Monday, November 24, 2014

Capturing Holloway's Death

            Word art plays a huge role in Danielewski’s House of Leaves.  By including these elements, the reader is further able to connect concepts through the visual aid.  In the footnote on page 336 there is an image of a sword in red.  On the page following this image in the footnote, Holloway ends his life.  The presence of the sword helps the reader to further understand and even sympathize with Holloway during the moments leading up to his death and eventually leads the reader to believe that the sword is Holloway himself.
            The first thing to consider on page 336 is the image of the sword itself.  Swords generally tend to symbolize power and even protection.  This can be applied to Holloway throughout the Navidson Record thus far as Holloway serves as the leader through the explorations into the endless black hallway.  He holds power over Jed and Wax through their expeditions while he carries a gun to protect himself.  However, the image of the sword is broken.  This is extremely important in regards to the moments leading up to Holloway’s death because it lets the reader understand the current emotional state of the prior leader.  Consider the following quote from Holloway on page 334, “’Shouldn’t have let them get []way then I
[               ]have returned, told everyone they g[      ]lost…lost.” And with that last utterance, Holloway’s eyes reveal who here is real[]y lost” (Danielewski 334).  An individual cannot hold power if they are both lost and alone.  With no hope to move on, Holloway’s strength to move on is shattered, much like the broken sword on page 336.
            The second aspect of the word art on page 336 is the color of the text, red.  Red as a color symbolizes many things such as violence, anger, fire, and even blood.  Near the end of his life, Holloway was angry and violent toward anything that he could.  Consider these statements from page 335, “…I’m not alone…There’s something here I’m sure of it now…It’s following me.  No, it’s stalking me.  But it won’t strike.  It’s just out there waiting.  I don’t know what for.  But it’s near now, waiting for me, waiting for something…” (Danielewski 335).  The way that these excerpts are phrased shows Holloway’s overall vehemence with the given situation, which can be described by no other color but red.  On page 337 Zompanó writes the following, “He lights another flare, tosses it toward the camera, then pushes the rifle against his chest and shoots himself” (Danielewski 337).  The use of the flare here further ties in the color red, as fire is frequently symbolized by this color.  Finally, the blood of Holloway’s messy suicide is summarized in the following, “For exactly two minutes and 28 seconds he groans and twitches in his own blood, until fin[     ] he slip[] into shock and presumably death” (Danielewski 337).  The repetitive theme of red makes its presence once again and supports the reader’s association of the broken red sword with Holloway himself.
After seeing the sword the first time, the reader can tell based off of the shape and the color that Holloway is finally going to end his life in a violent way.  However, it is also important to note that Zampanò originally struck this footnote.  Johnny adds the following interesting thought about Zampanò, “Though at least if the fire’s invisible, the pain’s not—mortal and guttural, torn out of him, day and night, week after week, month after month, until his throat’s stripped and he can barely speak and he rarely sleeps.  He tries to escape his invention but never succeeds because for whatever reason, he is compelled, day and night, week after week, month after month, to continue building the very thing responsible for his incarceration” (Danielewski 337).  The color red is also fitting in this quote.  This footnote about Zampanò can actually be related back to Holloway, as he is trying to escape the darkness, which is his own personal invention, due to the fact that it was his decision to go off on his own in the first place. 

Finally, the last sentence in the sword art is relevant to Holloway’s death.  It states, “The creature does not know you, does not fear you, does not remember you, does not even see you.  Be careful beware…” (Danielewski 336).  This creature is later described as the following, “Fingers of blackness slash across the lighted wall and consume Holloway” (Danielewski 338).  This is the final clue that brings all the pieces together, warning the reader about the upcoming death of Holloway.  Holloway used to be powerful and confident, like a sword, but loneliness and being lost breaks the sword, leaving all power behind.  The red of the sword depicts Holloway’s anger at himself and the monster leading up to the event as well as the fire of the flare that he throws so all can see the red blood leave his body when he shoots himself.  The constant references to a minotaur, or some other kind of monster, in the pages leading up to Holloway’s death and in the image of the sword itself all show that a monster truly does live in the house and it plans to leave no evidence of life behind.  With all of this in mind, it is suddenly clear to the reader than Holloway is the sword, broken into pieces by the monster that lured him into the maze in the first place, and covered in blood by the duty of his own hand.


  1. I did like how you made clear that this word art let readers foresee that Holloway's death would be a bloody, violent one. I think you could spend a bit more time on why the relationship between Holloway and the sword is significant. In other words, why does this correlation help readers better understand the message given by Holloway's death. You could also address a sort of counterargument or a number of suggestions about what else the sword could symbolize. Lastly, the inclusion of some research on the minotaur legend and all that it represents could strengthen your argument. I believe that addressing more of the background myth associated with the text in the sword art and relating it to Holloway's personality and situation could be very helpful.

  2. I like Kat's response - it's hard to disagree with you about the connection between Holloway and the sword (which is partially a matter of your good, clear presentation of that argument), but what does that do for the book as a whole? That becomes a more significant question after a larger discussion of the sword and its relationship to the key - in other words, we have a number of different reasons to think that this word art is at the heart of the text, and therefore we should be at least tentatively asking in what ways we should be connecting the sword to the larger text.

    I wanted to make a couple notes about why I liked your reading, and a couple ways it could be expanded. First, I would have liked it if you'd explicitly addressed the relationship between the broken sword and the broken/damaged text - by your reading, I guess both are Holloway, which is a topic that was worth further discussion, I think. Second, I'd have liked it if you'd worked harder thinking about the relationship of Holloway's violence to the violence of the text - the broken sword of the word art and the damage to the text itself. You do begin to move in that direction at the end, but the role of violence here is fundamental, and one of the big questions, I think, is whether we see it as being fundamentally about Holloway's violence, or violence done to Holloway (or maybe best, but also most difficult) the relationship between the two.

    Overall, this is definitely one of your best drafts - it's nicely focused on the text, with a clear approach, and tries to do neither too much nor too little.