Thursday, April 12, 2012

Marcuse and House of Leaves

Patrick Kilduff

When reading “House of Leaves” by Danieilewski, we are thrown into the twisted and dark world of Johnny. While doing his revisions, we can see his mental and physical state start to decline rapidly. I believe that Danieilewski’s work can be analyzed by Marcuse’s ideology pretty well, using some of his main points and theories to describe Johnny and also some aspects of the story.

The first point of Marcuse that has a clear presence in this story is his view of Objectification, both with money (his capitalistic ideals) and with objects themselves. Now, Marcuse’s point of this idea is that capitalism becomes alienation. He saw that laborers were pushed by capitalization and industrialization so hard that the workers became extensions of the things that they work so hard to produce. I feel that Johnny exhibits this behavior very clearly, both with the drugs that he takes, his obsession with the revision of “The Navidson Record”, and with his sexual escapades.

Out of the past three I just mentioned, the obvious extension that was made was Johnny’s work on “The Navidson Record”. He obsessed over this, it changed his lifestyle, his overall attitude, and it diminished his mental state. As stated in his epilogue in the beginning of the story (found on xxiii): “Old shelters-television, magazines, movies-won’t protect you anymore. You might try scribbling in a journal, on a napkin, maybe even in the margins of this book. That’s when you will discover you no longer trust the very walls you always took for granted. Even the hallways you’ve walked a hundred times will feel longer, much longer, and the shadows, any shadow at all, will suddenly seem deeper, much, much, deeper.” It just goes to show that, although money is not necessarily involved, that Johnny, the worker, is becoming an extension of his work, and is really feeling the affects of his work.

Another thing that I would like to discuss that is a Marcuse ideal is his statement in Chapter 5, “Reason=Truth=Reality”. This goes along with Johnny’s deep spiral down into his insanity. Now I believe that this Marcuse principal stated above does not apply to Johnny prior to his reading of “The Navidson Report”, but after. Prior to the reading, Johnny’s reality was drugs, a dead end job, and copious amounts of sex. There was no reason to what he did; he just acted on impulse. With his reading and revision of “The Navidson Report”, he actually found no reason, but having no reason led him to the truth that he found, which in turn, gave him his “new” reality. This reality is something that he was not looking for, but in fact it came to him.

The last thing that I would like to discuss is Marcuse’s use of the Utopia, as discussed in Chapter six. Quoting Marcuse from Chapter six: “We live and die rationally and productively. We know that destruction is the price of progress as death is the price of life, that renunciation and toil are the prerequisites for gratification and joy, that business must go on, and that the alternatives are Utopian. This ideology belongs to the established societal apparatus; it is a requisite for its continuous functioning and part of its rationality.” Now this does sound like the first point I made in the first paragraph about Objectification, but it is a little different. When Marcuse says “destruction is the price of progress”, I think this can be applied to Johnny’s mind quite well. The destruction or maybe even “recreation” of Johnny’s mind has given him progress, allowing him to see the world in a very clear way. Death of Johnny’s mind is the price of his realization of life, whether positive or negative.

Marcuse plays an amazing role in this book, and you can analyze pretty much anything you read in this book.

1 comment:

Adam said...

This is interesting but a little bit rough. To make it function better, I think you needed to try to use *less* of Marcuse's text, but to apply Danielewski's text more directly than your'e doing here. In other words, you might analyze one of Johny or Lude's sexual escapades (for instance, "Lude's List" and "Lude's List Revisited" which you reference in your short blog entry this week), using Marcuse's thoughts on eroticism, or on commodification.

The idea that Johnny is a worker producing a commodity is an interesting one - personally, I'd relate it to the idea that he's trying to trap something about the book (the scary part) by making it *only* a book again - maybe he's taking something which *isn't* inherently a commodity, and trying to transform it into one?

There's nothing about your approach which is wrong here. If you were revising, though, you'd want to be much more focused - covering less ground in a longer, more detailed essay, essentially.