The Haunting of Hill House

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According to The Haunting of Hill House, cars are depicted in various ways. Initially, a car is portrayed as a tool of manipulation that Eleanor’s sister uses to exert control over her (Jackson 7). However, when Eleanor steals the car, its meaning changes to symbolize her escape from her current existence (Jackson 10). The car grants Eleanor the freedom to break away from her controlled life and embark on her own journey (Jackson 10). At the end of the novel, we see the same car being employed by Eleanor to liberate herself from the coerced departure from Hill House (Jackson 178).

According to Jackson (182), the car is used by the character to commit suicide, which allows her to remain at Hill House indefinitely. My argument is that in the novel, the car represents a means of control over Eleanor but ultimately offers her personal liberation. It not only frees Eleanor from her previous life but also from her forced departure. Moreover, I will contend that the significance of Eleanor using the car for her freedom lies in its portrayal of her changing mental state. The contrast between Eleanor’s interpretation of freedom as traveling versus resorting to suicide makes it clear how her mental condition deteriorates.

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Eleanor and her sister engage in an argument about the ownership of a car (Jackson 6). Through this fight, it becomes evident that Eleanor’s sister and brother-in-law hold a significant amount of control over Eleanor’s life (Jackson 7). Carrie tries to assert control over Eleanor by expressing, “We don’t know where you’re going, do we? You haven’t shared much about all of this with us, have you? I don’t think I can allow you to borrow my car” (Jackson 7).

The given quote highlights Carrie’s dissatisfaction with Eleanor’s decision not to disclose the specifics of her imminent trip. Consequently, Carrie firmly refuses Eleanor access to the vehicle. By doing so, Carrie asserts a certain level of dominance over Eleanor’s journey, as it would be significantly more challenging for her to travel sans the automobile. Hence, I argue that Carrie is employing the car as a mechanism of control over Eleanor. In my opinion, Eleanor absconds with the car, which her sister has denied her, in order to liberate herself from Carrie’s influence (Jackson 10). Consequently, the car subsequently serves as a means of liberation.

The evidence of Eleanor’s change in behavior indicates that stealing the car has released her from her sister’s control. Previously, when she had permission to drive the little car, she was always cautious and took extreme care to avoid any possible damage that might upset her sister. However, today, she has her cartoon in the back seat, her suitcase on the floor, her gloves and pocketbook and light coat on the seat next to her – the car now belongs entirely to her, creating a little contained world of her own (Jackson 10). This shift from extreme caution to indifference demonstrates that Eleanor is no longer restricted by her sister (Jackson 10). The change in how she treats the car, along with the act of stealing it, shows that Eleanor no longer cares about irritating her sister and is therefore freed from her control (Jackson 10). It is important to emphasize that in this context, the car symbolizes her escape from her sister’s dominance and represents her newfound freedom (Jackson 10).

It is evident that the car has liberated Eleanor from her sister’s influence and her previous existence. Reflecting on the act of stealing the car, Eleanor realizes, “I would never have expected myself to do it,” she continues to laugh, “everything has changed, I am now a completely different person, very far from home” (Jackson 19). In my interpretation, Eleanor’s statement that everything is different and she is a new person signifies her freedom from her sister and family’s constraints (Jackson 19). Now free from her sister’s control, Eleanor can be her true self and pursue her desires without limitations.

Therefore, the car has given Eleanor a newfound freedom from her sister’s control, enabling her to live her own life. Mrs. Montague’s opinion of Eleanor’s theft results in a regression of the car’s symbolic meaning: “I’ve spoken to the sister,” Mrs. Montague stated, with an air of importance. “I must say, she asked first about the car. A vulgar person; I reassured her that she has nothing to worry about. John, you were very wrong to allow her sister to steal the car and come here” (Jackson 177). This incident signifies a reversion of the car’s representation back to an object used to control Eleanor. Mrs. Montague’s scolding of Dr. Montague for permitting Eleanor to take the car transforms Eleanor’s act into a negative one, rather than a positive action of liberating herself from the constraints and control of her life. Consequently, the car once again becomes an instrument of control over Eleanor. In her subsequent confession, Eleanor reveals her desperate desire to stay at Hill House and maintain her emancipation: “I don’t have an apartment,” she confides in Theodora. “I made it up; I sleep on a cot in my sister’s baby’s room. I have no home—no place at all. There’s nowhere you can send me” (Jackson 177).

