Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518
Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting.
The opening line of the story conveys a sense of timelessness; this is not a story about a specific moment in time, but rather an ongoing state of existence. This foreshadows both the benign nature of the titular haunting and the immortal nature of love and memory, which transcend the confines of mortal hours.
From room to room they went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure—a ghostly couple.
Woolf refers to the freedom and familiarity with which the ghosts navigate the house, casually manipulating the things around them. The narrator’s tone suggests that she has grown accustomed to their presence, and the fact that the ghosts travel “hand in hand” characterizes them as a benign and loving presence.
“Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat softly.
The house is personified through both speech and an apparent “pulse” as it watches over both couples. It reassures its inhabitants that they—and the ghost couple’s treasure—are “safe” within its walls, positioning it as a warm and protective presence. Furthermore, the word “pulse” forms an indirect metaphor that figures the house as a heart, a traditional symbol of both love and vitality. This suggests that the house nurtures and protects its inhabitants and their relationships, enabling the ghost couple’s love to survive even in death.
Death was the glass; death was between us . . .
Death acts as a source of separation between the living and the dead in the story, first separating the ghostly husband from his deceased wife and then separating the ghostly couple from the living one. However, despite its role in separating the living from the dead, death is not presented as something terrifying or tragic. Instead, the ghostly couple seem to rejoice in having been reunited in death, and their love seems to have survived beyond the grave.
Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake us, the ghostly couple seek their joy.
The narrator is intrigued by the ghost couple as they roam about the house in search of their “joy.” The narrator at first believes that they are struggling to find it, but the opposite seems to be true: the ghostly couple instead seem to rediscover some new treasure in every room through which they pass as they recall fond memories from their life.
Waking, I cry “Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart.”
After being awoken by the ghost couple’s presence in the bedroom, the narrator has an epiphany regarding the nature of the treasure: It is not a tangible item or material riches, but “the light in the heart.” The ghosts, then, were not searching the house for something lost or hidden but instead were basking in the memories of the love they shared within its walls. The story ends on a note of mutual recognition. The living couple come to realize that love is the true “treasure,” and the ghostly couple are reassured that their treasure is alive and well in the hearts of the living.