Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and light-hearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own...
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This text is considered one of the greatest haunted house stories ever told. What do you know of haunted houses? What features do they all seem to have in common? What makes a house "creepy"?
Which of the following lines from the opening paragraphs best conveys a sense of mental instability?
What comes to mind when you think of "Ghost hunting"? Brainstorm what you know about ghost stories, scary movies, and even modern day ghost tours and ghost hunts. (This annotation contains an image)
Compare and contrast Theodora and Eleanor using evidence from the text. What predictions can be made about each of them based on the way they are introduced?
Notice the way Eleanor's family attempts to control her. What type of relationship do they seem to have?
What does the narrator mean when he says that "it had seemed to be summer all the time"?
Eleanor is prone to daydreams and vivid fantasies. What do you think of this trait in an adult as opposed to a child? How could this affect her experience in a possibly haunted house?
What does Eleanor's response to the little girl and her cup of stars reveal about her character and what she values?
Eleanor's daydreaming grows more and more fanciful as she leaves her family farther behind.
Which of the following details from the text does the least to contribute to the gloomy tone of the paragraph?
Haunted house and horror stories often feature unfriendly locals- people who foreshadow the fear to come. Check out this clip from "The Cabin in the Woods," and brainstorm other instances where the locals are almost as scary as the house. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following inferences is best supported by the highlighted conversation between Eleanor and Mr. Dudley?
Eleanor's immediate reaction to the house is to flee. Is there any evidence from earlier in the text that she was avoiding Hill House all along?
Why did Jackson wait so long to describe Hill House? How does her decision not to "reveal" Hill House until Eleanor's arrival affect the reader's impression of the house?
It is easy to interpret Mrs. Dudley as an intimidating character. As you read, look for other ways to read her. Is she comical at all? Concerned? Pitiable? (This annotation contains an image)
The link below is to a clip from the 1999 film version of this text, The Haunting. After viewing the clip, analyze the two representations of this scene side by side. What is missing from the film? What does the film add to your impression of the scene?http://goo.gl/4HDtqD
Theodora's speech is usually full of sarcasm, or verbal irony. After viewing the video below, consider what you know about people who use a lot of verbal irony. What do you think it shows about Theodora? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following quotations is an example of verbal irony?
An old folk tale, the expression "babes in the woods" has come to refer to unaware or innocent people wandering into dangerous situations. (This annotation contains an image)
This is a possible reference to Ye Shen, a Cinderella-type Chinese folk tale about an orphaned girl who befriends a giant golden fish. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Jackson use elements of fantasy and fairytales to enhance the text? Using specific examples, describe their effect on the tone and mood of the work so far.
Eleanor and Theo grow close very quickly. Have you been in a similar situation where you bonded with your companions faster than normal? What brought you together? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes the effect of personification in section 2?
Using examples from the text, describe the mood of the conversation and the mood of the house. How do they compare? What is the overall effect of the juxtaposition?
None of these explanations feel true. Why is everybody lying?
What conclusions can be drawn from this paragraph about the nature of the history of Hill House?
Dr. Montague introduces the connection between haunted houses and "diseased" houses- recall Eleanor's initial impression that Hill House is "diseased." (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following themes is beginning to develop in the text?
Until recently, girls were "debuted," or introduced, to society when they came of age (typically 16-20) to be courted. The process was highly formalized, and culminated in a debutante ball. Debuts are still practiced in parts of the United States. (This annotation contains an image)
The story of the two little girls is important to the story of Hill House because
What do you think of Eleanor's sudden self awareness? Why is she suddenly so intent on defining her individuality?
Eleanor draws a parallel between herself and the sisters of Hill House. Why is she connecting herself with those two girls?
Why does Eleanor describe herself using details from her drive? What does it say about her character and her state of mind?
If Eleanor's night of sleep is ironic, then what can be reasonably inferred about her normal sleeping habits?
What theme is developing about the nature of fear? Watch the video below for pointers on developing theme. (This annotation contains a video)
What specific details about the house give the overall impression of a fun house at the carnival? Do you believe this is an apt comparison? Why or why not?
The tower of Hill House might represent any of the following except
The video below gives more specific information about the Winchester House, which was designed with the whims of spirits in mind. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following details from the text indicates that the statue is disorienting?
The girls are consistently flippant, and even callous, in their tone toward Mrs. Dudley. Do you think she deserves it?
How does Jackson's word choice in the description of the tower create a sense of urgency and purpose? Use specific examples from the text.
This novel was published in 1959, just at the brink of the second women's liberation movement. As you observe Eleanor and Theodora, consider the extent to which they are empowered and objectified in turn. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on evidence from the text, the Borley Rectory is most likely
Have you ever felt watched? What is that sensation like? (This annotation contains an image)
Notice that Eleanor did not voice her thoughts aloud, yet Theodora seems to have heard them. Do you think it's in Eleanor's head, or is Theodora really clairvoyant?
