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Although the four new tenants of Hill House get along quite well, it's not long before their perfect summer setup is interrupted by some haunts. The name of the novel promises hauntings, after all. First, they begin to hear banging noises and echoes in the hallways. Doors open and close without reason. And while all of these things could be explained away by wind or the creakiness of an old house, it's hard to find an explanation when written messages start appearing on the walls. Then, Theodora finds blood all over her clothes.
Although every person in the house is touched by hauntings, Eleanor seems especially susceptible to the supernatural powers of Hill House. In fact, she begins to feel a deep connection to the house, as if she can feel and see everything the house feels and sees. Whether it's real or all in her head is unclear, but Eleanor thinks she is able to feel the others moving around the house and see what they're doing. Indeed, it seems as if the house is consuming her, and Eleanor, who has for most of her life felt closed off from the outside world, welcomes the change.
Eleanor is the second twin and the youngest daughter of the Crain family. Like her namesake in the novel, Eleanor Vance, she is one of the people most deeply affected by the hauntings at Hill House. As a child, she was repeatedly haunted by a spirit she refers to as the "Bent-Neck Lady." Years later, when Nell is an adult, the Bent-Neck Lady returns to haunt her. In the television series, Nell Crain becomes Eleanor Vance when she marries Arthur Vance.
The psychological ghost story is as much about the puzzle of identity as it is about madness. The governess in The Turn of the Screw yearns to be a heroine, to do something brave and noble, and to attract the attention of the dashing employer whose sole directive is that she never, ever bother him. She wants to be someone else. Without the mission of protecting her two young charges from mortal danger, she's merely a woman squandering her youth in the middle of nowhere, taking care of children who will only grow up to leave her behind. Is the house she presides over haunted by the ghost of brutish Peter Quint and his lover, her predecessor, the sexually degraded Miss Jessel Or is it haunted by some half-formed, half-desired alternate version of the nameless governess herself Eleanor may be the target of The Haunting of Hill House, or she may be the one doing the haunting. After all, Dr. Montague invited her to participate in the project because of a poltergeist incident during her childhood.
For a while, these four people manage to cobble together a kind of mock romance of family life: Luke, Theo and Eleanor roll around on the grass eating wild strawberries while Dr. Montague beams down on them in fond amusement. This is just a game, though, like the excruciatingly arch banter about bullfighters, courtesans and disguised princesses they indulge in on the first night. Only Eleanor, not surprisingly, can't tell that it's not real. Theo, the one person in Hill House who offers Eleanor the difficult prospect of connection, is a flawed and prickly customer, to be sure, but she's also the one who shows her the most tender concern. When the entity haunting Hill House offers Eleanor a cold, false, phantom hand to hold, it is disguised as Theo's hand. The friction between the two women flares when Eleanor envies Theo's looks and freedom of manner (the first dig between them is Eleanor's -- sniping at Theo's appetite) or when Theo tries to coax Eleanor out of her shell or, most explosively, when she suggests that Eleanor might own some responsibility for what's happening. Theo's implication that Eleanor is not really the meek creature she appears to be may be what terrifies and infuriates Eleanor most; perhaps they both suspect that the most fearsome beast lurking in Hill House is Eleanor's stifled rage at her mother, her sister, her life, her self. 59ce067264