Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blog 9 Option 1 (Marcuse and Danielewski)

Scott Sauter
Professor Johns
“The intellectual and emotional refusal "to go along" appears neurotic and impotent” (Chapter 1 Marcuse). 
The above Marcuse quote strongly relates to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves    in that it perfectly illustrates the reader’s initial reaction to the behavior of the main character within Danielewski’s novel. The reader is first introduced to primary narrator Johnny Truant, whose self-medicating lifestyle and general disillusionment with the American health care system stands in solid opposition to the status quo. Rather than visit a therapist to work through abandonment issues stemming from childhood neglect, Johnny instead chooses to deal with problems in his life by using drugs. Early on, the reader is told that Johnny, “snorted lines of coke off a CD case, gulped down a bottle of wine and then used it to play spin the bottle” (36 Danielewski). Such behavior, common throughout Johnny’s narrative, “appears neurotic and impotent” to the reader because it defies societal norms (Chapter 1 Marcuse). However, Johnny’s destructive behavior stems also from his feeling that, “there’s no place for me in this country’s system of health” (179 Danielewski). It is Johnny’s dissatisfaction with the status quo, or, “intellectual and emotional refusal to “go along”” with it that drives him to use drugs and alcohol as heavily as he does. He does not have money for health insurance, and is therefore unable to seek the medical and psychiatric care he needs. In place of such attention, he chooses to, “toke on a blunt” (43 Danielewski). While those able to follow the status quo of American health care view Johnny Truant as, “neurotic and impotent”, his actions protest the system (Chapter 1 Marcuse). This problem sums up to far more than simple ridicule from the general public though. 
“It serves to coordinate ideas and goals with those exacted by the prevailing system, to enclose them in the system, and to repel those which are irreconcilable with the system” (Chapter 1 Marcuse). 
Rather than simply being ignored, or forgotten, Johnny is treated as, “irreconcilable” with the American health care system (Chapter 1 Marcuse). The reader can see this evidenced by an assertion of Johnny’s thought during a doctor’s appointment, made out of desperation. In reaction to the possibility of being put in a psychiatric treatment center, Johnny sates, “ I’ll die before I go there” (180 Danielewski). Such a statement reveals to the reader that perhaps Johnny feels just as, “irreconcilable” with the system as it does with him (Chapter 1 Marcuse). It is further evidenced in Johnny’s actions directly following his sole doctor’s appointment. Rather than taking any of the medicine actually prescribed to him Johnny claims to, “one by one crush them between my fingers, letting the dust fall to the floor” (180 Danielewski). He then proceeds to clear his entire apartment of all of his self-prescribed medicines, including alcohol and marijuana. Johnny is so, “irreconcilable” with the system that he would rather die than let it put him into a psychiatric hospital, is unwilling to take medicine it gives him, and decides to stop using drugs altogether after coming into contact with it (Chapter 1 Marcuse). Marcuse’s assertions of the power of, “the new forms of control” seem echoed almost exactly through this aspect of Danielewski’s House of Leaves (Chapter 1 Marcuse).


Adam said...

I'm fine with this as a set of thoughts on the novel - but we were already through this pretty thoroughly in class (I certainly said things along these lines; so did you). While I'm not be any means opposed to revisiting things discussed in class - in fact, that's a good thing! - we want to see tentative thoughts being developed in that kind of situation. Are you farther along than you were in class, or are you just putting those thoughts down in writing?

I think the latter. They're good thoughts, and this is by no means your worst work - but stil, there's not much to say, because you haven't gone substantively beyond where you were before.

Brandon said...

This is quite good, but my primary concern is that you haven't actually analyzed Johnny's society in the same way you've analyzed his reasons for not going to the doctor. We've established that Johnny doesn't go to the doctor because he is disobeying societal norms, but what aspects of society make him do so? What, in his life, is making him disregard such important treatment?