LITERATURE: The Haunting of Hill House Organized Stream of Consciousness

After learning to understand Faulker’s Benjy in The Sound and the Fury, Jackson’s Eleanor is a piece of cake. 

Thinking quickly over the evening before, she could remember only that she had–must have–seemed foolishly, childishly contented, almost happy; had the others been amused to see that she was so simple?  I said silly things, she told herself, and of course they noticed.  Today I will be more reserved, less openly grateful to all of them for having me.  (p. ninety-four)

We understand Eleanor from her thoughts.  While in third person, the novel only gets inside the her head, but it goes deeper than the simple "she thought to herself."  What Jackson displays is the character in all her fears and triumphs.  Jackson also uses it as a means to build tension; there has been nothing more than doors closing by themselves in the house to scare us so far, though there are some background stories given us by the doctor as he tells the others about the house.  But Jackson uses Eleanor to channel our fears; she is going to be our spirit guide.  We will become so one with this character, that we have taken on her traits; timidity, anxious to please, afraid and yet joyful at this opportunity of freedom.

Eleanor, thank goodness, is eloquent.

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4 Responses to LITERATURE: The Haunting of Hill House Organized Stream of Consciousness

  1. Anne says:

    “We understand Eleanor from her thoughts.” Honestly my dear, i do not see how this is possible when clearly Eleanor doesn’t understand herself, let alone her thoughts. I wish i could respond to this post but it would take paragraphs.

    How lovely it would be for we two – intellects so diverse – to sit down together, discuss this at length, one attempting to pigeon-hole, one accepting the random entanglement of synapse and genetic code.

    Eleanor could no more understand her true nature than she could escape it. For an onlooker to attempt to understand her is an unlikely possiblity, but it could lead to a lively discussion, one that would require us to bring to the table portions of psychology, genetics, chaos theory, quantum physics and even electrical impulses. And a bottle of vin rouge perhaps?

  2. susan says:

    Hah! I’d understand the wine at least.

    Actually, I really do think that Eleanor understands herself, or at least her image of herself and what she’s trying to change in this great grab at freedom.

    Or maybe I’m just relating…

  3. Anne says:

    “Great grab at freedom”? Wasn’t she exchanging one demanding, needy mother for another?

  4. susan says:

    When I say her grab at freedom, I take that from her escape from under her sister’s thumb (taking the car) and the death of her mother.

    There is no doubt that Elinor’s freedom still involves the need to be needed. And when you mention the exchange, it’s something I hadn’t thought of but could clearly mean the house as replacement for her mother. But I still would feel that even this submission to the demands of others (and also easily recognized in her wanting to please the doctor, Theo, and Luke), she also is exercising in some way what she feels is control. As much as she’s joyful that the house “needs” her, she needs and wants to control the house. She may even have convinced herself at the time of taking care of her mother that she was in control–i.e., feeling that her mother’s death might have been prevented had she heard her calling her–in fact she was sleeping and that’s why her mother died.

    It seems, following this line of thought, that even her final act of driving away had her convinced she was in control, heading for the tree…only to question it at the last moment as to why, and why the others weren’t stopping it from happening.

    What do you think?

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