Possession, Responsibility, Greed, and Deception

I’m interested in the way that In the House ties together the concepts of ownership, possession, responsibility, credit, greed, and deception. The husband at first and increasingly the wife as well are interested in what they can and can’t take responsibility or credit for. For example, the husband considers whether their inability to have a baby is his fault or his wife’s. Meanwhile, his wife focuses her life on being able to give her husband the life he wants. She feels it’s her responsibility to do that. (This of course brings gender roles into consideration as well.)

Other roles that the husband and wife seem to “possess” are those of the non-singer and the singer, the one who builds and the one who adds to what is built, the one who eats fish and the one who eats meat, the one on the dirt and the one in the lake, the one with the fingerling and the one with the foundling. In this way, there is an interesting discussion of opposites as well.

Greed and deception are tied into this as well because greed seems to be the driving force behind the desire for ownership and possession, while deception is both a fear and a tool for those who want to possess, own, and distinguish themselves (take responsibility/credit for having owned or possessed something).

The interplay of these concepts seems to be coming into importance with the relationship between the husband, the wife, and the foundling. As the son begins to grow, the narrator (husband) tells us, “[M]y wife said that…it was her mothering that made the foundling, more so than any other. I thought this to be a lie but said nothing” (41). The presence of the son, the unknown way in which he came about, and the wife’s greater influence over him than the husband’s seems as though it will be the driving force for the rest of the novel.

One question I have is this: Since these interconnected concepts (ownership, responsibility, greed, deceptions, etc.) are prevalent and concerning in our daily lives, why does Bell feel that it’s necessary to create an anonymous and magical world to tell us about them? What does this world add to the story?


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