House of Trauma

In Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, the characters are all forced to deal with some form of trauma by the Navidson house. Johnny Truant, one of the narrators of the novel, one day finds himself in possession of a manuscript regarding the supposedly non-existent Navidson Record. A habitual liar plagued by the loss of his father and the descent of his mother into insanity, Johnny begins to experience a collapse in his sense of reality as he spends more and more time putting together the pieces of the house’s puzzle. Will Navidson, renowned photographer and the protagonist of the Navidson Record, moves into the house in question along with his family. As various paranormal phenomenon begin occurring within the house, eventually leading up to the appearance of the infamous five minute hallway and attached labyrinth, he is forced to deal both with his constant need to be independent and do things on his own and the guilt he feels over an award winning photograph he had taken of a starving child, the Delial whose name he speaks in his sleep. As each character spends more time interacting with or even thinking about the house, they find themselves falling further into the depths of the trauma that they carry with them. In his article “’There’s Nothing So Black as the Inferno of the Human Mind’: Infernal Phenomenal Reference and Trauma in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves”, Conor Dawson argues that the house serves as a symbol for Hell, and that the characters each experience a modern form of katabasis as they deal with and, in some cases, literally descend into the darkness of the house. Through their interactions with the house throughout the novel, the characters are forced either to deal with and move past their trauma or be consumed by the house.

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