By leaving Hill House in her sister’s stolen car, Eleanor would likely be subjected to even greater restrictions and control in her life. This emphasizes the notion of how insignificant and regulated Eleanor’s existence was before her time at Hill House (Jackson 177). Consequently, the car, initially a symbol of freedom, would once again become a tool of control. As Eleanor prepared to depart from Hill House, she pondered on its significance to her: “The house was waiting now, she thought, and it was waiting for her; no one else could satisfy it. The house wants me to stay” (Jackson 178).

According to Jackson (178), this quote reveals that Eleanor would find it extremely difficult to go back to living a restricted life with her sister’s family after experiencing a life of freedom and fulfillment. The fact that Eleanor strongly desires to avoid being near her sister suggests that she lacks any sense of purpose, connection, or meaning in their relationship (Jackson 178). However, the quote implies that Hill House provides Eleanor with a sense of meaning and a feeling of belonging (Jackson 178). Whether this sense of purpose is genuine or deliberately manufactured by Hill House to trap Eleanor is not important (Jackson 178).

According to Jackson (178), the origin of the meaning is irrelevant to Eleanor because she believes she has found her purpose and place in the world. To Eleanor, the house wants her to be there and this gives her a sense of belonging (Jackson 178). It would be illogical for Eleanor to long for a life where she didn’t feel accepted after finding a domain where she feels wanted and belonged. The car is used to control Eleanor as it forces her to leave Hill House.

The quotation from Eleanor, “But I won’t go, she thought, and laughed aloud to herself, Hill House is not as easy as they are, just by telling me to go away they can’t make me leave, not if Hill House means me to stay” (Jackson 181), demonstrates her defiance against being controlled by others. This mirrors the incident of her stealing the car, where she also refused to be controlled. By refusing to leave Hill House, Eleanor is asserting her independence and refusing to allow its inhabitants to control her, similar to her refusal to be controlled by her sister (Jackson 181).

According to Jackson (180), the car is currently being used as a means of control for Eleanor. She is forced to leave Hill House with all her belongings in the car. Eleanor takes a firm stand against the controlling inhabitants of Hill House, saying that they don’t want her anymore and chanting for her to go away. However, Eleanor asserts that she can stay and they can’t make the rules. She won’t be turned out, shut out, laughed at, or hidden from. Eleanor declares that Hill House belongs to her (Jackson 181).

In this text, Eleanor’s refusal to be controlled by the car is evident. However, she is still driving away, which portrays the car as an object of control over her. It is clear that Eleanor uses the car as a means to end her life, as she expresses her thoughts while turning the wheel towards a tree and the driveway’s curve. She emphasizes that she is doing it independently, stating “this is me, I am really really really doing it all by myself” (Jackson 182).

Eleanor’s suicide can be seen as an extreme act of desperation. This act demonstrates that Eleanor believed her only chance of escaping the control imposed upon her at Hill House was to take her own life on the grounds of the property. In this way, the car becomes a symbol of liberation for Eleanor. Through her suicide, Eleanor is able to stay connected to Hill House in spirit and avoid being forced back into a life controlled by her sister, symbolized by the car.

I would like to argue that the car can be seen as a representation of Eleanor’s deteriorating mental state. At the start of the novel, the car symbolizes her escape from her sister’s control. During her journey to Hill House, Eleanor appears to be mentally stable, as evidenced by her optimistic and hopeful mindset about her newfound freedom and adventure (Jackson 15).

She constantly fantasized about the potential of her future life, like living alone in her cottage (Jackson 15). Nevertheless, by the end of the book, Eleanor’s ability to use the car to achieve freedom resulted in her staying at Hill House through suicide (Jackson 182). Before her suicide, we witness her mental state deteriorating. Her perspective on life outside of Hill House is extremely dismal. Eleanor talks as if she has no future without Hill House.

After leaving Hill House, Eleanor had the opportunity to pursue one of her dream possibilities instead of returning to her controlled life. However, due to her unstable mental state, she made the alternative decision to take her own life. Eleanor’s instability prevented her from envisioning a life beyond Hill House, indicating her deteriorating mental condition during her time at the house. Overall, I believe that the car shared between Eleanor and her sister holds great significance in The Haunting of Hill House.

The significance of the car in the novel lies in its reflection of Eleanor’s internal struggle between control and liberation. Initially representing control, the car eventually transforms into a symbol of freedom for Eleanor. However, as the story progresses, this notion of freedom shifts from simply being a means of travel to potentially leading to her own death. This change in perception of the car mirrors the decline of Eleanor’s mental well-being, and subsequently offers insight into other themes explored in the novel.

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The Haunting of Hill House. (2017, Mar 01). Retrieved from

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