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In A Haunted House, a living couple has two ghosts – a couple themselves – living in their house who appear to be searching for something. The living couple questions aloud what they could be searching for, but when the woman is awakened by the ghosts one night, she realizes what it is: ‘the light in the heart’. The thing they were searching for was love, which was found in the hearts of the living couple. Woolf utilizes repetition and imagery of light and dark to emphasize the importance of this discovery.
Woolf uses repetition of several words, which all contribute to give importance to the discovery. Woolf repeats the word ‘it’ and ‘here’ in reference to the thing the couple was searching for, saying “Here we left it,” and “It’s upstairs”. Referring to ‘the light in the heart’ as ‘it’ makes readers think they are searching for some object or materialistic item – so when it is revealed they are searching for love, it gives it even more importance and establishes the idea that love is better than any materialistic object. There is also the repetition of the word ‘safe’: “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly.” The house ‘pulsed’ this word when the ghostly couple had been reunited again the afterlife, and also when the love had been discovered within the living couple. This repetition establishes love as something safe, and that being loved and loving someone else gives a person a feeling of safety. This gives more meaning to the concept of love, and the importance to both couples of having found it.
Imagery of light and darkness is also used within the story. When the living woman is trying to keep track of the ghosts’ search, she knows they have left the room when the light disappears: “A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then?” As the ghosts are watching the couple sleep, what wakes the woman is the light from the ghosts, “Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes.” In contrast, when the ghostly woman had first died, we see that “the rooms were darkened.” The ghostly couple represents the light, but the light is also represented by love and the love between the couple. It is only light when the couple has been reunited. The darkness represents the absence of love, as it is dark when the woman had died, leaving the man alone.
Using repetition and the contrast of light and darkness, Woolf is able to give more importance to the discovery and emphasize the importance of love. Woolf highlights how love brings light to people’s lives, and how the discovery of love is better than any object.
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