#WIHMX Day 1 – Shirley Jackson

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February at last! Not only is it Women In Horror Month, it’s the 10th anniversary! #WIHMX

So I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight some of the many women in horror (writers, characters, actors, artists etc.) who’ve inspired me in some way or another.

I’ll kick the first day off with my all-time favourite writer Shirley Jackson.

Jackson was born in 1916 and was responsible for giving us novels such as The Haunting of Hill House, which has gone on to inspire many film and TV adaptations over the years, and We Have Always Lived In The Castle.

Jackson had a thoroughly quirky writing style and a great knack for creating strong, addictive female characters. Eleanor and Theodora in The Haunting of Hill House had extremely opposing personas – Eleanor was a socially awkward recluse and Theodora was an extrovert – but the rapport between them was immense. I think there was even a love triangle taking shape. Just as Luke was attracted to Theodora, I think Eleanor found her to be captivating in ways that must have been quite taboo when the book was published (1959). Eleanor totally had a crush on the exotic and flamboyant Theodora. In my mind she did anyway. So there.

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And Hill House itself. Wow. Jackson totally nailed anthropomorphism here. Hill House was depicted as being this brooding, menacing sentient being that was capable of observing its occupants. Hell, Jackson’s descriptions were so gloriously creepy, I even got the impression that the house could breathe and move. No wonder it went on to inspire so many people within the horror genre.

“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it has stood for eighty years and might stand eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” – The Haunting of Hill House 

In We Have Always Lived In The Castle, lead character Merrycat is a young woman who lives with her older sister and uncle in a formerly well-to-do big house on the outksirts of town. Merrycat’s family isn’t looked upon too favourably by the town’s other residents and throughout the story we get to delve into her thoughts, which makes for a fun and tragic and completely terrifying experience.

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.” – We Have Always Lived In The Castle

Jackson wrote six novels in her life which are:

The Road Through The Wall (1948)

Hangsaman (1951)

The Bird’s Nest (1954)

The Sundial (1958)

The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

We Have Always Lived In The Castle (1962)

She also wrote around 200 short stories, the most well known of them being The Lottery.

Jackson died at the age of 48, in 1965, which is a great shame because I’m sure she’d have gone on to further enrich the horror genre with her quirky mind and impressive talent.

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R. H. Dixon is a horror enthusiast who, when not escaping into the fantastical realms of fiction, lives in the northeast of England with her husband and two whippets. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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2 comments on “#WIHMX Day 1 – Shirley Jackson
  1. I love Jackson’s authorial voice! It’s sweet and scary at the same time, like drowning in decadent, melted chocolate.

    Liked by 1 person

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