House Taken over by Julio Cortaza

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Solving Political tension or Psychological satisfaction, What was Julio Cortazar’s intention when writing “House Taken Over”? Julio Cortazar exemplified a middle-class man living in Buenos Aires during what many call the Juan Peron Era of Argentina. During the Peron Era, there was a general dissatisfaction towards the government by the middle-class of Argentina in particular. Julio Cortazar was also unpleased during this time with the Argentine government, later causing him to move to Paris (“Julio Cortazar”). Cortazar expressed his life in his writing. In “House Taken Over”, Julio Cortazar continues to write about an unknown entity slowly taking over the protagonists’ house. Yet the protagonists act like they cannot stop this entity as it slowly takes over more of the house. By using pronouns to describe the entity, Cortazar places the reader in an uncomfortable state because of this feeling of the unknown.

However, Cortazar furthers the confusion in the story by having the characters feel comfortable with this presence in the house. By Cortazar creating this comfortability of the characters within the story hinted that the characters already have an idea of what the unknown was. Could this be intentional by Cortazar because he wanted to make a statement about his unhappiness towards the Argentine government under Peron? Despite this theory, some sources believe Cortazar’s “House Taken Over” was psychotherapy for Cortazar (John H. Turner). There is strong evidence for each theory, and leads to further controversy among readers regarding Cortazar’s purpose of writing the story. “House Taken Over” by Julio Cortazar is a Gothic short story that satisfies the author’s need to express his frustration toward the Argentine Government; Cortazar also used “House Taken Over” as psychotherapy to suppress his feelings of homosexuality.

Literary Analysis

Throughout the story, Cortazar used various literary devices to portray the Gothic theme of the story. These literary devices consisted of repetition, imagery, and uses of simile at various points in the story. Cortazar used a repetition of certain pronouns such as “they’ve” or “it” to enhance the feeling of the unknown he wants the reader to get a sense of throughout the story (Paragraph 7, Lines 1 and 10, Page 2). Furthermore, Cortazar creates a feeling of uncertainty in the reader’s sense of a home by using the pronoun references. This uncertainty is evident in the story through the quote, “We stood listening to the noises, growing more and more sure that they were on our side of the oak door, if not the kitchen then the bath, or in the hall at the turn, almost next to us.” By using the pronoun “they”, Cortazar heightens the uncertainty the reader feels about the sense of home in the story because they does not give a specific subject (Paragraph 14, Line 5, Page 3). This is an example of a common gothic technique used by authors to stimulate certain senses of the reader relating to fright. Fright is a sudden intense feeling of terror or horror. By Cortazar stimulating these senses, it creates an intense Gothic feeling of fear.

Another Gothic technique Cortazar uses in the story is imagery. Cortazar used descriptive words to provide details about the setting to enhance the Gothic theme of the story. An example of this are through descriptions such as “massive oak door”, or “great shallow, silent house” (Paragraph 5 and 6, Line 3, Page 1 and 2). These adjectives create the Gothic atmosphere Cortazar was aiming for by setting a dark, rustic atmosphere Cortazar wanted.,. This Gothic atmosphere was the main literary theme Cortazar was trying to create because it would also intensify the sense of fright. The sense of fright was created by Cortazar because he wanted to lead the reader into an uncomfortable feeling about their sense of safety. Furthermore, Cortazar uses similes throughout the story to give the reader an opportunity to further their senses visually. By Cortazar using a simile like, “Her hands like silver sea-urchins”, (Paragraph 4, Line 7, Page 1) it leads to the reader developing a better understanding of what it feels like to be in the story because it gives a real world comparison the reader can relate too..

Lastly, Cortazar’s falls under the genre: Magical Realism. Magical Realism is an artistic genre where the writing techniques an author uses leads to fantasy. An example of Magical Realism is through the sister and brother in the story. Both losing the opportunity to marry when their spouses died, and eventually using the rest of their time to spend time with each other. The siblings complete the same routine, day after day, night after night, because they both feel the need to keep the house in good shape. However, the brother becomes fascinated with the smallest things that his sister does in an almost uncomfortable way. The siblings keep the same routine, everyday, to the point where they themselves are almost brainless because of the repetition of the same routine. This idea is mentioned in the text through the quote, “We were fine, and little by little we stopped thinking. You can live without thinking.” (Paragraph 9, Line 7, Page 3). Through this quote Cortazar gives the reader an inkling. This inkling shows that the brother knows that this routine is taking away from what most humans believe as a normal life, but is fine with it.

