Intelligent Specters: The Reactionary Nature of the house in House Of Leaves

As the title suggests, I’m interested in the way that the house reacts to the presence of the difference characters in the book. When considering this analysis, a couple things have to be assumed: 1) the house is haunted/the anomalous nature of the house is the “ghost” or monster of the story; 2) the accounts given in the Navidson Record are accurate; 3) the house is self-aware.

Now, keeping the aforementioned implications in mind, I was interested in a little bit of information that seemed like a throwaway. In one of Zampanò’s sections, he brings up an idea discussed by one of his “sources”; that “…the house’s mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it.” (165) This is sort of the crux of my idea about the kind of ghost that the house is. More clarification: “ghost” is a very loose term. I don’t necessarily mean a ghoul or a lingering spirit, but more a malevolent, ambient force that is supernatural in nature (and not necessarily human in origin, i.e. the ghost of a person). I was more interested in the manner that the house haunted the characters and not so much in defining the thing doing the haunting.

Going back to the line supplied by Zampanò, we can see how this theory works when we examine the different interactions the house has with the characters. Tom’s final stunt with the house was the only one where the house responded to him directly; after he successfully removes Daisy from harm, the house drags him away from his brother. This is a reflection of the way that Tom was always behind his brother, unable to catch up to his fame and success. It’s also indicative of the seemingly insurmountable distance that existed between the brothers for so long – and that Will is easily capable of returning to (“This is what Tom does best. He lets you down.” 277). The house pulls Tom away from Will and then destroys his hands, which are his livelihood, and then devours him.

Whenever the house wished to “haunt” Karen, it simply created claustrophobic spaces. It took what she loved and needed (her children, Will) and put them in places that she was unable to go into, like with the initial introduction of the hallway. When the house attempted to take her, it simply put her in a small, dark space and waited.

There are so many other examples (Will and Holloway providing an entire paper’s worth) that illustrate how the house responds to its inhabitants with hand-tailored hauntings. Reading the house as an intelligent, responsive entity gives me the satisfaction in finding a true antagonist in the novel; I picked up the book expecting a horror novel with a more or less defined monster, and this reading allows me to have one without bending the text too much.

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