Monday, November 24, 2014

Johnny’s Empty Future

House of Leaves is not formatted like a typical novel at any point in the book. It changes structure as the reader learns more about the story and the many characters it revolves around. Often times the unique setup of each page provides more insight to the story and a greater understanding. On page 327, there is only one footnote (#277). More uniquely the footnote contains 4 blank lines. There is no writing in the footnote, but rather than omitting it or claiming that it has been burnt, or crossed out, or any other excuse, it is included in the story. The footnote is also methodically placed at the end of Johnny’s segment rather than at the bottom of the page in which the footnote is referenced. The footnote containing no information shows the mental state of Johnny and his feelings that life has nothing more to offer.
Traditionally, footnotes are supposed to add more information about a topic. Since footnote 277 does exactly the opposite it should be thought of as less of a footnote and more of a symbol to make the reader stop and think about the happenings of the story. The footnote is referenced on page 325, two pages before it appears. It is in a paragraph that begins with Truant’s discussion on Raymond, his abusive foster dad, dying. The subject then changes to his goals on what to do with Zampano’s manuscript and this continues for the duration of his segment. He begins by talking about getting rid of it and that possibly that would solve all of his problems. Then continues to, “It’s a nice idea but it reeks of hope. False hope. Not all complex problems have easy solutions” (325). This quote directly references making difficult decisions, such as contemplating suicide and begins to allude to the author’s mental state. He continues to say “…and so Trenton once warned me…but that had been in another time when there was still a tuck and you could talk of solutions in peace without having any first hand knowledge of the problem; and Trenton is an old friend who doesn’t live here and who I’ve never mentioned before” (325). Johnny references a friend named Trenton, and while he may be an actual person in the Johnny’s life, his name is picked for a specific reason. The Battle of Trenton was an important battle in the Revolutionary War. In the battle, the Americans were outnumbered, but ended up beating the Redcoats and it gave the troops a needed victory. It also provided hope that perhaps they had a chance of winning the war. Since Johnny is saying that Trenton “doesn’t live here” it directly means that there is no hope left for him. There is no battle that he can win, he simply must finish what he can and then end his life.
The segment continues to show Johnny’s thoughts on his role in the world. He claims that perhaps he is existence is simply because of the book and he is nothing without it; an interesting comment considering his words are documented because he found the manuscript. He is in some ways “alive” because of the story. It is overall a very grime segment in which he debates his future. It is set within the segment of the Navidson Record on Holloway and his own struggles with depression and suicide. This footnote is part of Johnny’s story though, not Holloway’s which does not happen very often in the book.  It is not a coincidence that Johnny’s contemplation of suicide is given here. He is struggling with mental illness and Zampano’s story provides an outlet for his thoughts. The paragraph before the footnote also provides important details to help identify the importance of the “empty” footnote. It states, “There’s only one choice now: finish what Zampano himself failed to finish. Re-inter this thing in a binding tomb. Make it only a book, and if that doesn’t help… retrieve what I’ve been hiding in the trunk…” (327). He is referring to a gun he purchased to end his own life when he finishes compiling the pages he has. The blank spaces show that there is nothing more in life left for him. Johnny like Holloway is desperate for hope, but feels there is none left. The lack of words represent is depression and the engulfing despair that it brings with it. It connects Holloway’s story with Johnny’s and shows the pain that both men are suffering from. The footnote is necessary to show the reader the empty space depression causes for both characters.

1 comment:

  1. As an analysis of Johnny's depression and the *formal* impact that it has, this is perfectly reasonable. I don't have an problems with it as such, and although evaluated simply as such it's kind of on the brief side, it's also effective.

    Your analysis of Trenton is insightful and a great start - this is where the wealth of opportunity lies. This is one of those insistent moments in the text where Danielewsksi's seemingly purely formal obsessions suddenly become historical/political, and his formalism becomes an odd way into historical thinking rather than an alternative to it. This connects to the "July 4th" moment I talked about in class; it also connects to the "Williamsburg" moments in this week's reading, so keep an eye open for that. Anyway, this was reasonable without the Trenton material and quite good with it; the potential of this short essay greatly exceeds what is actually here.