Thursday, January 31, 2013

Over the Hill or Sweet Sixteen: A Youthful Analysis of The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House is undeniably brilliant. It jump started a revolution of ghost tales and even, some might argue, a certain brand of horror. Regardless of those claims, the book is fascinating--an interesting combination of fear and psychological turmoil. But one angle that gets overlooked regards the combination of the book's fundamental themes, what they add up to, and why they make the book even more of an unsettling read. More specifically, although the book is about adults doing adult things, the story holds elements that should technically classify it in the young adult genre.

Eleanor is the heroine of the story, and she has many of the qualities of any typical young adult hero or heroine. She has tragedy in her life from losing her parents, similar to Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. She is also repressed. Her sister and brother-in-law restrain her from living life. Eleanor is not her own person, and through the course of the novel, she rebels and finds her identity like any typical young adult protagonist.

The secondary characters serve functions similar to those in young adult novels, too. For instance, Theodora becomes like a sibling. In the beginning, the two even jokingly discuss being related. This might be compared to Hermione and Ronald in Harry Potter or maybe even Alice Cullen in Twilight. The whimsical nature and intimate bonding serves to show the protagonist, as well as the young adult reader, is not alone in the world and should venture fourth without fear or apprehension.

Other characters might serve as guardians or counselors, which can be found sprinkled throughout all young adult novels, but one that springs forward in The Haunting of Hill House is Mrs. Montague. She is breezy and funny. Readers enjoy her character for the relief she provides, not for the admirable traits she possess. Might she then mirror other obnoxiously humorous characters such as Effie Trinket (or any of the flamboyant and humous chaperone's) from Hunger Games, or possibly to Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter. Consider Rubeus' knack for letting information slip coinciding with Mrs. Montague's planchette incident. Although I admit the parallel is not identical, it is evident that Mrs. Montague's information assists in Eleanor maturing and growing fully.

Young adult literature also often deals with teen romance, and The Haunting of Hill House tackles this puberal topic. Eleanor has a love interest--the house. It represents the unknown, her place in the world, and everything she has ever needed, much as Edward does for Bella. Maybe it's all psychological, but maybe, the house and its possible metaphysical occupants might just reciprocate those emotions.

Of course, this book is not really suitable for all young adults, even if it does hold such similarities to other young adult literature. What should be taken away from this analysis, however, is that this book is partially unsettling because it coincides with young adult tales. As a reader turns the pages, his or her subconscious recognizes the characters, the patterns, and the themes that create a young adult novel, but the perversion of that format creates an uncanny sense of apprehension for the reader. Eleanor is an woman-child, barely able to take care of herself, begging for her cup of stars, and she grows into a mature adult who is able to make independent decisions. And she does make a decision--the decision to be with the love of her life, even if it involves suicide, an even more unsettling note that contrasts the uplifting endings often seen in young adult fiction. But, from a different perspective, Eleanor did grow up and did find her happy ending, just like Bella, Harry, and Katniss.