This provides even more evidence that the brother’s fascination with his sister was actually more than just brotherly love. It seems as if the brother has almost fallen in love with his sister. There is a lot of evidence to back up this theory, such as the quote, “We were easing into our forties with the unvoiced concept that the quiet, simple marriage of sister and brother was the indispensable end to line established in this house by our grandparents.” (Paragraph 2, Line 7, Page 1). By Cortazar including this in the story, he gives the reader an inclination to believe that the brother may already fancy his sister. Cortazar uses literary techniques throughout the story, like Magical Realism, to create a Gothic theme that is evident throughout the story.

Historical Perspective

“House Taken Over” was written during a time of high tension in Argentina. Peronism during 1946 was an Argentine political movement that supported the political figure Juan Perón, the elected president of Argentina in June of that year. Peronism created tension among the different social classes of Argentina because of the benefits that supported the lower working class that led to the overall unhappiness of the middle class of Argentina. Julio Cortazar was a part of the dissatisfied Argentine middle class. Perón believed that he was fighting for social and economic equity for all. However, as his movements in Argentina gained popularity among the working class, the dissatisfaction of the middle class increased for a few reasons. One reason was, “The middle class, politically close to the Radical party, now had to share social space with the working class.” (Wessemann and Schlierenzauer). The slow take over of social spaces in Argentina could relate to the reason why Cortazar had these unknown entities slowly taking over his house. Cortazar was comparing these unknown entities to the Argentine working class in how they were slowly taking over the government and social spaces. The influence the working class began to have on the Argentine Government was tremendous because of the sheer concentration of people considered the working class. Berisso, Bueno Aires, however, had the largest industrial concentration of workers in Argentina (James). Cortazar based the story in Buenos Aires, which is extremely coincidental because the story was published during a time where Peronism and the power of the working class was steadily advancing by political means. Furthermore, riots were made to support Peronism, riots where the working class of Argentina was brutally beaten (James).

This physical abuse of the Argentine middle class sparked an even more empowered movement of the Argentine middle class, which could of caused Cortazar’s creation of “House Taken Over”. Leading to the political prowess of the middle class increasing even further than before. Ultimately causing the middle class to become even more unhappy with Argentine politics and overall dissatisfaction felt by the middle class toward the Argentine government. These reasons help provide evidence to prove that Cortazar wrote the short story because of the political status of the middle class during the 1940’s of Argentina. Brett Levinson believes that this was the most prominent reason for Cortazar to write “House Taken Over”. Stating the claim, “Perhaps the easiest and most interesting entrance into the text is the one taken by numerous previous critics: political context. I am of course referring the to the rise of Peronism in the 40s, the subsequent politicization of the the Argentine working class, and the destabilization of the Argentine working class, and the destabilization of the bourgeoisie.” (Levinson 103). The rise of the Peronism that Levinson wrote about and mentioned previously led to the ultimate creation of the “House Taken Over” because of Cortazar’s unhappiness with the government. Cortazar writes in the story about how the house the brother and sister owned was inherited from their family. This could be a comparison to money that was inherited by the middle class of Argentina from their original family. The unknown begins to slowly take over the main characters’ house, without any entitlement. Similarly, the working class had no previous money inheritance, but instead had to work for it. This similarity provides further evidence that Cortazar wrote “House Taken Over” for ultimate personal political satisfaction. Since Cortazar was unhappy with the government during the time period, he used this literature piece as a way to release his dissatisfaction and criticize the government.

