Shirley Jackson understands emotional labor

This is from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Eleanor and Luke are in the parlor and they get into a conversation about “what are the things people always want to find out about other people.” Luke instantly turns the conversation to what Eleanor must want to find out about Luke and she thinks, “he is so extremely vain.” She realizes that what he chooses to reveal will show him what he thinks of her. Will he say something to try to seduce her, or something to reveal her weaknesses? Here’s what he says:

“‘I never had a mother.’ […] ‘I am entirely selfish,’ he said ruefully, ‘and always hoping that someone will tell me to behave, someone will make herself responsible for me and make me grown-up.’

He is altogether selfish, she thought in some surprise, the only man I have ever sat and talked to alone, and I am impatient; he is simply not very interesting. ‘Why don’t you grow up by yourself?’ she asked him, and wondered how many people–how many women– had already asked him that.”


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