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Nothing was there. In the thick darkness I felt myself dissolving, turning into black mist, speaking into the farthest reaches of the room.

The feeling that Isabel may not be real is an interesting choice that Millhauser makes in this story. Even by the end of the story we can’t be quite sure that David didn’t make all of it up. David even questions it when he leaves the house. He wonders if he had just dreamed it all and if the house would be there when he looked back. In a way it seems that David has been sucked into this “other” world and within this world he is becoming a changed person. His parents become worried, while Wolf seems eerily calm about the fact that this boy, who was originally his friend, is now spending more time in his attic than with him. There is even a moment where David realizes this and when he goes to visit Wolf he doesn’t seem to be phased. It does seem that Wolf and Isabel are real due to small choices that Millhauser makes. For example, he shows Isabel leaving the pharmacy and through the rumors that are being spread about Wolf. Yet, when David tries to get close to Isabel she seems to be semi-formed at first. The more he thinks of her the more she takes form. He imagines her in many ways and she presents herself as more than a phantom. There is still a level of uncertainty throughout though. David even avoids the reality outside of the dark room by running away when light is presented. This provokes the question of reality even more. Is it possible that David was just bored and had an overactive imagination? Or is Isabel real and David can’t remember enough of her to accurately picture her when outside of the room?

 

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