Essay Gothic Elements in House of Leaves

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Gothic Elements in House of Leaves


Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is a contemporary novel that contains the four characteristics of the Gothic novel: architecture, death and decay, family secrets, and deviant sexuality. It also contains some elements of the American Gothic such as mental instability and drugs and alcohol.


Architecture by far, plays the greatest role in the book. The house itself causes the events in the book to unfold. Supposedly built in 1720, it has housed approximately 0.37 owners a year, most of who were traumatized in some way. William (Navy) and Karen Navidson, the current owners of the house, are included in this select group. Though they move into the house as an attempt to repair their
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It is here that Holloway, driven to succeed in conquering the source of the growls, becomes lost to the group and eventually lost to himself. Ruled by his id, he behaves primitively and illogically, resulting in the critical wounding of one crewmate (Wax) and the death of the other (Jed). Left alone, he eventually confronts his greatest fear: failure. Unable to cope, he kills himself. Sadly even his name (Hollow way = empty progress) is a reminder of his failure. His only success is in destroying himself and another person.


Thus death and decay of the mind are key features of the book. The house is not only indirectly responsible for the death of Holloway and Jed, but is also directly responsible for the death of Navidson's twin brother, Tom. The house, becoming the aggressor, attempts to envelop everyone in the house. It succeeds in swallowing Tom into its inky black depths. Death is not only confined to the loss of human life, but also to the death of Karen and Navidson's marriage, which crumbles mainly due to the family secrets and strained relationships.


The family interactions are strained from the start. It was even the reason for the Navidsons move into the house. Karen had a string of affairs and Navidson was always working. It was time for them to focus on their

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