‘‘House Taken Over’’ paints a stark picture of the life of the Argentine upper class. Irene and her brother have inherited a large house and gather income from the farms that they own. All of this means that neither has to work. They have enough income to enjoy a leisurely and well-off lifestyle. Oddly enough, the siblings insist on maintaining the house themselves. Irene also knits clothes for herself and her brother, despite the fact that they are well able to afford store-bought clothing. While both choices seem thrifty, they are remarkably self-limiting. The narrator blames his bachelorhood and his sister’s spinsterhood on their devotion to maintaining the house. There is also something wasteful in Irene’s constant knitting. She has made so many shawls that she could sell them in a store, but instead they languish in a drawer filled with mothballs.
As rich people, Irene and the narrator are required to do very little, and that is exactly what they do. Irene knits and her brother reads. Notably, neither seeks out the company of other people.
The narrator and Irene are entirely, and increasingly, isolated. They are also largely isolated because of their class. Since they do not need money, they do not need to work, nor do they need to rely on others. Their money insulates them from the rest of society. Still, their isolation is largely self-chosen; Irene has turned down two perfectly good suitors. The narrator has not felt compelled to seek a new love following the death of Marı´a Esther. The narrator seems proud of his chaste marriage to Irene, seemingly reveling in the poetic justice of the family line coming to an end in the same house in which it began. Irene never leaves the house. Her brother does so only to buy her yarn and to look for more French literature to add to his library.
In addition, while the siblings could use their leisurely life to make friends, socialize, or open their lavish home to others, the thought never even crosses their minds. The existence of distant cousins is acknowledged, but only in a vaguely threatening way. The cousins never come to visit, nor are they invited. Instead they are seen as the destructive force that will profit from dismantling the siblings’ household. The siblings are so isolated that when the mysterious ‘‘they’’ enter the household, the narrator hurls himself at the door to block them. He further isolates himself and his sister, sealing themselves off from the rest of the house as they were already sealed off from the rest of the world. The siblings are so afraid of this mysterious intrusion that they literally cut themselves off from it. They sing loudly in the rooms adjoining the main house in order to avoid having to hear the noises they fear. Both siblings seem to have been expecting this turn of events. Both seem to know who the mysterious ‘‘they’’ are. Both are also well aware of the consequences, as Irene acknowledges, ‘‘In that case … we’ll have to live on this side.’’ Given this statement, both seem to have anticipated this development and its consequences. Ironically, the very thing that pushes the siblings further and further into isolation is also the thing that ultimately pushes them out into the world.
The narrator and his sister are clearly in denial. They deny their existence, avoiding all contact with the outside world. They also live in denial in regard to the mysterious noises that inhabit the house. After the narrator and Irene are relegated to their apartments, they do not speak of their change in circumstances. In fact, they sing loudly in the rooms that adjoin the main house in the hopes of avoiding any concrete encounter with the mystery they so fear. The only times the siblings are forced to confront their circumstances are when they go in search of some item that was left behind in the main house. That the siblings are in denial is also evident in their inability to sleep. Something is troubling them, but they do not speak of it. The siblings do nothing to address the noises that have taken over their home; instead, they simply do their best to ignore them. When the noises have finally infiltrated the siblings’ apartment and forced them into the street, the only action they take is to lock the door lest some poor robber be subjected to the horrific ‘‘they.’’ Again, neither sibling attempts to directly face the cause of their misery.
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – Julio Cartazar – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.