For this discussion of the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, consider all of the literary devices we have discussed up to this point. How does Jackson use these aspects of the form to suit her purpose? What are the effects of the choices she makes? Here are some questions to consider:
What genre best matches Jackson’s novel? What are its characteristics? Does the novel meet all of the expectations that come along with this choice of genre? What other works fit within this category? Does the novel exhibit the characteristics of any other category? How would changing the genre affect our interpretation?
What kind of conflict does the protagonist face? Is it internal or external? What is the antagonist? What does the resolution suggest about the theme of the novel? How does the plot develop the conflict? Does the arrangement of events affect the level of dramatic tension the reader experiences?
How would you characterize the narration of the novel? In some places, Jackson appears to shift from third-person to first-person. What is the effect of this? From whose point of view is the story told? Does the narration help to convey anything about the protagonist’s conflict?
The setting plays a prominent role in the story. How does it combine with other elements to influence our interpretation? How would you characterize the characters’ relationships with the setting? How does this story compare with other stories you know where houses play a central role (Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for instance). Does the protagonist’s journey from the city to the country signify anything? How is nature portrayed?
Are there any obvious symbols in the novel? Or not-so-obvious symbols? Could the novel be read as an allegory? Are there any thematic connections with other works of literature we have read in this class? Is there anything interesting or original about the author’s use of language?
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