House Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 49 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of House.
This section contains 1,414 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)


Symbolism, a literary technique where one object represents another, is used often in this novel. There are a variety of common items used to symbolize aspects of the typical human life, as well as aspects of salvation. The house, for instance is symbolic of the way that many people live their lives. The outside and upstairs portions of the house is clean and white. This represents the way that people generally tend to keep the parts of their lives that other see clean and free from any signs that there is any troubles. The basement of the house, however, is smelly and dirty with confusing hallways that don't match the upstairs. This is representative of the sins, troubles and evil that people often keep hidden behind the clean fa├žade of the their life.

The mirrors found in the basement of the house are another form of symbolism. Randy is fascinated with the first mirror that he comes in contact with because he cannot see himself in it. Leslie also realizes that she can't see herself in the mirror in Pete's room. The couples try to explain this phenomenon away by believing they are some sort of trick mirrors. In reality, the non-working mirrors represent the way that Jack and the others couldn't really see themselves as they were. They kept their true nature and true selves hidden even from themselves. It is only in the basement of the house that the true nature of each person is revealed.

Sin and evil are portrayed in two different ways in the novel. The first way that sin is represented is by Pete's dog food mush. When Leslie first enters Pete's room, she believes that this mush is actually vanilla pudding and eats it willingly. When she realizes what it really is, however, she not only refuses to eat it but is also physically unable to eat it. Later, when Stephanie eats the mush, she believes it has some sort of drug in it as she begins to feel a sensation of pleasure. Sin is often regarded in the same way as Pete's dog food. Before a person realizes an action is a sin, they often find this action pleasurable, as Leslie did when she first thought the mush was pudding. Once a person becomes aware that their actions are sinful, however, these actions become repulsive to them and they are unable to participate in these actions again. Sin, like the pudding, also has the ability to give a person a feeling of pleasure. This is similar to Stephanie's experience when she eats the dog food even though she knows that she shouldn't. The pleasure sensation would generally make a person want more of the sin, even though it was bad for them. Sin and evil are also represented by the black smoke that billows often from people when they are injured. To his surprise, even Jack leaks black smoke when he cuts his own hand.

Story of Salvation

This novel is interesting because of its unique retelling of the story of salvation. While the book can be read on face value as a story of some people who are trapped in a haunted house by a demon, people who are saved from their predicament by an innocent girl who dies in their stead, it can also be interpreted as another version of the story of salvation.

The book makes references to the Biblical idea of salvation in various places. For instance, Betty tells the four who believe they have come to stay in an inn, that they are nothing but worthless sinners. They don't understand why Betty regards them as sinners, but later come to realize when even Jack leaks black smoke when he cuts his hand in the basement of the house that all of them have evil in them. Meanwhile, in the living room that the four find in the basement of the house, the saying "the wages of sin is death" is written on the wall. This indicates that whoever wrote this saying believes that all who have sinned should die.

The house rules, as lined out on the tin can the Tin Man drops through the chimney of the house, indicate that in order for those in the house to live, there must be a sacrifice. As he says at one point, the wages of sin is one dead body. The Tin Man indicates that if there is not a sacrifice of one person, everyone will die. Later, when the Tin Man is disguised as Lawdale and is discussing their predicament with Leslie and Jack, he indicates this one person that dies in the house will do so not only to save the others there but also the rest of the world. Lawdale says the reason no one has been able to stop the Tin Man is because no one knows how to win the game. No one knows how to win the game because no one has ever stayed alive through the entire game.

It is interesting that the person who becomes the sacrifice in this book is one who is completely innocent and comes willingly to participate in this strange game that she knows will lead to her death. Susan has been in the basement, which at times is said to represent death or the grave, for three days. When the Tin Man is trying to convince Jack to kill Susan, he offers Jack thirty pieces of silver, the same amount of money that Judas was given to betray Jesus, according to Christian tradition. Susan also reappears to Jack and Stephanie after her death.

Human Nature

Another theme addressed in this novel is the different ways humans respond to stress in their lives. Jack, for instance, is able to keep a cool head. He emerges as a leader even in a stressful and life-threatening situation. Although Jack briefly considers killing Randy in order to save the others, he also knows this is not the right thing to do. He employs all of his mental and physical strength to finding some way to get everyone out of the house alive. In this time of stress, Randy, however, completely loses his cool. He is easily threatened and feels comfortable only when he has a gun in his hands. When he is faced with Stewart, who reminds him of his father, Randy's fear almost becomes uncontrollable. Randy feels as if he has done a great thing when he allows Stewart to drown in the drainpipe. He has realized that even though Stewart is standing in his way of living, he cannot kill the man. Just a few hours later, however, Randy has worked up the courage to kill Leslie, believing that this action will allow him to go free. He does not realize that the Tin Man was only lying to him to persuade him to do his work.

After the death of her daughter, Stephanie abandoned Jack without even realizing that she has done so. She instead accuses him of abandoning her. This abandonment issue comes often to Stephanie's mind, such as the time when Jack shuts her up in the upstairs closet so that he will know where she is and that she is safe. In reality, it is Stephanie who is running away. She is attempting to run away from Jack to avoid the pain of her daughter's death just as she tries to run away from the house after Betty upsets her by taunting her with an ice cube. The house is different, though, because the house will not let Stephanie get away. She is forced to see the kind of person she has become and what it has done to her relationship with her husband. When Stephanie sees the light coming from Susan, she quickly recognizes its importance and turns to Christ.

Leslie is the most unfortunate victim in the Tin Man's game. Although she has begun to realize the evil life that she has led, Leslie does not move quickly enough to follow Susan and is killed by Randy. Leslie has realized that although she was abused as a child, she has done nothing to stop affect the abuse had on her life. Instead, she manipulates and uses men because she is aware of the affect that her sexuality has on them. As Randy is preparing to kill Leslie, he is thinking about how much he resents they way that she has manipulated him.

This section contains 1,414 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
House from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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