Summary: Chapter 9

Eleanor wakes in the night to go to the library. She reasons that she’s going there to get a book, but she knows that she’s being drawn there not entirely of her own volition. At the library, Eleanor smells an awful odor and hears someone call, “Come along.” Believing the voice is her mother’s, Eleanor races back upstairs and knocks on all the bedroom doors, calling inside. Mrs. Montague answers from inside the nursery, thinking that Eleanor is a ghost. Eleanor notices that not only has the doorway’s cold spot vanished, but the whole house feels warm to her now. Realizing that the others are searching for her, Eleanor runs back downstairs and evades them by using her ability to hear everything in the house. Back at the library, Eleanor climbs the rickety iron stairway to the turret. Everyone is afraid that the stairway will collapse, but Luke climbs up and ushers Eleanor back to safety. 

The next morning, Dr. Montague insists that Eleanor leave the house. Mrs. Montague suggests that someone drive Eleanor home, but Dr. Montague says Eleanor must sever all association with the house immediately. As Eleanor drives down the driveway, she looks back at the others watching her go. She pities them for thinking that they can thwart Hill House’s desire to keep her. Suddenly, Eleanor accelerates toward the oak tree, and for a brief moment, she wonders why she’s doing it and why the others aren’t stopping her. After Eleanor’s suicide, the study concludes, and the others return to their lives. Dr. Montague publishes his study, but it’s met with ridicule by his peers.

Analysis: Chapter 9

Eleanor’s nighttime romp through the house displays her fully fractured identity and loss of self. As Eleanor moves through the house in a search for her mother, she is entirely removed from herself and refers to “Eleanor” as a separate person who is supposed to be sleeping in her room. She becomes an accomplice of Hill House as she pounds on the doors and takes the place of the supernatural entity who has haunted them at night. Now at one with the house, Eleanor is able to confront every part of it that once frightened her, and she experiences delight rather than fear. The ascent of the library staircase represents a rebirth for Eleanor as she relinquishes her past self with all of its fears and dreams. Her attempts to open the trap door suggest an intention to commit suicide and fully give herself over to the house. Her rebirth is halted, however, when her companions intervene and coax her back to safety. As she regains cognizance and comes back into herself, Eleanor’s identity is once again driven by shame and fear.

In the final scene of the novel, Eleanor’s search for home and identity has ended. Her admission that she has brought all of her belongings with her to Hill House indicates that she never intended to return to her sister’s house. Instead, it reveals the depth of Eleanor’s desperation in deciding to call Hill House her home before she even arrived. Mrs. Montague’s assessment of Eleanor’s sister proves beyond Eleanor’s unreliability that Carrie’s house is an unpleasant place for Eleanor to be, and yet the group insists it is the only place she can go. In his decision that Eleanor must leave Hill House and “be herself again,” Dr. Montague resigns Eleanor to a fate she will never be able to accept: eternal imprisonment in her fractured identity and miserable circumstances. Because Eleanor identifies with the house as if she is now a part of it, the likelihood that she will be able to leave is tenuous. Eleanor’s insistence that the house won’t let her go removes her of any culpability for trying to stay. In her final act of desperation, Eleanor’s suicide ensures that she will now be part of Hill House’s history forever, and perhaps a permanent supernatural resident within the house itself.