In The Haunting of Hill House, a house not only sets the stage but also plays a major role in the book. Hill House stands overlooking the rural town of Hillsdale. It has stood so for eighty years. While the house appears well built and sturdy, it is “not sane.” Something walks its floors, something non-human, something malignant. In one elegant opening paragraph, Jackson lets her readers know that Hill House is a central character in the book. Its supernatural powers overwhelm the vulnerable human characters, especially Eleanor Vance.
When Eleanor Vance is invited to join a group of psychic investigators who propose to “go and live in Hill House and see what happened there,” she feels for the first time in her life that she will be part of something special. Like Natalie Waite of Hangsaman and Elizabeth Richmond of The Bird’s Nest, Eleanor is introverted and introspective to a morbid degree. She lives a fantasy life that is far richer than her real life, in which she spent most of her years nursing and hating her invalid mother.
The rest of the group that meets at Hill House consists of Dr. Montague, the only professional scientist; Theodora, a sophisticated New Yorker with proven extrasensory perception; and Luke Sanderson, the ne’er-do-well nephew of the owner of Hill House. Joining the cast of characters are Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, the grotesque grounds-and housekeepers, and Mrs. Montague and her friend Arthur, who provide comic relief.
(The entire section is 619 words.)