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Often I wondered what would have happened if I had turned to look at her, the day the curtains parted.  And I saw it clearly: the sun-filled air, the dust swirling in shafts of light, the bright empty room.  No, far better to have turned away, to have understood that, for me, imagesIsabel existed only in the dark.

“The Room in the Attic” hinges its forward movement on the reader and David’s conflicting desire to know more about Isabel, but also wanting her to remain a mystery.  Millhauser creates this conflict by setting up the situation around Isabel and why she stays up there in the dark, and spins it into something more complicated and fantastic.  Through David’s eyes, (and I’s because the point of view is first person), we see these two dramatically different worlds that he lives in, the bright sunny one of “normalcy” and the dark room in the attic with Isabel.  He creates fantasies of what he thinks Isabel looks like and at one point plots to sneak a flashlight into her room to see her face.  When given the opportunity to shine it on her however, he decides not to and feels bad about wanting to do it.  She remains a mystery, and this mysterious element of her keeps him coming to see her.   He want to figure her out almost and when, after a long buildup of planning to introduce light back into her room, she decides to open the curtains, he turns away and flees without ever having seen her face.  Millhauser builds to this emotional climax and when David turns away, what could have been a sort of “oh that’s what you look like” moment is made much more dynamic than if he had stayed.

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