Last Updated on January 15, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 510
Light Imagery and Symbolism
Images of light and illumination suffuse “A Haunted House,” culminating in the narrator’s epiphany that the “buried treasure” is “the light in the heart.” As the narrator follows the ghostly couple while they seek their treasure, she notices that the ghosts seem to leave light in their wake. They open the window curtains as they search, and the narrator notes the reflections of apples and flowers in the drawing room after the ghosts pass through.
A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk beneath the surface the beam I sought always burnt behind the glass.
After the ghosts depart, the light in the room fades, and the narrator is left to admire “a wandering beam of sun.” However, just as the sunlight is obscured by the pane of glass, so, too, is the narrator’s understanding of the treasure obscured. It is only after the light from the ghosts’ “silver lamp” shines over the narrator’s eyes as they observe her that she has her epiphany, having come to understand the value of “the light in the heart.”
Light also seems to represent the safety and comfort of a loving home. Though the wind and rain batter against the house from the outside, “the beam of the lamp falls straight from the window,” and “the candle burns stiff and still.” Similarly, the house “darkened” after the ghost wife’s passing, reinforcing the association of light with love and happiness. Now, the love of both the living and the ghost couple suffuses the house, and the “treasure” of love keeps those who possess it warm and safe.
Woolf is often credited with helping to popularize the stream-of-consciousness narrative mode among modernists. Rather than writing from a set perspective with linear chronology, she primarily wrote in a way that reflects the constantly shifting thoughts, feelings, and impressions of her narrators. This style helps provide readers with information that a limited narration does not while also endeavoring to resemble more realistic patterns of thought. “A Haunted House” is primarily filtered through the lens of the living couple, but it also features the perspective of the ghost couple and a personified version of the house itself.
The living couple’s curiosity introduces the mystery that drives the story: what is the ghost couple looking for? It also subverts the expectations of the traditional ghost story by emphasizing the nonthreatening presence of the ghosts. In turn, the ghost couple’s perspective reinforces a peaceful vision of the afterlife, and their fond reflection on the sleeping living couple suggests that love connects the living and the dead. The background to all of this is the persistent presence of the house itself, which seeks to reassure its inhabitants that they and their treasures are “safe.” Unlike the mortal lovers and their ghostly counterparts, the house stands as an eternal witness, proudly protecting the treasures of its occupants.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544
Woolf’s unique style is often characterized as stream-of-consciousness narrative. She creates a fluid movement that captures a subject’s thought processes as they drift back and forth from a recognition of sensations encountered in the present moment to ones remembered from the past. With this same ease of movement, Woolf is able to jump in and out of the minds of all her characters. This method of narration is certainly in evidence in “A Haunted House,” and serves to explain how the narrator is able to relate details of the lives of people she does not know.
Because detail is presented...
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