LITERATURE: The Haunting of Hill House – Language Use

While there’s a lot to learn from Jackson’s writing style, there are a few peccadillos, it seems, and they do bother me.

An overuse of adverbs:  "I know," Elinor said tiredly.  He snickered disagreeably.  Anyway, she thought obscurely, it’s my last chance.  (These are randomly taken from the text.)

Thought obscurely?  If she had made the remark to someone or said it aloud, it could be taken as ambiguous or unclear.  But the statement is made in reference to her own thoughts, and surely, she knows what she means by it.

And the one that bothers me the most because it’s repeated quite a few times, and doesn’t make complete sense:  Well, she thought inadequately, here I am. (p. 36)  "It’s why they call it Hill House," Eleanor said inadequately.  (p. 50)  Journeys end in lovers’ meetings, she thought, and could only say inadequately, "Are you looking for us?’  (p. 56)

A Thesaurus yields these for replacement:  poorly, insufficiently, inefficiently, improperly, incorrectly, ineffectually, scantily, weakly, badly, unsatisfactorily.  How do any of these meanings fit in with her thoughts?  They’re certainly not incorrect or improper, nor are they ineffectual in that there is any answer required that isn’t produced. 

I realize that Jackson’s character of Elinor is one of breaking free from a learned lifetime of submission and timidity, but she is well-spoken and intelligent, if socially immature.  I don’t think that Jackson intended to make her appear inadequate however.  She may have spent her youth trying to please others, and that will certainly be a factor in her personality, but there is also the joyful wickedness she feels with this journey as her bid for freedom.  She is shown to at least be standing up for herself and initiating conversation with strangers.  She’s also shown to laugh easily–much as a child takes random delight in everyday situations–that hasn’t shown itself to be instead, a cover, or nervous giggle.

I’m sure that inadequately is going to ring from the pages for me each time it comes up.

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