Julio Cortázar

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House Taken Over Summary

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

In "House Taken Over," a brother and sister who live together in a large old house are first disturbed, then displaced by mysterious intruders.

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Julio Cortázar’s "House Taken Over" is a Latin American short story that was first published in the 1940s. In Spanish, the short story is known as "Casa Tomada."

The story is about a brother and sister. The brother doesn't have a name, and the sister goes by Irene. The brother and sister live in their family’s big house and have meticulously planned days. They rise at seven in the morning to clean. At “precisely” noon, they eat lunch. Irene then spends the rest of her day knitting, while the brother appears to spend most of his own time with books.

Soon, their tranquil, quiet lives are interrupted by a noise. The noises start to take over different parts of the house. Finally, the brother and the sister ditch the house altogether.

One theme that might go with Cortázar’s short story is loyalty. The brother and sister stay together. The noise doesn’t fracture their relationship.

Another theme is colonization. It’s as if Irene and her brother are the colonized nation and the mysterious noise is the colonial power. Colonial powers have been known to displace people from their homes, and that’s what the noise does to the siblings.

A third theme might involve humanity and private property. Though Irene and her brother are partial to their house, they don’t place the piece of property before their own peace of mind. In the end, they put their welfare first.

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In "House Taken Over," the narrator lives with his sister, Irene, in their ancestral home, a large old house in Buenos Aires. They are independently wealthy and do not need to work, and they both also decide not to marry. They live a quiet life together, in which she devotes herself to knitting and he reads French literature.

One day, the narrator discovers that part of the house has been taken over. This is inconvenient at first, but he and Irene are able to shut off the part of the house that is occupied from the area in which they live and continue their modest lifestyle. Later, however, the section of the house in which they live is also taken over, and they have to leave.

It is evident from this summary that the principal mystery in the story is who or what takes over the house. Is this a political takeover, in which the houses of rich people are occupied? Is the house taken over by ghosts? This is never established. The theme, therefore, is the destruction of a quiet, private life by mysterious but apparently irresistible external forces.

The only two characters in the story are the unnamed narrator and Irene, a middle-aged brother and sister who live very quietly together. Irene's name, significantly, means "peace."

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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.

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