Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves uses space within its story and within its physical pages to mirror the reader and the book’s characters’ emotions. Passages written sideways, in different languages, and in little blue boxes are instances where the reader may feel confused having to turn the book different directions or stop to decipher a language or code, which parallels the characters’ bewilderment throughout the novel as they live in and explore the house and its labyrinth.
In Rune Garulund’s Text and Paratext in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, they state, “nevertheless, for all its adherence to postmodernist literary conventions, House of Leaves departs from these in one very significant way: for confusing as it sometimes is, it succeeds in keeping a strong narrative core, the clarity of which owes a great deal to the visual presentation of the text.” This emphasizes that however strange the upside down words or blank pages may seem, they actually engage the reader in the characters’ journeys. Not only does the audience experience the adventures of the characters of the Navidson Record, but at the same time the audience experiences Johnny Truant’s escapades in different lapses of time as the novel progresses through his footnotes.
Such as in poetry, many times in House of Leaves space is used to dictate pacing within the story. Jed’s death is an example of this, with the moments leading up to it being four to eight lines written at the bottom of otherwise blank pages, the lead-up is calm (193). Once the event happens, it is rapidly explained in gruesome yet surgical detail. The moments after seem to slow to a near-halt as the book may only have one or two words per page in the pages immediately following the scene.
The death of Frankenstein’s wife is obviously very pivotal, and can be considered the final straw in his and the creature’s battle that takes Frankenstein from a respectable man with friends and family to a man with nothing to lose. This monologue is meant to be the creature coming to the conclusion that he will murder Elizabeth to bring down Frankenstein.
I was inspired by the scene where Frankenstein almost creates, then destroys, a mate for the creature. The creature is distraught after this, and I wanted to put that in words. He thinks an eye for an eye will be the best course of action. My monologue for the creature takes place immediately after that scene and right before the creature tells Frankenstein he will be with him on his wedding night. I was also inspired by the end where the creature recounts his sorrow and guilt for killing the people he had done away with to Walton. It showed he felt bad about hurting people, but felt he had to do those things to teach his creator a lesson. I tried to convey this much in the monologue.
I wanted to give the creature some time to explain himself that wasn’t at the end of the book. Since this story is told from Frankenstein’s point of view, we really only see/interact with the creature when he is with Walton, or his mortal enemy Frankenstein. This monologue gives the creature some time to shine on his own and be himself without someone to threaten or pander to.
Why must my creator torment me so? It is true that I have exterminated a small number of his compatriots, but it brought me no joy to do such things. For every body I claim, I grow more guilty. Upon what I believed to be a simple request to create another like me, so that I may have one to share my solitude with, I was answered with an affirmative response.
As I looked on Frankenstein and his operation from a distance with a feeling of contempt, upset with my maker yet eager to evacuate with my new friend, he tore her apart limb from limb and left the room, locking the door to his comfort. I was ardently filled with a pain stronger than my own inhuman strengths could handle, emitting a cry of agony and torture at the sight I had just witnessed. The one hope for another like me had vanished thanks to my creator. Great God! Such a wretch is he who torments me so.
I have followed him from the highest hilltop, to the lowest valley, to the widest river waiting for him to create such another villain like me so that we may live in peace far from civilizations who would rather hurt us. I am still filled with despair! I have dreamt of possessing a love for another. Oh to be happy in this wretched form! Why must I go on suffering?
This fallen angel. This devil craving love. This tormented soul! Oh how Frankenstein might feel should this occasion occur to his own self. How he would then feel the ardent misery which trembles within me. May he then suffer as alone and unhappy as I.
I shall do this: I will make Frankenstein as lonely and wretched as myself. He may feel wicked presently, but I have the power to become my tormentor’s torment. I devise that I will keep following him, wreaking havoc in his life in some form or another, until he is finally reunited with his bride to be. There, on his wedding night, I will demonstrate to him the true pain that is felt to have a love ripped away and be completely alone.
I will take no joy in this. Frankenstein’s own hopes and dreams will cease to exist, yet I will still have none of my own. I realize this will accomplish nothing in solving my loneliness and wretchedness, but it will bring my creator closer to my own misery.
Emily Carroll’s web-comic, His Face All Red, focuses on two main characters—the Narrator and his Brother. Neither is named in the story, therefore I have capitalized their titles for referencing purposes.
The Narrator immediately builds sympathy for the Brother by describing him as handsome and trustworthy, while painting himself as envious and unpopular. Due to an unreliable narrator, the only thing I can tell for certain what is true are his emotions, as his story may have untruthful elements pertaining to events and appearances. For example, it is not clear if when the characters pass by a tree and stream whether the descriptions are simple similaic descriptors, or if the trees and streams in this fictional world actually look and sound like that.
After the Narrator kills the Brother, he is celebrated for slaying the beast that was terrorizing the village and is given his Brother’s animals. He seems content here, as he notes he dreamt of nothing. One part of the story is that the Narrator is the only one who notices the Brother’s coat is not missing the piece he ripped from it. If the Narrator really did take a piece and show it to the townspeople for proof of his Brother’s death, why then was he the only one who noticed? I suppose everyone could have been too overcome with joy to notice for themselves. This is peculiar nonetheless.
The Narrator seeing the Brother at night digging could be a hallucination or an actual event, but at this point in the story he is just as confused as the reader, if not more so due to him not being entirely normal/sane at the beginning.
In the hole the Brother was deposited into, the Narrator comes across a body. Personally, it was hard for me to tell if it was the Brother’s or not as all that was shown was some hair and an eye (and the outline of his jacket I suppose). It is possible that it could be the Brother: the Narrator had just finished asking why the Brother who had come back does not look at him, implying his Brother usually does. The eye shown looking at the Narrator in the final scene could be a reference to that. It could possibly be any sort of dead body. What the Narrator finds may not even be real; he could be imagining whoever/whatever he found down in that hole, as his mind is clearly not in the best shape.