How has Eleanor's opinion of Theodora changed since they met?
What do you picture knocking on the door?
How does Jackson's word choice create a mood of suspense and insanity in the episode with the knocking at the door? Use specific examples from the text.
The personification of the house is escalating, so that now the characters perceive it to be deliberately trying to trick them.
These are all examples of prominent haunted structures. Glamis Castle, an ancient Scottish castle pictured below, is home of Shakespeare's Macbeth. (This annotation contains an image)
In your own words, paraphrase the doctor's explanation of how "ghosts" affect the mind.
To what extent is Luke being serious in this speech? Use evidence from the text to justify your answer.
This is an important moment for Eleanor. Do you think she's right to feel singled out, or is she being self-absorbed? Why might "it" single out Eleanor from the rest?
Eleanor believes Theodora just wants to discredit her and make sure all eyes are on herself. What do the men believe Theodora was doing in this scene?
How would you go about advertising for a haunted house? Think about the tourism surrounding haunted houses today... the ladies might be on to something!
What does Eleanor mean when she tells herself that she is ready this time?
There is increasingly a divide between what Eleanor tells the group and what she thinks in private. It is also becoming more apparent that Eleanor and Theodora are foils. Watch this video on foils and consider the ways in which the two are opposite to one another. (This annotation contains a video)
What mental change is taking place in Eleanor? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Click the link below to view the 1963 film version of this scene. After reading and viewing this scene, describe which elements are emphasized or absent in each treatment. Use specific examples in your analysis.http://goo.gl/oCHj6t
Francisco de Goya is famous for a series of etchings with graphic treatment of dark subject matter, including lunacy and war. (This annotation contains an image)
Why would Jackson include this reminder of the seven deadly sins? Which of the seven features most prominently in the text? Use evidence to support your answer.
Historically, rake is a term applied to handsome men with refined manners and taste, but immoral doings. They are often suave and manipulative. (This annotation contains an image)
Mysterious lights, ephemeral gatherings, and dark forests are common across horror and fantasy genres. Read the excerpt from Tolkien's The Hobbit (below) and compare and contrast the way these two works treat the magical forest motif.http://i.imgur.com/MYeXZ34.jpg
Using evidence from the text, describe Dr. Montague's relationship with his wife.
Notice that Arthur wasn't expected, and his only liaison to the group seems to be Mrs. Montague. How does the addition of these two change the dynamic in Hill House?
Ouija Board and Planchette are both antiquated methods of communicating with entities beyond the tangible world. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes how Dr. and Mrs. Montague's motivation to explore Hill House's mystery differ?
Notice the irony here! Mrs. Montague accuses Eleanor of being blind to the house's messages, while in fact we know that Eleanor is even more in tune with the house than she probably should be. (This annotation contains a video)
Modern-day audiences tend to perceive old-fashioned, particularly Victorian, nurseries with some anxiety. Victorian toys often look creepy, and authors and film makers know that. How does Jackson's use of language build up the idea of the haunted Victorian nursery?
The eye of a storm is the calm space at the center of the system. When Eleanor says they are in the eye, she means that the storm is raging all around them, and they cannot escape even though it seems calm where they are. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following lines from the text gives the impression that Eleanor is participating in the house's madness?
Click the link below to see the 1963 adaptation of this scene. Analyze the way each medium depicts Eleanor's relationship with the house. Which does a stronger job?http://goo.gl/CBg2MY
Notice how the narration, which is largely from Eleanor's point of view, comes and goes. In prior scenes, we've had access to all of Eleanor's thoughts about Theodora. Here we are closed off, and all we know is what she verbalizes.
What does the metaphor between Hill House and a mother reveal about Luke's point of view toward mothers?
To what extent does Eleanor treat Theodora like a lover? How has their relationship become more complicated than mere girlish companions?
Because we know all is not well with Eleanor, we have to be critical of her narration. She perceives Theodora and Luke's behavior as cruel, but is there any possibility that they are behaving normally, and Eleanor is misreading it?
What does Arthur reveal about expectations of responsibilities of manhood in this time period?
Heinous crimes are surprisingly common subject matter for nursery and folk ryhmes. Read the rhyme about Lizzie Borden below, and compare and contrast each rhyme's treatment of its subject.http://goo.gl/ahe07q
The way the women treat one another is an increasing problem in the text. Do you think Eleanor would be better off if she and Theodora had remained friends?
At this point, Eleanor's attitude toward Hill House can best be described as
Eleanor is physically becoming part of the terror of Hill House.
Theodora's break is most analogous to which of the following literary events?
Why is this statement ironic?
Notice how this episode comes full circle. Why do you think Jackson chose to narrate it that way?
Eleanor seems to understand Hill House better than she ever understood any of her companions in it.
Which of the following is the best possible reasoning for Eleanor to "go back the way she came?"
Using examples from the text, analyze the effect of Jackson opening and closing the experience at the house with the same passage. How does the "full circle" contribute to the meaning of the overall text?