The Haunting of Hill House

by

Shirley Jackson

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The Haunting of Hill House: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is Saturday—the day Mrs. Montague is expected to arrive. Eleanor goes alone into the hills, wanting to be alone and away from the darkness of the house. She lies down in the grass, but is unable to be comforted by nature. She picks a daisy and stares into its “dead face” as it dies instantly in her fingers, wondering what she is going to do.
Even Eleanor’s attempts to comfort herself in nature are now tinged with death and decay—but again, whether her own psyche or the house’s malevolent influence is responsible remains unclear.
Themes
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The Search for Home Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Late that evening, Mrs. Montague arrives with her friend, Arthur Parker. Doctor Montague rushes to greet her, and excitedly introduces her to Theodora, Eleanor, and Luke. It is after dark, and Mrs. Montague chastises the group for not waiting for her for dinner—the doctor confesses he’d given up on Mrs. Montague showing up. The doctor and Luke help Mrs. Montague with her suitcases as she demands to be housed in the “most haunted room.” The doctor tells Luke to take the bags to the nursery.
Mrs. Montague is an imposing and fearless figure, a parapsychologist like her husband who nonetheless believes that her methods are superior and unimpeachable. Doctor Montague is clearly intimidated by his wife, afraid of making her angry as he is disturbing the house itself.
Themes
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Mrs. Montague begins chiding her husband for having done no work with a planchette or automatic writing in nearly a week. Montague tries to impress his wife by telling her about the cold spot in the nursery, but she is disappointed that things at the house are not in “order.” She states that she herself is going to “get things going right.” When she orders Arthur to go put the car away in the garage, Luke warns her about their policy of not going outside at night, established after Eleanor and Theodora’s terrifying encounter. Mrs. Montague dismisses Luke as a coward, and so does Arthur; he heads outside to park the car.
Mrs. Montague haughtily believes that she alone can communicate with the house and solve its mysteries, even as she disregards and even flouts the discoveries her husband and has team have made so far.
Themes
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Related Quotes
As Mrs. Montague and Arthur head into the dining room to fix themselves some dinner, she rails against her husband’s incompetence, bragging about Arthur’s intelligence and interest in the “other world.” Mrs. Montague sets out a plan to sit up all night in the nursery—she says she never sleeps when troubled spirits are about. After dinner, she wants to do a planchette session in a quiet room alone with Arthur. Doctor Montague suggests they use the library. Mrs. Montague orders her husband to take her there at once—she cannot waste too much time on conversation, she says, lest it dull her mind and make her less receptive to the spirits.
Mrs. Montague is extremely self-serious and steamrolls everyone in her presence, even as she espouses lofty ideals about the necessity of sensitivity and delicacy when dealing with the supernatural. This passage implies that she is really just a charlatan and a pretender desperate to one-up her husband.
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Luke, Theodora, Eleanor, and Doctor Montague gather in the parlor, and the doctor begins explaining how planchette works. A device similar to the Ouija Board, it allows for automatic writing—the spirits guide the planchette and write out their thoughts and intentions. The doctor dismisses the planchette as “balderdash” for “schoolgirls.”
The doctor is as contemptuous of his wife’s methods as she is of his, and yet he indulges and supports her for fear of rocking the boat.
Themes
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Sometime later, Mrs. Montague and Arthur join the group in the parlor, where they announce that the planchette has given them a lot of information about a nun. Doctor Montague questions the validity of planchette, as there is no story of a nun associated with Hill House, but Mrs. Montague insists her methods are correct. She goes on to say that a woman by the name of “Helen, or Helene, or Elena” spoke through planchette and warned of the presence of a monk. Mrs. Montague speculates that a monk and a nun are “walled up” somewhere in the house, and says she wants to dig up the cellar—Doctor Montague reminds her that they are simply renting the place, and have no authority to do so. Mrs. Montague shames her husband for being incurious.
Even as Mrs. Montague’s ludicrous claims of undead nuns and monks roaming the walls of Hill House seem to invalidate her planchette session, the presence of a name which bears resemblance to Eleanor’s foreshadows the idea that perhaps Mrs. Montague is not as hopeless as her manner and protocol suggest.
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Mrs. Montague pulls out some papers from her automatic writing session and reads them aloud. Apparently, the spirit guiding planchette introduced itself as “Nell Eleanor Nellie Nell Nell,” and said it wanted “home.” When Mrs. Montague asked the spirit why, it replied only “Mother.” Eleanor and Theodora listen in horror. Eleanor is miserable to have been “singled out again” by the presence haunting the house. Eleanor wishes she could have some peace, quiet, and rest.
