1.On her drive to Hill House, Eleanor passes an empty grass square, surrounded by majestic oleander trees. She wonders what building had been planned and never built in the center of the square and imagines that the lot contains an invisible castle. She thinks that she might break the spell on the castle if she were to walk inside the square, but she drives away without allowing herself to do so. What does this early episode reveal about her character? What does the oleander square represent?
2.Discuss the reasons Dr. Montague chose Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke to stay in Hill House. The psychic phenomenon which they experienced does not seem to have made a great impact on them. How is this significant?
3.What is the role of Mrs. Dudley (and, to a lesser degree, her husband)? How does her behavior influence various characters?
4.Eleanor often tells herself that she deserves her newfound happiness at Hill House. What is the cause of this happiness? Is it real or an illusion? How do her feelings about both the house and its temporary inhabitants change over the course of her stay?
5.How does Jackson establish a romantic triangle, given the social proprieties of the era in which the novel is set? (It was first published in 1959.) What is the significance of the song refrain Eleanor keeps repeating, “journeys end in lovers meeting”?
6.Do you believe Eleanor was justified in feeling resentful towards the others for treating her like a hysterical female? Or do you believe the others in the party saw something in Eleanor that alarmed them? Justify your position with examples from the story.
7.Did Eleanor intentionally let her mother die, or is she merely suffering from bereavement and a mistaken feeling guilt? Cite examples from the story that support your point of view.
8.Discuss the differences in the methods Dr. and Mrs. Montague use to study the paranormal. Which approach, if any, do you believe is most successful? Why?
9.Why does Mrs. Montague believe that a loving attitude is more effective in a haunted house than a fearful one?
10.The planchette is similar to the ouija board; it is a method of communicating with spirits from beyond through the process of automatic writing. What do you make of the planchette’s messages to Eleanor?
11.The house itself seems to be speaking at some points, but the spirits in the house are never explicitly defined. How does this affect the reader’s perception of events?
12.While The Haunting of Hill House is told in the third person, by an omniscient narrator, the point of view throughout the novel is almost exclusively Eleanor's. Is her viewpoint reliable?
13.It seems clear that we are meant to believe the reality of the physical manifestations of Hill House’s “possession” by otherworldly forces, as many of the phenomena are witnessed by two or more people, whereas many authors would have left the reality of these events ambiguous. What do you make of Jackson’s decision?