Professor Sean Scanlan
December 14, 2020
In the chilling novel, “ The Haunting of Hill House” author Shirley Jackson, used concepts such as gothic homesickness and the uncanny to convey a message of central gothic irony throughout the storyline. With gothic homesickness essentially meaning, the feeling of the absence of something related to a lost home. Similar to the spirit of perverseness, gothic homesickness can lead to those affected to make drastic and in most cases destructive decisions in hopes of changing the idea of one’s imperfect reality of home; This type of homesickness is represented through the actions and emotions of protagonist, Eleanor Vance.
In the first chapter of “ The Haunting of Hill House”, what once could have been a homey and hospitable abode, is described as, “ not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.”(Jackson, Ch.1) The interior of the house is made to seem desolate, as it is said to have, “walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” (Jackson, Ch.1) With this in mind, “ Vidler’s The Architectural Uncanny”, in where architectural critic Anthony Vidler clarifies and/or distinguishes the difference architectural uncanny, which is “the lack of clarity between what is homely and what is on unhomely”(Vidler, pg.1)This being said, Hill House exemplifies architectural uncanny, especially with the house being alienated and almost exiled from other residence seeing as it stands alone, above the rest. As the storyline continues the research team experiences multiple paranormal phenomenon. One that captures a characters emotions towards an uncanny space is when Eleanor Vance, an unfortunate protagonist who’s struggling with her yearning to live freely after dedicating eleven years to caring her mother, recently passed.
In end of Chapter 3, Eleanor seems to find herself experiencing an uncanny feeling because although she does not deny the fact that there is a dreadful presence in the house yet she still finds to herself on familiar grounds. For instance it’s stated, “Eleanor thought wearily that it might be the darkness and oppression of Hill House that tired her so, and then it no longer mattered. The blue bed was unbelievably soft. Odd, she thought sleepily, that the house should be so dreadful and yet in many respects so physically comfortable—the soft bed, the pleasant lawn, the good fire, the cooking of Mrs. Dudley. The company too…”(Jackson, Ch.3). However, after experience a paranormal phenomenon in which Eleanor and Theodora hear a ‘bang sound, as it begins to echo, and the noise starts to travel closer to them. Eleanor thought it sounded like, “a hollow noise, a hollow bang, as though something were hitting the doors with an iron kettle, or an iron bar, or an iron glove. It pounded regularly for a minute, and then suddenly more softly, and then again in a quick flurry, seeming to be going methodically from door to door at the end of the hall.” (Jackson, Ch.4) During this time, when Luke and Dr. Montague were not in close enough vicinity to hear or be present for the phenomenon. This incident causes anxiety to rise especially seeing as they keep hearing sounds in the hallway and fighting the coldness of the room which creates for the perfect uncanny space.
Throughout the story Eleanor’s character is constantly put through stressful and difficult situation, that push her fears to the surface. This connects to the first line made In the beginning of the novel. For instance, it states, “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.” (Jackson, Ch.1) as it is made evident in Chapter 8, Eleanor is always feels out of place and which in turn is causing her to experience a sense of gothic homesickness, she tries to get Theodora to agree to allow her to stay with her but is rejected, which doesn’t necessarily help her mental stability. Although Eleanor’s childish actions were almost like a cry for attention didn’t pan out the way she expected leaving her feeling humiliated and alienated from the rest of the group. This caused Eleanor to have an unhealthy attachment to Hill House as she saw it as a possible place to create her idea of home. So when the others try to get her to leave the house she now see as an assured future, she begins to act destructively. For instance it’s stated, “But Iwon’t go, she thought, and laughed aloud to herself Hill House is not as easy asthey are; just by telling me to go away they can’t make me leave, not if Hill House means me to stay. “Go away, Eleanor,” she chanted aloud, “go away, Eleanor, we don’t want you any more, not inour Hill House, go away, Eleanor, you can’t stayhere ; but I can,” she sang, “but I can;they don’t make the rules aroundhere . They can’t turn me out or shut me out or laugh at me or hide from me; I won’t go, and Hill House belongs tome .”(Jackson, Ch.9) In the end, as she’s on the brink of insanity, her fears of leaving Hill House makes her fall under its domain and submit to her demise. Ultimately making Eleanor Vance, one of Hill House’s victims.
Freud’s “The Uncanny
Gothic Homesickness Handout
Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. Penguin, 1959.
Vidler’s The Architectural Uncanny