Psychological Perspective

Social interaction in the earlier stages of Cortazar’s life led him to suppressing his feelings of homosexuality because he was scared of the consequences of stating he was, in fact, homosexual; his writing was a way to supress this feeling. Homosexuality in the 1940’s was a very controversial topic because of the ramifications that it came with. Earlier stages in world history, Homosexuality was considered a psychopathic personality that often led to people being classified with “Moral Insanity” (Boyer 92). Moral Insanity was a term placed on many people who had certain impulses as stated with evidence, “Moral Insanity has sometimes been understood as a kind of rudimentary version of the psychopathic personality or as a precursor to the defense of irresistible impulse. Yet the concept was a kind of “catchall” for a diversity of conditions, including bipolar disorder, kleptomania, and homosexuality (Boyer 92). Cortazar was believed to be bi-sexual, in turn I believe that Cortazar used his literature work for psychotherapy because of his sexuality. Psychotherapy is methods used to change certain natural behaviors or impulses a person has.

Since homosexuality and bisexuality were so discouraged during the time period the story was written, Cortazar used his writing in “House Taken Over” as a way to relieve, what was believed then to be insanity. John Turner also criticized Cortazar’s literature work psychologically. He stated, “Cortazar offers, often by means of apparently “fantastic” adventures, a stream of evocations of male sexuality which are frighteningly “real” in the sense that they strike a familiar chord in the reader . . . In part, what Cortazar is doing, as he makes it clear in several places, is deliberately violating taboos which he saw as preventing the liberation of literature and society from their disabling traditions.”(Turner 44). Turner believes Cortazar’s reasoning for writing is to deliberately violate social norms, and this could be correct. His theory could be correct because Cortazar himself was bisexual. Like previously stated, certain sexualities were seen as irresistible impulses that were often deemed as insanity. By Cortazar using certain situations in his literature that violate these social norms, he used this as a way to draw attention away from his true feelings about sexuality. If Cortazar was able to confuse the reader by writing about weird social taboos, an example of this being the uncomfortable relationship between brother and sister found in “House Taken Over”. Cortazar knew that if he wrote his work based off strange social taboos, he could hide his deep feelings of homosexuality. The general public would’ve considered Cortazar insane if he revealed his true feelings, and certain social interactions could of changed the way he felt about revealing these feelings. As illustrated in this Social Neuroscience report, “Social behavior was found to have substantial impact on the brain. Early social interaction, for instance, are important in normal brain and behavioral development.” (Cacioppo 100).

This stigma created by these consequences was why Cortazar created these stories, like “House Taken Over”, that violated common social norms. Cortazar understood that if he tried to shift the focus of the public to another strange thing about his writing, he could try to use this writing as therapy to suppress his feeling of homosexuality because of the stigma that surrounded, what was then called a disease or irresistible impulse. Through “House Taken Over”, Cortazar provided therapy to himself, which we now define today as the term “Psychotherapy”.


Julio Cortazar’s Gothic short story, “House Taken Over”, provided the author a way to express his feelings during his life, regardless of political or emotional occurrences that were happening during the time. It is unfortunate to see how mankind has been so controversial and critical about certain aspects of life that some people were too scared to share their true feelings because of the repercussions it might entail. “House Taken Over” can be used to understand the plight of mankind through the various historical and psychological needs that the text satisfied for the author. For Cortazar, writing was seen as a sanctuary because he was able to develop, and share his true feelings or ideas about a certain perspective.

Moreover, Cortazar used his literature work as therapy because the feelings that Cortazar had about certain things or people were not socially acceptable during the time period. If Cortazar were to share these views or feelings that were not acceptable, he may have had to deal with an unpleasant outcome that could of consisted with being titled mentally insane, or even some sort of punishment from the government. Although mankind has had some difficulty in accepting everyone’s beliefs or feelings, positive changes have been made since Cortazar’s time. Society has become more acceptable to certain sexual impulses and political beliefs. There are now certain days for promoting how being homosexual or bisexual is acceptable. Companies, people, and political figures have made movements to support this cause. Similarly, there have been movements made to fight for political and social justice in society. However, society today can still be very critical and hateful regarding those topics, but changes are beginning to be made. Cortazar’s texts helped start the discussion, and as changes continue to be made, Cortazar’s legacy lives on through the impact of his literature works.

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House Taken Over by Julio Cortaza. (2021, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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