Analysis of Virginia Woolf’s A Haunted House
About the Author
Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, England on January 25, 1882 and died on March 28, 1941 at the age of 59 years old (Tratner). She had four brothers and three sisters. Two of her brothers and one of her sisters were from her mother’s previous marriage and one of her sisters was from her father’s previous marriage. Virginia’s father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was an influential critic and editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. Along with her sister Vanessa, Virginia was largely self-educated learned most of what she knew by reading books from her father’s extensive library. After her father died in 1904, Vanessa and Virginia moved to Bloomsbury and became part of the Bloomsbury Group, which was a group of progressive artists and intellectuals (Tratner). In 1912 she became Adeline Virginia Stephen Woolf when she married Leonard Woolf who was a journalist and writer. The couple set up a hand-press in their home and started a press named Hogarth Press, which became one of the most celebrated small presses of the century (Tratner). The press issued books by Virginia and other great authors of her time such as T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Robinson Jeffers, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Sigmund Freud. Her first novel was The Voyage Out which was written in 1915 and issued by their press. Some of Woolf’s other works that were issued by their press were Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Common Reader, and her feministic essay A Room of One’s Own (Tratner). Virginia Woolf had always been in frail health because she would experience episodes of mental disturbance. Even with their press being therapeutic to these episodes it still did not stop them completely. Virginia suffered from several nervous break-downs in 1941 and in fear of losing her sanity she drowned herself later that year (Tratner).

The story A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf is a short story full of symbolism, imagery, and irony. The story is narrated in the third-person limited or the limited omniscience point of view which helps the reader to get a more in-depth perception of how the ghosts and the living people feel and helps the reader understand some of the thoughts that these flat, static characters have throughout the story.
The time period is never clearly stated but it appears to be a long time ago, possibly in the late 1800’s at an old English house with a garden. A Haunted House is about a ghost couple, male and female, who go around in a house that was once theirs. The reason for being in the house is that they are searching for buried treasure. ”Whatever our you woke, there was a door shutting” (Woolf 41). The person that occupies the house hears the doors and windows opening and shutting, being well aware of the fact that there are ghost in the house but she is not scared of the ghosts causing harm to her. The ghosts fear that the couple now living in the house might have already found it. The ghost couple searches every single room of the house, going back and forth, double-checking everything. The climax of the story is when the ghost couple comes to the conclusion that the couple occupying the house has never found buried treasure and it could possibly be in the garden. The ghost couple also realizes that the treasure is actually safe and is still in fact theirs.
Finally, the author reveals that the buried treasure is “"the light in the heart” (Woolf 42). Throughout the story, Virginia Woolf, uses the repetition of the words “here” and “it”. By using the repetition of the word “here” and “it”, Woolf emphasizes the significance of both of the words. The couple says “it” could be “here” in the book room, the drawing room and the upstairs. They also say if “it’s” upstairs or if they left “it” in the drawing room. This makes the reader start to question what exactly are the ghosts looking for and where did they leave it? The author also makes the reader wonder if “it” is “here” and if not “here” then where is “it”? When Woolf finally explains that “it” is “treasure”, the reader is led to imagine what kind of treasure are the ghosts looking for? In the last sentence when the author reveals that the ghosts were looking for “the light in the heart” and by this she was referring to a love that a partner can have for another partner (Woolf 42).
Woolf reveals clues throughout the story by showing the reader the happy thoughts and love that the ghosts shared with each other. For example, “we slept here” (Woolf 41) and “kisses without number” (Woolf 41). The story has a symbolic meaning to it because the treasure is not an actually tangible item, rather a symbol of love. Imagery is used in the story very often and is used for great effect by giving the reader a mental picture of what is being described and giving the reader the perception that Woolf desires for the reader. Examples of imagery in the story are abundant but a specific example is in the simile, “The doors go shutting in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.” This puts the reader right in the story and allows them to see the doors shutting and the ghosts moving through the house. Just by the title, A Haunted House, the story makes the perception of the house seem that of an evil place. This shows the irony because both of the ghosts are the protagonists and throughout the story it shows the reader the memories of joy and love between the ghost couple. The irony of the story also helps in allowing the reader to understand the story’s theme, which is something is not always what it seems to be. In this story the ghosts are actually the protagonists unlike other stories where ghosts are seen as the antagonists.


Works Cited
Tratner, Michael. “Virginia Woolf 1882-1941 (English).” Literature Online Reference Edition. 16 April 2011. <>.
Woolf, Virginia. “A Haunted House.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 2011. 40-42. Print.
"Woolf, (Adeline) Virginia." Encyclopedia. World News Digest. Facts On File News Services, n.d. Web. 16 April 2011. <>.
"Virginia Woolf." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 05 May. 2011. <>.

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