Summary: Chapter 8

Later that morning, Dr. Montague asks Mrs. Montague and Arthur if they noticed anything strange the night before. Mrs. Montague complains that her room was stuffy, and Arthur says he only heard branches tapping his window. Later, when Eleanor says she will live with Theodora once the study concludes, Theodora laughs and rejects the idea. Eleanor wistfully replies that she’s never been wanted anywhere. Later, Luke, Theodora, and Eleanor walk to the brook. Eleanor says that she feels responsible for her mother’s death because she didn’t wake up the night her mother called for her medicine. Theodora wonders aloud if Eleanor just likes to feel responsible for the death. Eleanor walks ahead, lost in thought, and finds herself alone when she reaches the brook. She hears her name being called but sees no one. 

Later that evening, the group gathers in the parlor while Mrs. Montague and Arthur continue using the planchette in the library. Suddenly, Mrs. Montague rushes into the parlor, stating that the planchette no longer works because of everyone’s skepticism. Eleanor hears a child singing in the middle of the room and feels something brush her face. She realizes that no one else hears the voice and feels happy knowing that only she can hear and sense what goes on in Hill House.

Analysis: Chapter 8

As an adult, Eleanor’s longing for home and family is driven by her fear of being alone, and her quest to find a place she belongs continues as she decides to follow Theodora home once the study is complete. Though the women previously declared themselves cousins, Theodora’s refusal to take Eleanor in shows that she wants no responsibility for filling the role of family for Eleanor. Eleanor’s insistence that she will follow Theodora whether or not she is wanted is startling, and it indicates a lack of understanding about how to attain the true home and familial comforts she seeks. Since Eleanor has become oddly content at Hill House, Luke’s teasing threats to smash it up may be attempts to dissuade her from trying to stay and make Hill House her home. When she encounters a ghostly voice by the brook, she is soothed when it chants her name. Her pleas for it to stay with her suggest that she is so lonely she would take a ghostly companion over none at all. Eleanor’s manic behavior in her search for home and family signal that her perception of these concepts is skewed, and she doesn’t truly understand what it is she’s searching for.

The nature of Eleanor’s true identity comes into question as Eleanor sneaks around the house and silently spies on the other residents. Her stated mission to “find out” is vague, though it’s clear that she is trying to hear what the others have to say about her. As she moves around the grounds and hides, however, her observations suggest that she has left no impression on her companions. In the summerhouse, Luke and Theodora discuss Dr. Montague’s book and who will be included, but they do not mention Eleanor. In making plans to explore by the brook, neither proposes to extend an invitation to her. Inside the house, when Arthur asks Dr. Montague where everyone is, the doctor mentions the whereabouts of everyone but Eleanor. In the kitchen, as Mrs. Dudley and Mrs. Montague talk about the young guests, they mention only Theodora and Luke. Though Eleanor appears as part of the group later in the chapter, in this scene, her identity is spectral. One might question if she is actually a guest at the house after all.