Explanation Post: A Maze in Me

For this piece, I was influenced by various aspects of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. For instance, I included references to Greek mythology (specifically about the Labyrinth and the Minotaur), some skewed placements of words and made the maze somewhat similar to the house in book. For the most part, the piece is about a girl influenced by the Minotaur myth (her “father’s favorite”) recounting her traumatic experience in a maze.

At the end of the piece, I wanted to focus on the theme of trauma. In House of Leaves, the Navidsons and Johnny Truant experience severe trauma but they both have dissimilar endings. Karen and Navidson get to rekindle their love while Johnny’s future is left ambiguous and with all his troubles quite unresolved. In this piece, I made the main character’s ending optimistic. Those who experience trauma don’t always have to live the rest of their lives in depression or constant fear. Though they may not be able to ever forget their trauma, they can still learn to move forward from it—especially with loved ones at their side.

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The Voice Inside: Explanation Post

In Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, trauma plays a central role through its effect on characters’ psychological condition as well as its influence on characters’ actions. The concept of trauma theory reveals that trauma is often not experienced as it occurs, but rather through the repetitive cycle of re-experiencing repressed memories of the past that form in response to external stimuli. Just as Johnny unwillingly relives the abusive treatment of his foster father after reading of Chad’s swollen face in The Navidson Record, my poem depicts a girl that experiences the trauma of her rape at a park years after it took place. I reveal how the characteristics of the scene cause her repressed memories to surface. Emotions associated with recognition come flooding back with increasing speed as the environment becomes more familiar. I also demonstrate that when the event is both forgotten and repressed or not recognized by the individual as a trauma, the actual experience has an existing yet more limited effect on the individual’s mental and emotional state. Just as Karen experiences severe claustrophobia caused by an unknown event, suggested as the result of being forced into a well by her father, the girl in my poem chooses to follow the path to the left without any reason other than an innate feeling. The girl is unable to understand the full impact of her trauma until her memory allows her to face it.

While most of the characters in The Navidson Record endure some form of traumatic experience through disturbing encounters, stressful events, as well as physical injury associated with the house on Ash Tree Lane, I believe the aftermath of the incidents, the true trauma of recollection, has yet to impact the survivors. I believe Navidson, despite his will to move forward, will continue to experience his trauma. An unexpected burning out of a light bulb or the growl from a neighbor’s dog could call to mind the horrible events that took place inside the darkness of the house.

Trauma, Obsession, and the Importance of a Haven

The lack of a safe space in House of Leaves is a motif for many characters, namely Johnny and Navidson. Starting with Johnny in the Introduction, he says that all he wants is “a closed, inviolate, and most of all immutable space” (p.xix). The reader slowly learns (though is never sure what is true) about Johnny’s traumatic past with his mother, father, and foster father. He bears physical scars from it; he has been repressing what happened to him his whole life. Putting all of his energy into transcribing Zampano’s notes gives Johnny a purpose; his obsession of completing the project consumes him but also garners his ultimate hope that whatever he believes is following will stop so he can be at peace. Johnny never sees the house on Ash Tree Lane, but it haunts him. For example, shortly after starting his transcription, he starts speaking in metaphors that relate back to the house: “Inside me, a long dark hallway…continued to grow” (p.49). His apartment is not a haven, as he repeatedly points out in his rapidly degrading mental state; he more feels stuck there than safe. He struggles to find his place.

When the reader is introduced to Will Navidson, all he wants is to settle down after his tumultuous career. “Personally, I just want to create a cozy little outpost for me and my family. A place to drink lemonade on the porch and watch the sun set” (p.9), he says. Navidson is haunted by a subject (Delial), a starving child that he photographed (and won the Pulitzer Prize) but did not help. He is consumed with guilt and trying to find a way to live with it. All he wants is to document his return to normalcy; he gets anything but that. Although it starts out the way he hoped, peace does not last long with The Navidson Record’s title character (and his family). Once the house’s mystery is presented, Navy tries to solve it thinking it will become the haven he’d hoped for (and needs) in the end. However, he also battles himself throughout the book. He constantly defends his obsession with the house (to Karen mostly) by saying “…going after something like this is who I am” (p.389). He can’t deny that he is intrigued by the dangerous closet hallway and the anomaly consumes him. In the midst of trying to solve the mystery, he attempts to seek solace from Karen (who is cold and not a source of peace) and Tom (who Navidson looks up to, but any solace that was found in him is dissipated when he is swallowed up by the house).

The lack of a haven leads these characters to put their energies into solving the mystery of the house, which leads to insanity and despair, but ultimately to resolution. Both Johnny and Navidson seem calm and contented with their lives at the book’s conclusion after the house has imploded, therefore not plaguing their minds any longer. Both have found their safe space.

A Monologue for the Creature–An Explanation Post

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.

