Realismand Postmodernism in House Taken Over
Authorsare known to employ several stylistic devices and literary elementswhen penning their works. Their works are also inspired by the majorevents of their times. Julio Cortazar is a no different author.Originally from Argentina, he writes the book “House taken over”that was inspired by a dream that he had and subsequently links itwith the political realities of the times of his life during theWorld War Two era to convey a radical political message to hisArgentine readers. This essay looks into the interpretation of theshort story and the various stylistic devices employed by the authorto carry forth the secret message to the readers.
JulioCortazar`s short story "House taken over" can becategorized as a perfect prototype of magical realism. Theclassification stems from the intervention of the supernatural toshift the plot of the story forward. We see Cortazar exercisesliterary freedom by creating plots with characters that aresurrounded by circumstances that literary do not exist in theordinary realms. This use of archetypes captivates the reader tokeenly follow as story guides you through unfamiliar thoughts andimagination.
Themesof desolation and isolation.The author effectively employs the themes of loneliness and isolationto define the main characters- Irene and the narrator (Irene`sbrother). Their isolation and state of desolation are visible intheir mundane lives. The characters do not put a struggle in a bid tochange the upsetting new realities in their lives. Instead, theyquickly accommodate the tragedy that displaces them from one sectionof the house and eventually evicts them. These archetypal charactersfall under the genre of Gothic. The scene and plot are taken to becharacteristic of Belgium or Europe just before World War One whenGermany was conquering nations that did not struggle to put up aresistance. Irene and her brother represent the government of thedocile countries that readily yielded their control to the bullishGermans. The huge house that they live in is used by the author torepresent the countries invaded. It was characteristic for Germany inthe 1930’s to invade then annex a province or two that belong tothe victim state. The annexed provinces are perfectly represented bythe rooms and facilities found at the back side of the huge house onthe other side of the big oak door.
Thecharacters’ passive acceptance of their new scary reality reflectsa populace that is not willing to take up arms and put a defense forthe sake of maintaining their total independence. They are insteadcontent with partial independence. Immediately after the invasion,Irene’s brother heats up a kettle to prepare mateand sips it with a seemingly unshaken attitude. Irene is dumbstruckupon hearing the saddening news of the invasion but quickly resumesnormalcy. The wrought iron gates of the house that lead into theliving room did not provide enough security for the inhabitants. Theiron gates represent the poor or weak defense mechanisms of Belgiumthat were quickly penetrated by the German invaders. The economic andsocial organization of the citizens of the invaded country are wellrepresented by the lifestyles of the archetype characters. Thelifestyles and economic structure of an invaded country areeffectively altered, and this is expressed in Cortzar’s storywhereby we see Irene’s brother being unable to gain access to hislibrary, and hence his normal lifestyle is totally affected by theunwelcome invaders. The hostile invasion and subsequent occupancy ofthe country take away the color and vibrancy that characterizes thepeople of the victim state.
Postmodernism.This particular short story can be classified as postmodernliterature in the way the writer has featured various elements. Thereis some touch of irony in the short story as we find the narratoridentifying a brighter side of the invasion and occupation of theirhouse by unwelcomed visitors [ CITATION Lit13 l 2057 ].He says, “There were advantages too. The cleaning was so muchsimplified and even when we got up late nine thirty for instance, byeleven we were sitting around with our arms folded." It isironic because people who are invaded are least likely to be caughtenjoying the times as they are cut off from their usual regularsupplies. The author also does not finish the short story with aneatly tied up ending but instead gives a satirical ending that makesthe reader question deeply the meaning of such an ending.
Surrealism.Julio Cortazar employs literary surrealism as he tries to fusefiction with reality. This is seen when Irene and her brother do notpanic or become utterly worried about the presence of the invaders intheir house. Their reaction of not seeking external help or nottrying to evict the invaders can be termed as a creation of theimagination. Surrealism can be traced to the period before World WarTwo when authors wrote to inspire populations towards rebellion(Bauduin10)Cortazar also seems to be using his characters to communicate aninspiring message to his fellow countrymen in Argentina not to bedocile about bad leadership. Cortazar appears to be indirectlytelling them not to emulate the characters of his book Irene and herbrother.
Acontinual tolerance of corrupt leadership that gradually takes awaythe wealth of the people will eventually make the people flee out oftheir country to become immigrants in foreign countries as depictedby the character’s dashing out of the house. As the author’sdreams converge with his thoughts, a political message that drivesthe reader towards rebelling seems to be Cortazar’s ultimateagenda.
Bauduin, Tessel M. "Surrealism and te Occult." Amsterdam University Press (2014): 10. 9 December 2016. <http://www.aup.nl/wosmedia/2039/surrealism_and_the_occult.pdf>.
Literature for the 21st Century. "Summer 2013 Coursebook." Pediapress (2013): 4. 10 December 2016. <athanata.typepad.com/files/literature-for-the-21st-century.pdf>.