The house continues to wage war against Eleanor, almost taunting her this time by contacting Mrs. Montague rather than communing with Eleanor directly—and by making reference to Eleanor’s painful past as a long-time caretaker for her mother.
Themes
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Fear and Dissociation Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As the group heads upstairs to bed, Arthur announces that he will patrol the house with his revolver so that everyone can sleep soundly. Mrs. Montague assures the group that the spirits of the house want only to “tell their stories” and free themselves from their “sorrow”; they mean no one any harm. Mrs. Montague fawns about the “unfortunate beings” who need only to be shown some “heartfelt fondness” and be extricated from their loneliness. The rest of the group listens, half-amused and half-impatient.
Mrs. Montague’s claims about the innocence and loneliness of the spirits that haunt Hill House contradict everything the doctor and his team have seen: in reality, whatever haunts Hill House is malicious, conniving, and desperate to isolate those who trespass within it.
Themes
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The Search for Home Theme Icon
Fear and Dissociation Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Everyone bids one another goodnight and retreats to their separate rooms, but Theodora tells Eleanor to wait a minute and to not get undressed—Luke whispered to her earlier that the original four are to meet in the doctor’s room. The girls wait a minute before tiptoeing town the hall to meet with Luke and Montague. Once they’re all together, the doctor announces that he believes something is going to happen tonight—he wants the girls to be with him, where they can all keep an eye on each other. The group makes fun of Mrs. Montague for a moment, and then, sure enough, a crashing sound comes from the hall, blowing the door open and then slamming it shut again.
Doctor Montague, though not clairvoyant himself, has some knowledge of how supernatural phenomena work—and he knows that the disturbance his wife’s arrival represents is more than likely enough to upset the house and provoke it.
Themes
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Isolation Theme Icon
The group is, at this point, almost amused by these occurrences, and they try to comfort one another by making jokes about the hostility of their summer lodgings. Theodora even makes fun of the house for having “exhausted [its] repertoire,” and repeating the “pounding act” from several nights ago. Eleanor is the only one who is profoundly affected by the happening—she rocks back and forth and presses her hands into her eyes.
Though the others try to use humor to get through this latest disturbance, Eleanor’s patience and sanity are both wearing thin. She’s sick of being singled out by the house, taunted time and time again—she feels, perhaps, as if a knife is hanging over her head.
Themes
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Fear and Dissociation Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
As the noise recedes, Luke offers everyone some brandy. They all accept, and Eleanor sips nervously, believing they are only in the “eye of the storm.” Sure enough, the pounding begins again and the door shakes, seeming about to come off its hinges. Theodora tells herself, over and over, that the presence “can’t get in,” but Eleanor, freezing, feels that the house is “breaking” her apart. As the pounding quiets, she predicts that the noise is about to change—sure enough, the babbling laughter starts in the hall. Eleanor briefly wonders if she is the one laughing. Eleanor feels the laughter is inside her own head. Eleanor, feeling mad, decides to give herself over to the house at last.
Eleanor knows what’s coming, now, which shows that she’s able to predict the house’s actions. The haunting affects her more deeply than it does anyone else, and she feels as if she’s melding with the house and becoming one with whatever forces are tormenting her. She cannot endure the haunting anymore, and her psyche buckles as she relents and communicates to the house that it can do what it wants with her. The house has psychologically broken Eleanor down so profoundly that she feels compelled to give up.
Themes
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Fear and Dissociation Theme Icon
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Related Quotes
When Eleanor regains her senses, the room is quiet, and sunlight is coming in through the window. Theodora is leaning over her, and Montague has been to check on his wife and Arthur, who are “sleeping like babies.” Eleanor asks what happened, and her mouth feels stiff as she does. Theodora offers to help her wash her face and prepare her for breakfast.
Though everyone else is grateful for the end of the disturbance, Eleanor has lost a large chunk of time and feels stiff and embattled. Clearly, something has shifted—how this night will come to affect Eleanor in the light of day remains to be seen.
Themes
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Isolation Theme Icon