The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 187

One of the finest modern ghost stories in the Gothic genre, The Haunting of Hill House is Jackson's most complex novel, with the haunted house functioning as a unifying and enriching device that carries meaning on several levels. In The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson finds an excellent vehicle for all the dark, interior matters of the psycho-supernatural that she elaborates throughout her fictional canon.

The novel is an almost analytic description of the way the collective imagination or darker unconscious within humanity, and beyond humanity, works on different sensibilities. It is a warning to dabblers in the exploration of the paranormal and supernatural, by showing what happens to Eleanor, who is psychic. It is a social allegory, since Hilt House has an evil past that reveals too-repressive Puritanical forces. It is a good psychological novel, portraying with Eleanor a mother-complex that leads, with the stimulus of supernatural forces, to a breakdown of personality. And it is a fine ghost story, leaving a number of major events unexplained, fostering a reverence that is nothing less than religious in relation to spiritual matters beyond the scope of humanity.

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