UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Haunted by desire : hallucinations and fantasy spaces in Henry James's The turn of the screw, Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, and Shirley Jackson's The haunting of Hill House Payne, Anna


The settings of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House all take place in monstrous old buildings with horrendous pasts. The memories of Bly, Manderley, and Hill House are all haunted by the untimely deaths of past occupants, influencing each of the novels’ narrators to perceive the house itself is haunted. Because all three novels are ambiguous pertaining to the existence of the supernatural phenomena, criticism on the novels oscillates between reading the paranormal activity at face value, and in opposition, interpreting the paranormal activity as each of the narrators’ personal hauntings. These two differing interpretations split into countless other possible readings by debating why the house is haunted or why the narrators hallucinate the paranormal activity. This thesis joins the ongoing conversation through a psychoanalytical perspective and argues that the houses are not haunted, the narrators’ unconscious psyches are. It aims to examine how a lens of desire can help render visible possible readings that may have been overlooked when dealing with ambiguity in literature. While each of the thesis’s three chapters focuses on different novels, all three chapters come together to convey the same message; desire reveals a narrator’s disconnect from reality. The first chapter illustrates how the unnamed governess’s desire for her employer causes her to hallucinate apparitions in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. The second chapter examines how the unnamed narrator’s desire for an identity is tied to her elaborate fantasy spaces in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The third and final chapter assesses how Eleanor’s desire to belong in a familial structure in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House leads her to believe that Hill House is haunted by supernatural phenomena. Together, these three chapters exemplify how desire can be used as a lens to uncover what is actually happening in each narrative.

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