telling instance of this is when she stops travelling in order to get a good look at some oleander flowers. She imagines herself in a fairy tale in which she becomes a princess; she has returned and to be greeting by a prince. This strong imagination and whimsy that she demonstrates make her seem very juvenile and innocent, especially for someone her age. It leaves readers to think about the kind of life she lived in her past. Although most people seem to grow out of these sorts of fantasies, it’s because she’s lived without much experience and a healthy childhood that she can’t let go of them. It’s revealed that she didn’t have a change to live a normal life when she was younger, as she was stuck having to take care of her mother; in a tragic fate of irony however, this foreshadows that she won’t have a life after she attempts to leave Hill House. These grandiose, juvenile delusions and fantasies make her vulnerable prey for a house looking to possess and break someone’s sanity. Her mind as we know it is much less stable when compared to the other guests. Eleanor has plenty of hidden baggage attached to her as well. She possesses guilt about her mother’s death and her harsh feelings towards her. This is a presence that haunts Eleanor before she even steps a foot inside the house.
One part of the book has Eleanor stopping for lunch and seeing the little girl does not want to drink her milk without her cup of stars. Elanor empathizes with the girl and really wants the girl to have her cup of stars. The girl in this scene is a representation of Elanor. Elanor never had life go her way when she was younger, and the trip itself is symbolic for Elanor taking a chance at her “cup of stars.” She achieves it in a way when she makes the decision to move away for a while, but similar to how the ending resulted in her being forced to leave the house, she tries to hold on to the house. She is the girl is holding out hope for her cup of stars. Her hope for adventure and staying at Hill House is proven to be her tragic downfall when she is killed, however. On her journey to the house, information is also given about Elanor’s tendency to get attached to things. As previously mentioned, she falls in love with seemingly ordinary objects such as the oleander flowers or the lion statues; she wasn’t especially attached or familiar with these things before, but she gets enamored by them. She displays this behavior later in the book, eventually learns to fall in love with Hill House. She also gets pretty attached to Theo as well, even though at times they seem very much at odds.
Along the way to Hill House, she finds signs that foreshadow the horror that awaits her. At the diner, at girl tells her that she hopes Elanor can find her house. Elanor practically becomes one with the house by the end, in a sense, the house becomes her own when she becomes a part of it. She finds a sign about daredevils but at first thinks it says Dare Evil. She feels uneasy even just approaching the perimeter of the house. She ignores these signs, just as she continues to stay in the house as it attempts to harass and possess her. One of the strangest and first incidents of this is her good night of sleep after the commotion of banging on the doors. She even states that after staying in the house, she finally felt something like joy for the first time in a while.
The story reveals more about her character when she arrives at the house. She meets Mr. Dudley, and at first is fairly friendly. She becomes aggressive however after pleading with Dudley to be let in and becomes demanding. This break in her pleasantry, is similar to the house holding dark secrets within. When Luke and Eleanor first see each other, Elanor thinks, “Journeys end in lovers meeting.” This thought becomes truer than one would originally think. The implication is originally describing Elanor and Luke’s possible fling, but it just as easily describes the relationship that develops between Elanor and Hill House. Her journey ends at Hill House after she feels a strong attachment to it.
The introduction of Elanor’s character and the journey she makes to Hill House is full of foreshowing and brings more light to her relationship with the house. Her easily breakable mind, the way she thinks about the little girl, the foreboding signs that plague the travel, it all functions to give deeper meaning into the events of this book.
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