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House Taken Over by Julio Cortazar: Summary & Analysis

House Taken Over by Julio Cortazar: Summary & Analysis
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

In this lesson, we will learn about one of Julio Cortazar's short stories, 'House Taken Over.' After establishing context for the short story, we will explore what happens in it and analyze its main themes.

Introduction

Although originally from Argentina, Julio Cortazar wrote most of his short stories and novels while in political exile in France. Julio Cortazar is most famous for his novel Hopscotch, but he also wrote short stories, including 'House Taken Over,' which was published in 1946 in a literary magazine edited by Jorge Luis Borges. Readers today can find it in the English language translation of Julio Cortazar's short story collection, The Bestiary.

'House Taken Over' is about a pair of Argentinian siblings who find their house invaded or 'taken over' by an entity known as 'they.' The story starts out very realistic but eventually turns into magical realism, which is defined as any story in which supernatural (or magical) elements are presented as part of the natural (or real) world.

Julio Cortazar, Author Of House Taken Over
Photograph of Julio Cortazar

Plot Summary

'House Taken Over' is narrated by a 40-year-old Argentinian man who lives with his sister in a house they inherited from their parents. The brother used to be engaged, but his relationship ended. The sister has never married, although she had several offers.

Nothing very exciting happens to either of the siblings during the first part of the story. Aside from taking care of their home, the siblings engage in their relatively uninteresting hobbies: the sister knits, while the brother reads books.

Then the house is taken over. At first, it begins mundanely with noises. The siblings refuse to go in the parts of the house where the noises originate from. The siblings even abandon their possessions in parts of the house taken over by 'them.' Eventually the siblings are completely driven out of their house when the mysterious entity takes over the last section. The siblings leave their ancestral home at the end of the story rather than confront whoever or whatever has taken over their house.

Themes

Let's take a look at some of the themes of the story.

The Unknown

First we can examine the theme of the Unknown. The biggest question in this story is, 'Who took over the house?' The story is ambiguous and does not provide the readers any answers to the questions about who took over the house, because neither the sister nor the brother confronts the mysterious force. They would rather relinquish their house room by room. This demonstrates the siblings' fear of the unknown. They are afraid of what they do not know, not only in the sense of the mysterious force that took over their house, but also in the sense of life outside of their tedious and boring routines. Apart from taking care of the house, the siblings do not do very much and are not involved with anyone else. They hide in their house from the unknown. When the unknown takes over their house, they hide from it, too, until they have nowhere else to hide.

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