Summary: Chapter 2

Eleanor is the first guest to arrive at Hill House, a house “without kindness, never meant to be lived in.” She meets with the home’s caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, who seem unwelcoming and cold. Mr. Dudley explains that he and his wife live six miles away, and Mrs. Dudley states that they refuse to stay at the house after dark. The Dudleys encourage Eleanor to leave the house, but Eleanor ignores her instinct to flee. Convinced that turning back would be a personal failure, Eleanor recites the lyrics “journeys end in lovers meeting,” a refrain she repeats whenever she is unsettled or nervous. 

Inside, Mrs. Dudley takes Eleanor to the blue room, a bedroom decorated entirely in blue. Theodora arrives soon after and is brought to the adjacent bedroom, known as the green room. Theodora’s bubbly personality immediately charms Eleanor, and they become fast friends, even jokingly deciding that they might be cousins. They decide to explore the grounds together, resting at an idyllic brook that looks like something out of a fairy tale. Eleanor gets spooked when she sees something moving across the hill, and she admits that she doubts she can complete the study and might have to go home. But Theodora reassures her, saying that she only saw a rabbit and that nothing can separate them now.

Analysis: Chapter 2

Hill House emerges as a symbol of evil upon Eleanor’s first view. Jackson frighteningly personifies the exterior of Hill House as a face that is awake and watching, haughty and detesting, and essentially evil. It appears to have no regard for human life nor any need for connection to the outside world. Though Eleanor is terrified, despite her better judgment, her petulant pounding on the door is a dare to the house to let her in. The interior of the house displays elements of the dark and gloomy Gothic setting convention. Its dark wood, closed doors, heavy silence, and disorienting walls create a sense of dread and doom. Mrs. Dudley’s description of her role and routine in the house is unnatural, and her strange, foreboding demeanor suggests that she may actually be under the influence of the house. When Theodora mocks its grim atmosphere, Eleanor wonders if the house can hear them. The house’s foreboding presence effectively provokes fear of retribution and anxiety in its occupants.
As Eleanor and Theodora become acquainted, the theme of sisterhood surfaces. Though there are stark differences between the two women, their companionship provides elements of safety and balance in the dark and oppressive atmosphere of Hill House. While Eleanor is shy, cowardly, and awkward, Theodora’s bold and playful nature pushes Eleanor outside of her comfort zone and challenges her to be brave. Their decision to dress down for dinner indicates that they will make their own rules and won’t be bullied by Mrs. Dudley or anyone else. When the two women share details about their families and pasts, Eleanor’s memory of her mother’s forced woolen stockings portrays a childhood of maternal overbearance. Theodora’s private school upbringing suggests a past of lonely abandonment. Though the two women playfully claim kinship based on the similarities of their pasts, it is their differences that strengthen their comforting sisterly bond.