Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure - Wikibooks, open books for an open world (2024)

Text[edit | edit source]

Carmen Maria Machado’s chapter “Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure from her novel In The Dream House read by Zoë Winters as Act Two: You Can’t Go Your Own Way of episode 703--“Stuck!” of the radio program This American Life.

Analysis[edit | edit source]

I was only eleven years old when I arrived in the United States from the Dominican Republic to live with one of my mother's sisters. I lived with my aunt and a family of five for five years , during which she physically and mentally abused me. She always put me down in front of all her other kids, and I was given chores while others were outside enjoying the weather. I felt very isolated and trapped. I was a minor and therefore not able to do anything until my mom came from my home country, and none of my family members outside of her household wanted to help because they did not believe that she would do such things. My aunt’s physical, emotional and mental violence created a monster in me; what she did hurt me so deeply that it still haunts me and will not let me leave in peace. Listening to Machado's chapter “Choose Your Own Adventure from her memoir In The Dream House resonated with my own pain, uncertainty and isolation. In this chapter, Machado portrays domestic abuse as imprisonment.

Machado calls her memoir In The Dream House to show the transformation of the cabin she shared with her ex-girlfriend from the home of her dreams to a house of nightmares. Noting Machado’s fragmentation of its narrative through the use of “short chapters and frequent shifts between genres,” Katherine Connel compares the novel to a “haunted structure” where the reader becomes disoriented like a character in a horror film.[1] Thus the irony of the book’s title: living in a dream house should mean living in a house where you are loved, at peace, and, most importantly, happy; that was not the case for Machado. The particular chapter analyzed here, “Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure,” introduces the abusive relationship as a rough awakening from dreaming:

Page 1, you wake up, and the air is milky and bright. The room glows with a kind of effervescent contentment, despite the boxes, and clothes, and dishes. You think to yourself, this is the kind of morning you could get used to.
When you turn over, she is staring at you. The luminous innocence of the light curdles in your stomach. You don’t remember ever going from awake to afraid so quickly.

The most obvious way that this chapter illustrates the toxic cycle that entraps victims of domestic violence is its structure. The term "Choose Your Own Adventure” is another name for a gamebook, that is, “a work of printed fiction that allows the reader to participate in the story by making choices. The narrative branches along various paths, typically through the use of numbered paragraphs or pages. Each narrative typically does not follow paragraphs in a linear or ordered fashion."[2] For example, the beginning of this chapter gives the protagonist a series of possible reactions to the annoyed girlfriend:

“You were moving all night,” [the girlfriend] says. “Your arms and elbows touched me. You kept me awake.” If you apologize profusely, go to page 2. If you tell her to wake you up next time your elbows touch her in your sleep, go to page 3. If you tell her to calm down, go to page 5.[3]

Normally, the choices given in a gamebook narrative are positive. Not so in this chapter, whose narrative loops, as David Schwartz explains, tell the real story: “make a certain choice, and you find yourself reading the same page later. This is trauma. Recurrence. Multiplicity here allows Machado to showcase abuse’s chilling singularity. This is trauma. Recurrence."[3] Because the protagonist’s attempts to make a decision make her end where she began over and over, choices in this chapter illustrate a victim’s lack of control. They also highlight how in an abusive situation there is no way to pacify the abuser:

“You are such a f*cking c*nt,” [the girlfriend] says. “You never take responsibility for anything.” “Well, all you have to do is wake me up,” you say, a kind of incoherent desperation zipping through your skull. “That's it. Wake me up and tell me to move or sleep on the couch, and I will do it. I swear to you.” “f*ck you,” she says, and gets out of bed. You follow her to the kitchen. Go to page 7.

Even if the victim apologizes or tries to find a solution to the problem she still gets mistreated. There is no way out.

Machado’s use of the setting intensifies the reader's sense of imprisonment. Throughout the chapter, the protagonist moves from the bedroom to the kitchen and back to the bedroom over and over. In the kitchen she is cooking and cleaning just like a maid for her abuser,

Page 7. Breakfast. You scramble some eggs, make some toast. [The girlfriend] eats mechanically and leaves the plate on the table. “Clean that up,” she says, as she goes to the bedroom to get dressed.

And in the bedroom she is her sex slave:

Page 10. That night, she f*cks you as you lie there mutely, praying for it to be over, praying she won’t notice you're gone. You have voided your body so many times by now that it is a force of habit, reflexive as a sigh.

After faking an org*sm, the protagonist falls asleep and sometimes dreams of a better day (“It's going to be all right”), only to wake up to have her dream transform into the hurtful bedroom to kitchen to bedroom cycle again.

Machado eventually escaped her controlling girlfriend and is happily married. I am a mother now, and my daughter has helped me in all kinds of ways to move forward and forget the past because I need to be strong for her. Still, books such as In the Dream House are important because they remind us that domestic violence is present in all types of relationships. After listening to the “Choose Your Adventure chapter, I felt like I had just experienced something completely new, and yet its story was my story too.

Further learning[edit | edit source]

Other works by Machado[edit | edit source]

  • Her Body and Other Parties- Eight inventive, challenging, deeply moving and often troubling short stories that explore the harsh realities that women navigate in everyday life and how these take their toll on the body, the mind, and the spirit. The collection includes Machado's earlier novella Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU.
  • The Low, Low Woods-A graphic novel with artwork by Dani. The story of two teenagers who seek the reasons for their memory gap and uncover the dark secret of their hometown.

Books like In The Dream House[edit | edit source]

Psychological thrillers

Violence against women

Feminist responses to systemic oppression

Resources on violence against women[edit | edit source]

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline

GET HELP AT https://www.thehotline.org

or 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)

If you are in a situation where you feel trapped or experiencing domestic violence, here is a site with resources to help you.
On this website there are instructions on how to get help, plan for safety and get involved to help others.
You can live chat with a professional that can help you and everything is anonymous. You can call and text its 24/7 hotline to help those in need.

Long lasting effects of persons who stay in intimate abusive relationships [edit | edit source]

Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is a serious issue that many face daily. Even after the violence has ended, the mental and emotional impact of the experience remain. Such abuse can severely affect individuals who experience it, impacting their physical and mental health. Research indicates that more women than men experience intimate partner violence each year. Victims like Machado may feel confusion, fear, powerlessness, shame, guilt, and anxiety. [4]

Have you ever heard of battered woman syndrome? According to search, battered woman syndrome (BWS) is a psychological trauma that results from ongoing physical, physiological and/ or sexual abuse typically at the hands of an intimate partner. Besides that, this syndrome can also result in the development of a “survival personality,” in which the person acts out of fear and attempts to avoid further harm. This takes us back to when the protagonist in Dreamhouse says that “she forgot that leaving is an option”, it reflects a moment where she grapples with the idea of leaving her very own abusive relationship. After feeling isolated she finally wanted to leave, perhaps due to fear. [5]

The impact on self-worth and self-esteem of persons being abused[edit | edit source]

In the context of intimate abusive relationships, individuals including Carmen Machado often experience a profound erosion of self-worth and self-esteem. The repeated emotional and verbal abuse can make victims feel bad about themselves and make them internalize negative beliefs about themselves. The continuous harsh treatment leaves the victim feeling like they are not good enough, leading to feelings of shame and unworthiness. Staying in such relationships may stem from a distorted perception of self-value, where the victims like Machado may believe they deserve the mistreatment or that it is the best they can hope for. