The House in Paris

by Elizabeth Bowen

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The House in Paris is a novel by Elizabeth Bowen. The narrative offers various themes. One of the most prominent themes is the concept of time. In particular, the past and present are intertwined throughout the novel. Bowen, through the story, suggests that the past affects the present and the future. The actions of people in the past can still affect how others live in the present-day. This is illustrated by the characters of Karen and Leopold. The former imagines the latter after conceiving him, but in the end, it is revealed that the imaginings are Leopold's all along. The readers then learns about Leopold's past whilst he himself constructs that past based on fragments of information he gathers in the house in Paris.

Another theme is physical or geographical stasis. The events in the story revolve around a specific place. The characters do not go anywhere geographically, but also emotionally. The characters are stuck in the "architecture of the mind." A sense of place is, therefore, not just a setting in the story but is a main character as well.

Betrayal and deception is also a theme in the story, and is the catalyst to the main conflict in the story. Madame Fisher betrays Naomi. Karen betrays her own mother. The act of betrayal and keeping secrets from others are recurring themes in the narrative. In regards to Karen's story, motherhood is also a theme. Leopold's relations with Karen, and Karen's own tumultuous relationship with her mother are evidence of this.

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