Monday, 1 April 2013

Shirley Jackson - 'The Haunting of Hill House'

So as I said yesterday, I want this to follow my journey through Modern Gothic Literature and my next step from 'Rosemary's Baby' was onwards (and upwards!) to Shirley Jackson. 

Imagine a house where nobody will go.  A house that is built in the middle of nowhere.  A house where every angle is just slightly off. . .immediately you get the typical "Haunted House" image.  That image comes from Shirley Jackson and her mysterious "Hill House".

A doctor, 2 young women with previous psychic links and a young heir to the house: Dr Montague, Eleanor, Theodora and Luke.  4 unlikely friends who experience their journey through Hill House together.  The house itself seems to be a character itself, it is not merely a building but one filled with residual energies from the horrific past which it has experienced from the day it was built. Deaths, suicides and old family feud's riddle the history of the house and may attribute to the malignant force that it has become.  The foursome experience a range of emotions as the house slowly infiltrates the psyches' of the weakest - Eleanor but all are affected in some way or the other.

I can't say too much without revealing all but I will say this:

'Whatever walks there, walks alone' (Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House)

My advice to anyone who is reading The Haunting of Hill House - don't read it in any of the following situations:
  • Alone
  • At night
  • In a dark space
  • In an old (could be haunted) house
  • If at any point you wish to get a good night's sleep over the following two weeks.  
This haunted space takes over each of the characters in their own individual ways and in a lot of parts, the story seems a little confused.

The tropes of the Gothic are very obvious to anybody who reads Hill House. These include:
  • Broken families 
  • Isolation
  • An uncertainty over reality
  • Frame narrative (Hugh Crain's book)
  • Dreaming and nightmares 
  • Setting
  • A damsel in distress.
These are all factors no matter how big or small to look out for throughout the story.  I have to say, Shirley Jackson has made quite an impression on me so far! Look out for further posts about her stories.  I found that her uncanny style of making me feel totally uneasy even when nothing was really happening particularly interesting.  She is after all, the creator of the original Haunted House

Whether or not I go on to watch the movie adaptation of this is a completely different ball game altogether. . .I am curious though!!

I can't emphasise enough how important it is to read Shirley Jackson as a starting point to Modern Gothic literature. . .let me know how it goes.

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