Quote 1

“Time is beginning this morning in June, she assured herself, but it is a time that is strangely new and of itself; in these few seconds I have lived a lifetime in a house with two lions in front.”

These thoughts arise for Eleanor as she drives to Hill House in Chapter 1. She has set off on a journey unlike any she’s had before, driving the car without permission for the first time and embarking on the longest road trip she’s ever taken alone. As she passes a house on the main street of a village, she is drawn to the two stone lions in front which inspire an elaborate fantasy about an alternate life she would like to live. In this fantasy, Eleanor regularly cleans the lions with precision, enjoys very specific food and drink brought to her by an elderly servant, and sleeps in a bed with a white organdy canopy.

This quote is the reader’s first introduction to Eleanor’s habitual fantasy creation, and the details she daydreams of are alarmingly ornate. It is now clear that Eleanor is not mentally stable and therefore cannot be trusted to convey her experiences as valid observations. The lions return several times in the story as a motif for Eleanor’s mental instability and fantastical escapism.

Quote 2

“Hill House has a reputation for insistent hospitality; it seemingly dislikes letting its guests get away.”

Dr. Montague speaks these words to the group in Chapter 3 on their first night in Hill House as they beg him to reveal why they have been asked to come there. He is hesitant to tell them anything about the house because he fears that what they learn will cause them to leave in the dark of nighttime, a decision that has proved fatal for past guests. Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke insist that they are unafraid and won’t leave the house, and so Dr. Montague begrudgingly tells them the stories of Hill House’s ghastly past.

In evidence of his statement, Dr. Montague reveals that eighteen years prior the last person to leave Hill House at night was killed in the driveway when his horse became spooked and crushed him against a large tree. His story foreshadows the tragic final scene that takes place on Hill House’s grounds, assumedly in the same spot where the former guest lost his life. His word choice also further personifies Hill House as an entity with both mind and will of its own.

Quote 3

“‘It’s embarrassing. To think about being afraid, I mean.’ 

‘We’re all in it together, you know,’ Theodora said. 

‘It’s worse if you try not to show it,’ the doctor said.”

Eleanor speaks the first line of this dialogue in Chapter 4 after a restful first night’s sleep in Hill House. Over breakfast, Theodora and Eleanor both admit they have dreamed of the angry younger sister of Hill House’s past who fought for ownership of the house until it was eventually passed on to Luke’s family. Here, Eleanor sheepishly admits that the stories Dr. Montague told them the previous night have frightened her, and she seeks acceptance of her fear to avoid feeling shame.

Though Theodora’s reminder appears to be an acknowledgment of their shared fear, it is also one of her many attempts to prevent Eleanor from becoming the center of attention. Her suggestion that they are all having the same experience is a casual dismissal of Eleanor’s endeavor to win their regard. Dr. Montague’s comment is a gentle reminder and an encouragement to explore her feelings of fear without internalizing them, and it foreshadows Eleanor’s retreat into her mind. When the others quickly move on to a different topic, Eleanor feels miffed as if she is being branded as the least important player in a childish game.

Quote 4

“I have broken the spell of Hill House and somehow come inside. I am home, she thought, and stopped in wonder at the thought. I am home, I am home, she thought; now to climb.”

These thoughts occur during Eleanor’s episode of madness in the final chapter after she runs through the house, pounds on doors, and finds her way into the library. At this point, Eleanor feels that she is one with the house and has given up all of her previous dreams in favor of staying at Hill House forever. The library, which has previously repulsed her with a foul odor only she can smell, is the site of a previous owner’s suicide. Eleanor’s compulsion to climb the treacherous metal stairway that winds up to the turret, where the previous owner committed suicide by hanging, is a warning to all that Eleanor’s mental decline has reached a dangerous stage. Her repetition of “I am home” shows that she is committed to living the rest of her life in Hill House. However, as she pounds on the trapdoor, she seems bent on ending her life then and there.