The Liberating Appeal of Cars
I choose to interpret the representation of cars in The Haunting of Hill House. In this novel, a car is first represented as a means of control over Eleanor by her sister (Jackson 7). However, Eleanor’s stealing of the car transforms the car into a representation of freedom from her present life (Jackson 10). The car allows Eleanor to be free of her controlled life and to begin her own journey (Jackson 10). We observe the same car at the conclusion of the novel as a device used to free herself from her forced departure of Hill House (Jackson 178). She uses the car to commit suicide, allowing her to stay at Hill House indefinitely (Jackson 182). I argue that in the novel the car is utilized for control over Eleanor but ultimately for her personal freedom. The car is what liberates Eleanor from her life prior to Hill House and also from her forced departure. I will also argue that the significance of Eleanor’s car being used for freedom is that it shows the transformation of Eleanor’s mental state. The difference in Eleanor’s idea of freedom, travel versus suicide, makes the demise of Eleanor’s mental state evident.
The car is first introduced in an argument of its ownership between Eleanor and her sister (Jackson 6). The fight reveals the strong level of control that Eleanor’s sister and brother-in-law possess over Eleanor’s life (Jackson 7). Carrie’s attempt of control over Eleanor is demonstrated by Carrie’s speech when she exclaims, “We don’t know where you’re going, do we? You haven’t seen fit to tell us very much about all this, have you? I don’t think I can see my way clear to letting you borrow my car” (Jackson 7). This quote shows Carrie’s unhappiness with Eleanor’s refusal to share the details of her upcoming journey. Subsequently, Carrie then clearly denies Eleanor the use of the car. This denial grants Carrie a level of control over Eleanor’s journey because it would be much more difficult for her to travel without the car. Therefore, I argue that Carrie is utilizing the car as a means of control over Eleanor. I believe that Eleanor steals the car that her sister denies her in order to be freed of her sister’s control (Jackson 10). Thus, the car is then used as a means of freedom. The following description of Eleanor’s change of behavior gives evidence that the stealing of the car has freed Eleanor of her sister’s control: When she had her sister’s permission to drive the little car, she had gone cautiously, moving with extreme care to avoid even the slightest scratch or mar which might irritate her sister, but today, with her cartoon in the back seat and her suitcase on the floor, her gloves and pocketbook and light coat on the sea beside her, the car belonged entirely to her, a little contained world all her own. (Jackson 10) This alteration from being extremely careful and cautious with the operation of the vehicle to not caring demonstrates that Eleanor is no longer restricted by her sister (Jackson 10). The modification of her treatment of the car, as well as simply stealing the car, shows that Eleanor no longer cares about irritating her sister, therefore freeing Eleanor of her sister’s control (Jackson 10). Furthermore, it is critical to my argument to emphasize that in this context the car is being used as a means of freedom from her sister’s control.
It is clear that the car has freed Eleanor from her sister’s control and her previous life. Eleanor reflects on the stealing of the car and thinks, “I would never have suspected it of myself, she thought, laughing still; everything is different, I am a new person, very far from home” (Jackson 19). I interpret Eleanor’s declaration that everything is different and that she is a new person as Eleanor no longer being constrained by her sister and her family (Jackson 19). Being liberated of her sister’s control, Eleanor is allowed to be herself and do whatever she desires. Therefore, the car has a...
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