Friday, April 15, 2011

House of Leaves

House of Leaves continued to broadcast the societal issues during his era in a mysterious way. Everyone has things in their past that they want to keep repressed. Every character in House of Leaves has their own problems that they choose to ignore. As in today’s society there are problems inside society that are considered taboo. Mark Z. Danielewski decided to include an exert from Don Quixote: “…whose mother is history, the rival of time, repository of great deeds, witness to the past, example and adviser to the present, and forewarning to the future” (Danielewski, 42). I believe that the quote from Don Quixote could mean a number of possibilities of things depending on the topic.

The issue of rape of comes up multiple times in House of Leaves. Rape is a serious issue in society; it’s one of those crimes that are not talked about because many victims don’t want to speak of their trauma. In many cases after one has been raped, it could lead to psychological issues. This refers to Karen’s case of claustrophobia; in Chapter 15 Karen’s older sister Linda spoke of their stepfather raping the two of them and forcing them down into a well (Danielewski, 347). Even though Karen never admits to these accounts after seeing a doctor in a previous study, Celine Berezin, MD believed that it was due to an incident in her adolescent years Danielewski, 59). This problem can describe a lot of women in society.

The quote from Don Quixote “…whose mother is history, the rival of time, repository of great deeds, witness to the past, example and adviser to the present, and forewarning to the future” (Danielewski, 42) could be used to understand the rape issue. Each piece has its own meaning that could pertain to this quote. “Whose mother is history” for me this could mean rape has been around for centuries; things that happened in the past have become history. “The rival of time”, it has been an enemy of society for long periods of time, yet governments want to stop it but people in the world that continue to keep this crime alive. Those who capture and prosecute the rape offenders could possibly define “repository of great deeds”. The victims of rape are “witness to the past” because they went through their traumatic experience, and many want to repress this experience instead of embrace it. The ending phrase “example and adviser to the present” means that rape victims are the example of the crime and should be able to embrace this issue and inform others of the ongoing problem. The last phase “forewarning to the future”, rape victims would know the signs if children or anyone else was getting sexually abused, so they could find ways to prevent the problems.

In class, we talked about how the quote from Don Quixote could be used to understand House of Leaves. I think that the quote is one of those quotes that could be read in multiple ways. Throughout the book, we as readers are told how to read the book to understand it. Many of those times, we are told “take it how you want it”, that’s what I think of this quote. As a reader we are already given the image but our imagination takes it to the next level. Perception is the key to any book you read; I think that the House of Leaves should be no exception. I think that Danielewski chose to write this way because anyone can read through a book, but a book that instructions like a labyrinth makes it interesting.


  1. You did what I tried to do as well and show that the Don Quixote quote refers to repression throughout this book. It would've been nice to see more examples of how this happened.

    There is no part here, however, of how another specific passage can be looked at differently in terms of the new discovery of what it means that Danielewski has inserted Borges' Pierre Menard comparison.

    Also, why did Danielewski insert this quote? How is it relevant to the story as a whole?

  2. I think you did a great job of having one idea it was a good essay in terms of unity. however, i think the view is too narrow to talk just about the topic of rape.
    I see that you say a lot that quotes that is used in the House of Leaves can be read in multiple ways. how else can you interpret the quotes and which part of the book does it relate to?
    also I think it would be great if you expand on the idea of Danielewski trying to write a book like a labyrinth and try to give examples of those different ways that you think he was trying to present.

  3. Conceptually this makes a great deal of sense: rape relates to the themes of history and repression in many ways. First, as you state, it is often repressed. Second, it is certainly formative to the lives of victims. Third, it is metaphorically connected to Danielewski's (often repressed) interest in genocide, slavery, colonization, etc.: rape is to individuals what these things are to peoples or to nations.

    So this was a productive approach, but I'm not crazy about your execution of it. Rather than reading through the quote as if it applies directly or primarily to rape, you might have picked an additional passage (as you were supposed to do), and showed how that passages direct concern (presumably) with rape can be understood better through the more general problems of history and reliability which the passage deals with.

    Also, I wanted to see you do more with Borges here.