The Haunting of Hill House

by

Shirley Jackson

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The Haunting of Hill House: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the end of breakfast the next morning, the group worries that Mrs. Montague and Arthur, still sleeping soundly, will miss breakfast. Eleanor, though, assures them that their guests are coming—she says she can hear them on the stairs. What she doesn’t say is that she can now hear “everything, all over the house.” Soon enough, Mrs. Montague and Arthur soon come through the dining room doors, Mrs. Montague complaining about the dustiness of the nursery and the cold breakfast awaiting them.
After the terrifying events of the previous night, Eleanor seems to have a new power: she is attuned to everything happening in the house, a power that no one else seems to have. Eleanor feels quietly confident about this new ability, and now appears secretly thrilled at the idea that the house has chosen her. Rather than feeling lonely or afraid, Eleanor feels special.
Themes
The Supernatural vs. The Psychological  Theme Icon
The Search for Home Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Doctor Montague asks his wife how her night was—Mrs. Montague says she didn’t sleep a wink due to the air in the nursery. Arthur complains that the house is noisy—a tree branch scraped his window all night. Mrs. Montague sits down to breakfast and says she refuses to give up hope that tonight, perhaps, there will be “some manifestations.”
Mrs. Montague and Arthur were unable to see or hear the disturbances in the house the night before—the house does not want them the way it wants the others. Just as Luke and Montague and Eleanor and Theodora experienced separate disturbances early on in their stay, the larger group is now having various experiences of the haunting.
Themes
The Supernatural vs. The Psychological  Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
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Later, Theodora and Eleanor are working on their diaries when Eleanor confesses that she’s not sure of what to do once she leaves Hill House. She says that she wants to go home with Theodora, and live with her—Eleanor says she’s never had anyone to care about, and wants some place she “belong[s].” Theodora coldly replies that she’s “not in the habit of taking home stray cats.” Eleanor begs Theodora to take her home with her, but Theodora refuses, accusing Eleanor of trying to “go where [she’s] not wanted.” Eleanor calmly replies she’s never been wanted anywhere.
Theodora’s cruelty to Eleanor is born out of a sense of distrust and disgust. Theodora pities Eleanor, but doesn’t want to claim responsibility for her—Eleanor, on the other hand, is desperate to find where she belongs, and still believes that her place could be with Theodora, whom she recognizes as a double of sorts.
Themes
The Search for Home Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Eleanor continues pestering Theodora, who suggests they go for a walk to get out of the house. Luke offers to come with them. Theodora suggests Luke accompany her, and Eleanor stay home to “write on walls.” Luke, however, taking pity on Eleanor, insists she come along—the three of them leave the house and begin walking down to the brook. Eleanor, seemingly in a daze, says she was responsible for her mother’s death—she failed to awaken when her mother called for her to bring her some medicine.
As Eleanor feels lonelier and lonelier, she begins revealing more of the truth about her past, hinting at the fact that she may have willfully ended her mother’s life after reaching the end of her rope or encountering a psychotic break of some sort.
Themes
The Supernatural vs. The Psychological  Theme Icon
Fear and Dissociation Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
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As the path narrows, Eleanor takes the lead. As she walks, she believes Theodora and Luke are talking nastily about her behind her back. She grows lost in thought as she leads the way down to the brook. She sits down when she arrives, turning her head to look behind her for Luke and Theodora—but she sees that she is alone. A ghostly voice calls to her, intoning “Eleanor” over and over again—but it is not her friends. She stands up and runs through the woods until she finds them, leaning against a tree and talking together. Eleanor says she’s been waiting for them by the brook—Theodora says they called after her that they were going to stay in the shade. Luke, grinning, echoes Theodora’s claim.
This passage is one of the novel’s most potent examples of the blurry lines between supernatural and psychological phenomena. Eleanor, feeling isolated and lonely—but also potentially possessed by Hill House—believes Luke and Theodora are gossiping about her. When she turns around, they’re nowhere to be found—and yet when she finally catches back up with them, there is something sinister about both of them. Eleanor’s own paranoia may be getting the best of her—or the presence haunting Hill House may be emulating her worst fears in order to break her down.
Themes
The Supernatural vs. The Psychological  Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
After lunch, Luke and Theodora spend some time outside together laughing in the grass. Eleanor follows them but stays hidden—she is determined to find out if they really hate her. Luke sings a little song to Theodora, and then the two of them wonder if they’ll appear as characters in the book Doctor Montague will write about Hill House. Eleanor listens as the two of them decide to go into the hills looking for a swimming hole.
Eleanor is increasingly obsessed with the relationship between Luke and Theodora—during the stay at Hill House they have found comfort in one another, while Eleanor has alienated them both and connected with only the malevolent presence inside the house.
Themes
The Search for Home Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Inside, Eleanor listens at the library door as Arthur pesters Montague with inane observations about the house as the doctor tries to write his notes. She then creeps to the dining room door, where Mrs. Montague is conversing with Mrs. Dudley—who speaks to her pleasantly, despite having never engaged the doctor or his subjects in polite conversation.
Eleanor is making herself a bit like a ghost in these passages—she is silently stalking her companions, listening in on their conversations without participating in them. She is becoming the thing that is in a way haunting Hill House.
Themes
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Isolation Theme Icon
Later that evening, Luke compliments Theodora on how fine she looks in Eleanor’s clothes. Eleanor sits quietly alone, listening to “the sounds of the house.” She can hear everything everywhere—every creak, every bird alighting on the roof. The only room she cannot hear is the library, where Mrs. Montague and Arthur are holed up, doing planchette.
Eleanor is humiliated by being overlooked by everyone else—but secretly enjoys her special new powers and her undeniable connection with the house itself.
Themes
The Supernatural vs. The Psychological  Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Mrs. Montague bursts through the parlor door, incensed because she has not been able to get the planchette to communicate with her at all. She blames the silence on the rest of the group and their “skepticism.” Everyone tries to assuage her and assure her that they would never interfere with her work, but Mrs. Montague will not be comforted. Eleanor becomes aware of a presence in the center of the room—a child’s voice—singing a little song. As the song ends, Eleanor feels footsteps walk by her, and something brush her face. Eleanor looks around the room and realizes, “with joy,” that no one but her has noticed anything at all.
As Mrs. Montague fails to communicate with whatever presence is haunting the house, Eleanor’s ability to commune with it directly suggests that she is the only one with any influence over the house any longer.
Themes
The Supernatural vs. The Psychological  Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
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