Gerald’s Garden – An Explanation

I was inspired to write this piece by many different aspects in Frankenstein. The titular Garden came about in my head after reading all the beautiful descriptions of nature in the novel. I tried to capture in my opening paragraphs a small sense of Romanticism and their love of nature. The other idea that inspired me was the idea of creation. In Frankenstein Victor is often referred to as the creator of his creature and while at first he can’t wait to be seen as a creator and worshiped by this thing that should rightfully call him God, he eventually is terrified by his creation and curses himself for ever having brought it to this Earth. I wanted to play with creation in this story through Gerald and his wife being unable to have children and Gerald seeing himself as the creator of this Garden. Just like Mary Shelley I tried to skim over the “science” of what was actually happening in the story but I was inspired by reading reports over DNA splicing and fertility treatments.

Explanation Post – Seeking, Wondering, Reflecting

     A common theme explored throughout Frankenstein is the concept of creator versus creation. Frankenstein sees the creature as an abomination of nature (and his original intentions) while the creature sees Frankenstein as having abandoned him in a world that fears and rejects him. I took this theme and, in an attempt to empathize further with the creature, applied it to my personal views on God and religion. The poem takes place in a Catholic Church.
     The first 3 lines are about me looking at my reflection in a pool of holy water and contemplating my increasing moral dissonance from the values of Catholicism.
     In the next 3 lines, I look at a crucifix as my thoughts shift toward the figure of Christ and his true feelings toward God asking him to sacrifice his own life.
     The next 3 lines show me looking at the parishioners and reflecting on the true intentions of their religious practices.
     I turn to look at the Eucharist in the next 3 lines and seek to justify the balance between the good and evil God has allows into life.
     The last 3 lines conclude the poem by questioning the existence of God and pointing out the danger of not questioning what you’ve been told to believe.
     My intention to empathize further with the creature was successful. I understand his anger and confusion toward the intentions of his creator as I have experienced similar struggles myself. The creature’s views toward Frankenstein reflect the millennium old struggle between humans and “God.”

Explanation Post: Henry’s Bones

The section on Henry’s death in Frankenstein left me pretty underwhelmed. Immediately after the fact, Shelley very rapidly shifts to Frankenstein’s ensuing depression and, though Henry is obviously the cause, he isn’t really the focus. I wanted to give Henry a more fitting tribute. Since we never really learn the details of what happened to Henry after his death, I may have embellished that he was eventually buried in Ireland and never brought back to Geneva, but again, Frankenstein as a narrator, in the middle of his episode, didn’t give me much to work with. Leaving Henry there in Ireland seemed to me to emphasize how overcome Frankenstein had become by this point. So I used an unnamed villager as a narrator to tell how the whole town felt about this event and also to reflect the mystery surrounding it, and tried to match the feel of the book with the language my narrator uses.

Look at me! – Explanation Post

Frankenstein’s monster is a very relatable character and I wanted to write a poem containing only questions about the monster’s creation, except for the last line, which is a command to Victor. Humanity always asks questions about the purpose of their existence and the meaning of life and I believe Shelley was mirroring this in her book. While reading Frankenstein, I felt as if this story could have been an epic poem about the rise and fall of a man who accomplished a remarkable feat but allowed the feat to consume him and all those closest to him. I really loved the idea of converting this to poetry that I decided to do this myself. I also wrote about my favorite part of the book, which is when Victor and his monster speak to each other for the first time. These moments of them together are so powerful that I wanted to sum them up in a small poem. The monster has only questions and wants acceptance from those around him. But don’t we all?

In Sheep’s Clothes – Explanation

“In Sheep’s Clothes” was inspired by Emily Carroll’s style, specifically from “His Face All Red” and “Margot’s Room”. The idea of a narrator who can’t quite be trusted, who may know a horrible truth or simply be out of their mind. This idea is seen throughout Emily’s works, notably in “Margot’s Room” as the mother sees her husband as some sort of monster. However, it is left to the reader to decide whether or not they believe that he is truly the beast depicted or if the narrator has simply succumbed to grief and madness. The idea of a town thrown into chaos at the hands of a “beast” is inspired by “His Face All Red”. The writing style in general, most obviously the heavy use of repetition and shorter sentences, is also inspired by Emily and her work. The hope was to progressively instill a sense of dread into the reader as they see the narrator’s supposed insanity and his descent into madness as he begins his hunt of the “beast”.

“The Sapling” Explanation

I got the inspiration for “The Sapling” from volume one of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. In my poem, the sapling represents Victor Frankenstein. I wanted to illustrate the image of Victor as an innocent young person before he becomes interested in metaphysical science. The old trees in the poem represent the scientists that Victor becomes obsessed with into his youth such as Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus. Though no one else thinks these scientists are worthy of time or study, just as no one thinks the old trees’ fruit is sweet enough to eat, Victor and the sapling still hold onto them. The growth of the fruit on the sapling is meant to represent the work that Victor puts into the reanimation of the creature. Though Victor thinks that his creation will be this wonderful thing that will change the world for the better, it turns out to be a frightening (and possibly murderous) monster, just as the apples of the sapling look ripe but are terribly rotten (and possibly poisonous).