House of Incest

by Anaïs Nin

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Narrator

The narrator of the text is the main character. She recalls being born as well as the time before her birth, when she was in utero. For her, this was a paradise of peacefulness and painlessness; all was dark and wet and easy. She seems to long to achieve this same level of peacefulness in her life, but she cannot, as a result of her feelings of isolation and the pain of her experiences.

Sabina

Sabina is the speaker's lover, and she, too, seems to long to avoid the pain of life's experiences. Her way of coping is to lie, and though the speaker feels that lies result in greater isolation, Sabina continues to lie and deceive in order to create a less painful reality. Once the speaker comes to understand this reasoning, she cannot fault her lover, and she even agrees to tell lies too, though she knows the ultimate effect they will have. She feels that she is the other half of Sabina, that they are twin halves, though they can never achieve the painlessness of complete union.

Jeanne

Jeanne is marked by her deformed leg and her incestuous feelings for her brother. She, too, longs for the absence of pain. She seems to love the part of herself that she sees within her brother, and these feelings confuse and frighten her, as well as compel her to continue to seek him. She believes that all familial relationships share this same problem: we love what we see of ourselves in our family members, and these feelings confuse us.

The Paralytic

The paralytic is a writer who is so completely paralyzed by his feelings that he cannot actually produce any writing. He sits before a blank notebook and describes how he chews every thought or impulse he has until it becomes nothing. He cannot catch his thoughts before they all run away from him. He cannot tell the "whole truth," because he would "have to write four pages at once." He can only lie because of his limitations, and he will not do that, so he writes nothing.

The Modern Christ

The modern Christ feels everything so deeply that he describes it as being like what it would feel like to have no skin. It is both pleasurable and terribly painful, and though he is envied by the paralytic, he is miserable because he cannot save humanity from itself. He says that we only love others because they show us some aspect of ourselves.

The Dancing Woman

Toward the end of the narrative, a woman dances as though she cannot actually hear the music to which she moves. Just as we are all separated and isolated from others, even ourselves, her movements are separate from the music. She sings about how her arms were once taken from her because she tried to cling to everything. She opens her hands now, giving everything up and not holding onto anything. This pains the speaker but appears to make the dancing woman very happy.

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