About the Book

Book Protagonist: Eleanor Vance
Publication Date: 1959
Genre: Horror, Philosophical Fiction


The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson

'The Haunting of Hill House' is one of the best gothic horror novels of the 20th century. It has served as a source of inspiration for dozens of novelists, short story writers, and filmmakers.

The Haunting of Hill House,’ written by Shirley Jackson in 1959, is a classic horror novel that’s well deserving of its status as one of the best gothic horror books in American literature. It tells the story of three people who Dr. Montague invites to investigate the strange goings-on at Hill House, an old and allegedly haunted estate.

Through their investigation, they uncover secrets and truths that reveal the house’s dark past and its horrifying present in a way that will keep readers guessing until the final pages. 

The novel comes highly recommended due to its effective use of suspense, foreshadowing, and character development. It has been adapted for film and television multiple times and remains incredibly popular to this day.

The Use of Suspense and Foreshadowing

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House‘ is a chilling tale of suspense that uses foreshadowing very effectively. It’s one of the most important techniques in any horror novel or film and should inspire the reader to keep turning pages to find out what is going to happen next. Jackson crafted a masterful blend of the supernatural and suspense that has captivated readers for decades. 

The story begins with Dr. Montague’s invitation to three strangers to participate in his study of the supernatural. The invitation immediately creates a sense of unease, as each character has their own secrets and motivations for taking part in the experiment. As the story progresses, Jackson’s use of suspense builds as readers are drawn deeper into the mystery of Hill House, and readers begin to wonder what exactly is going to become of Eleanor, Theodora, Luke, and Dr. Montague himself. 

Jackson also expertly employs foreshadowing throughout the novel. Events from earlier in the story come back to haunt the characters, often at unexpected times. This technique not only heightens the tension but keeps readers guessing what will happen next. This is no more true than when Eleanor-specific incidents start occurring, and the guests, along with the reader, start questioning what connection Eleanor has to the house that one might not be aware of. 

Jackson’s creative use of these elements creates an atmosphere of dread and tension that should keep the majority of readers engaged until the final pages. 

Character Development 

Most of Shirley Jackson’s characters in ‘The Haunting of Hill House are wonderfully crafted and bring something special to the table. There is Dr. Montague, an occult specialist who is on a mission to document paranormal activity in the titular house. His assistant, Theodora, is an artist and intuitive psychic who is able to pick up on subtle nuances in the house. 

The main character, Eleanor Vance, is an introverted young woman with a troubled past who is certainly the most interesting character in the novel. Her role in the house becomes more and more confusing as various incidents suggest the home has a special plan for her. She has been deeply affected by the death of her mother and is seeking solace and newfound freedom at Hill House.

The third member of the group is Luke Sanderson, who stands to inherit it once his aunt dies. He is more skeptical than the others and provides a necessary balance to the group dynamic. At times, readers are likely to find themselves annoyed by his behavior and unwillingness to take things seriously. 

For most readers, Eleanor will stand out as the most intriguing of all the characters, as she has a unique connection to the supernatural. This certainly proves to be the case in the novel’s final chapters. 

The Supernatural 

The Haunting of Hill House‘ is a masterful exploration of the supernatural. At its core, the novel examines the idea of an unknown force that is capable of manipulating the events of the narrative. Throughout the story, this mysterious power is presented as a constant presence, looming over the characters and their decisions. 

The most prominent example of the supernatural’s influence on the plot is the mysterious Hill House itself. Although it may seem like an ordinary Victorian mansion at first, it is quickly revealed to be something much more sinister. The house contains strange occurrences that are beyond the comprehension of the characters. These include doors that lock themselves, objects that move of their own accord, and even a ghostly presence that appears in various forms throughout the story. 

The use of the supernatural in ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ helps to create a feeling of unease and tension that pervades the narrative. It gives the reader a sense of dread and creates a world where anything is possible. From the very beginning, readers are made aware that there is a force beyond their control and understanding, which adds to the suspenseful atmosphere. 

When the characters (and readers) learn more about the home’s history, the building’s dark presence starts to make more sense. This is one element of the novel that many may feel deserves more elaboration. ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ is not a particularly long novel, leaving little room for an in-depth explanation of who the Crain family was and what elements of Hugh Crain’s personality may have influenced the house’s dark impulses. 

The Novel’s Conclusion

For some, the novel’s conclusion may bring the book to a perfect ending, but for others, it may feel strange and less-than-satisfactory. It begins with Eleanor Vance fleeing Hill House, finally convinced by her companions that it’s not safe for her to be there. After all the supernatural occurrences throughout the novel, she finally comes to terms with what has been happening and that she’s safer as far from the house as she can get. 

She drives away from the house, considering everything that happens to her, before feeling as though she’s never going to get out of the house’s grip. She steers her car into an oak tree, ending her life as if she was compelled to do so by the house. The author mentions, loosely, what happens to the other characters but does not include much detail regarding what happened to the house and what exactly was causing the haunting.

Is The Haunting of Hill House Worth Reading? 

Absolutely. ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ is a truly chilling and suspenseful novel that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The use of foreshadowing and suspense masterfully crafted by Shirley Jackson creates a compelling atmosphere that draws readers into the story. 

The characters are well-developed, the supernatural elements are creative and believable, and the novel’s conclusion is both satisfying and frightening.

The Haunting of Hill House: Jackson's Classic Gothic Horror Novel
  • Story
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Writing Style
  • Dialogue
  • Conclusion
  • Lasting Effect on Reader

The Haunting of Hill House Review

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 novel written by famed gothic horror novelist and short story writer Shirley Jackson. It’s generally regarded as her best and most influential novel. The book follows four characters who enter the mysterious Hill House to prove that there are paranormal forces at work.


  • Fantastic use of suspense and foreshadowing.
  • Creative depiction of paranormal forces.
  • Eleanor is an interesting character.


  • Lacking character development.
  • The ending leaves many plot points undefined.
  • Readers may feel the novel’s dialogue is somewhat lacking as well.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap
Share to...