A Treasury of Literary Classics -
Short Story Series


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The Haunted House

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 - 28 March 1941) was an important female modernist writer of the 20th century. She was also a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness, a narrative technique that captures characters' flow of thoughts. Woolf was a novelist, short story writer, essayist and a critic and her works were widely translated. Her most notable works include Mrs Dolloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929). The short story "The Haunted House" first appeared in Woolf's short-story collection Monday or Tuesday (1921).

1. Who is the narrator of the short story?

A. an independent third person
B. the husband/wife of the living couple
C. the ghost wife
D. the ghost husband

Your answer:

- "Quietly," they said, "or we shall wake them."
- "But it wasn't that you woke us. "
- "Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake us, the ghostly couple seek their joy."

We can infer from these lines that those who were talking were ghosts and those who were narrating were people who could be woken up (alive) and were involved in the story.

2. Where was the story set?

A. the farm
B. the drawing room
C. the bedroom
D. the couple's house

Your answer:

- "From room to room they went ..."
- "It's upstairs,"she murmured. "And in the garden," he whispered."

3. Which of the following is NOT a moment when the narrator could feel the presence of the ghosts?

A. waking from sleep
B. having dinner
C. reading a book
D. sleeping

Your answer:

A: "Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes."
C: "... one might say, and so read on a page of two."
D: "Look," he breathes. "Sound asleep. Love upon their lips."

4. Why did the ghost couple linger around the house?

  1. to regain the house they had lost
  2. to take revenge on the living couple
  3. to find their fond and loving memories
  4. to re-unite with each other

A. (i) & (ii)
B. (ii) & (iv)
C. (iii) & (iv)
D. (i) & (iv)

Your answer:

i: "He left it, left her, went North, went East, saw the stars turned in the Southern sky; sought the house, found it dropped beneath the Downs."

iii: "... the ghostly couple seek their joy."

iii: "Here we slept," she says. And he adds, "kisses without number."

5. Which of the following does not describe the mood/atmosphere of the story?

A. horrifying
B. dreamy
C. mysterious
D. light-hearted

Your answer:

6. Identify the themes of the story.

  1. love
  2. loss
  3. commitment
  4. justice

A. (i) & (ii)
B. (i) & (iv)
C. (i),(ii) & (iii)
D. all of the above

Your answer:

7. Match the following figures of speech / literary devices with the right examples from the story. In one example, more than one literary device is used.

A. simile B. metaphor C. personification
D. repetition E. alliteration F. parallelism
Sentence from the Story Figure of Speech
7a. Death was the glass; death was between us.
7b. The candle burns stiff and still.
7c. The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.
7d. The wind drives straightly; the flame stoops slightly.
7e. "Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beats softly.
"Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beats gladly.
"Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beats proudly.
"Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beats wildly.

(A) Simile is a figure of speech that compares two unlike things using the words "like" or "as".

(B) Metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one object or idea replaces another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.

(C) Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to something non-human, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.

(D) Repetition is a literary device in which a word or phrase is repeated two or more times.

(E) Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds of two or more closely connected words.

(F) Parallelism is a literary device in which sentences and phrases similar in construction or grammatical structure are used repeatedly.

8. Line breaks and length of sentences are stylistic features that help to convey meaning and achieve effects in a literary text. Read the following excerpt:

"Here we slept," she says. And he adds, "kisses without number."
"Waking in the morning — " "Sliver between the trees — " "Upstairs — " "In the garden — " "When summer came — " "In winter snowtime — " The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.

Nearer they come, cease at the doorway. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Our eyes darken, we hear no steps beside us; we see no lady spread her ghostly cloak. His hands shield the lantern. "Look," he breathes. "Sound asleep. Love upon their lips."

Stooping, holding their silver lamp above us, long they look and deeply. Long they pause. The wind drives straightly; the flame stoops slightly. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent; the faces pondering; the faces that search the sleepers and seek their hidden joy.

8a. Which of the following descirbe the sentences in the excerpt in terms of length and line breaks?

A. long and connected
B. short and connected
C. long and fragmented
D. short and fragmented

Your answer:

- Pay attention to the use of punctuation as well as the number of words in each sentence.
- Fragmented means cut up and not connected.

8b. What effects / purposes can the above features achieve?

  1. to create a suspenseful and mysterious mood
  2. to slow down the story
  3. to impart a dreamlike quality to the state of semi-consciousness
  4. to reflect the characters' random thoughts and spontaneous flow of ideas
  5. to maintain a formal style and an object tone

A. (i), (ii) & (iii)
B. (i), (iii) & (iv)
C. (i), (iii) & (v)
D. (iii) & (iv)

Your answer:

Consider your answer based on the following clues:
- The story is about a ghostly couple.
- Short and choppy lines usually quicken the pace.
- Much of the narrative focuses on what happens during sleep and wake-up time.
- Human thoughts are usually disorganised.
- They story is quite personal and retold from a first person point of view.

The Haunted House

Score Sheet

Questions Results
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7a
Question 7b
Question 7c
Question 7d
Question 7e
Question 8a
Question 8b

Extension: Think and Share

9. How would you describe the relationship of the ghostly couple? Support your answer with evidence from the story.

10. Would you consider "The Haunted House" a ghost story? Why or why not?

11. How does the writer portray the house as a living thing? What is the purpose of animating the house?

The house is described as a living object with heart beats and pulses (e.g. "'Safe, safe, safe,' the pulse of the house beats wildly.", "'Safe, safe, safe,' the heart of the house beats proudly.") throughout the story. The personification seems to suggest the house is capable of feeling, which echoes the ending which reveals that the buried treasure is "the light in the heart". The house is the chamber and sanctuary of the couple's love and where their hearts are.