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The Haunting of Hill House: 05/31/19
For this review, I am only focusing on the novel, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and not any of the adaptations. For my thoughts on recent adaptations, please see: From 00CC33 to 33CCCC and The three faces of Eleanor.
Shirley Jackson's novel is a horror story with no ghost. There is a death and talk of death but there are no ghosts. While the book opens with Dr. Montague finding the perfect house to test his theories on the supernatural. He sends letters to invite a number of candidates to spend time with him in the house. A small group of people accept his invitation. These introductory pages go into their reasons for agreeing.
For the most part, these guests show up by whatever methods they need to, and no further explanation is given. The exception is Eleanor, whose entire journey to the house is told in finite detail, down to what roads she takes and where she stops for lunch.
As Eleanor's journey to Hill House is the one Jackson focuses on, she is the traveler for this road narrative. Eleanor sees herself as the martyr of her family, the one who has given up everything, and now is doing something for herself. While she sees herself as marginalized (66), she actually has the means and opportunity to leave her sister without notice. As she co-owns the car (and quite possibly paid for the entire thing even though her sister is the one who primarily uses it), she has all the agency she needs to leave and go wherever she wants whenever she wants. That makes her a privileged traveler (00).
It's rare to have a woman as a privileged traveler, the one who should be the absolute safest of all travelers, and that is what makes this book a horror story. Classic horror comes at the expense of the powerful. When the elite become victims, the genre is horror.
Hill House as an evil, or more properly speaking, wrong, house, is framed against the journey there. As the novel dates to the end of the 1950s, the numbered highways would be today's Blue Highways (33). Back, though, at the time of publishing, the U.S. interstate system (00 in the spectrum) was mostly a project on paper having been authorized in 1956. If Eleanor's trip to Hill House had been via a train, her journey would have been as safe as her status as a privileged traveler.
I argue that even in the contemporaneous setting of the U.S. highway system at the dawn of the interstate system, Jackson chose to give Eleanor a slightly less safe journey to her final destination.
So now there's the destination. One might think that given the title, that Eleanor's destination would be home. Hill House was a home. It has a history. It also has a reputation and has sat empty for years, getting more and more settled into its wrong architecture. But it's that history and the fact that Eleanor and the others are there to look for the paranormal, that the destination isn't home (66) but uhoria (CC).
Put all together, the horror of Eleanor's fall at the behest of wrong architecture is one of a privileged traveler who went to uhoria via a Blue Highway.