House Taken Over Summary

What is the summary of the short story House Taken Over, and what theme is it? Also, who are the characters in the short story?


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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

House Taken Over is a short story written by Julio Cortazar. It is set in Buenos Aires and it centers around a brother and his sister. The brother is the narrator and is unnamed, his sister is Irene and two live in a large family home, that has been in the family for generations. Irene and her brother are in their forties and have never been married. Irene was engaged a couple of times, and her brother was going to be married, but his future wife died before they could set the date, so the two of them live alone in the big house. They spend their days cleaning and then doing what makes them happy. Irene knits all day and the brother loves to read. One night he hears a noise that makes him believe that part of the house is being "taken over", so he locks up that part of the house. 

"I'll always have a clear memory of it because it happened so simply and without fuss. Irene was knitting in her bedroom, it was eight at night, and I suddenly decided to put the water up for mate. I went down the corridor as far as the oak door, which was ajar, then turned into the hall toward the kitchen, when I heard something in the library or the dining room. The sound came through muted and indistinct, a chair being knocked over onto the carpet or the muffled buzzing or a conversation. At the same time, or a second later, I heard it at the end of the passage which led from those two rooms toward the door. I hurled myself against the door before it was too late and shut it, leaned on it with all the weight of my body; luckily, the key was on our side; moreover, I ran the great bolt into place, just to be safe."

What is interesting is the fact that the brother and Irene seem to think this is normal. They are not afraid by what has happened, they are just a little sad. The part of the house that is now locked, has taken the brother away from his books. Throughout the entire short story, we see Irene and her brother never questioning or talking about what is going on. The story has an almost Gothic feel to it, Julio Cortazar writes a short simple story, that leaves us with more questions then answers. There is no where in the story, that even remotely begins to explain what has happened, or what is going to happen. This is a great short story where we are left using our own imagination as to what has happened and what is going to happen.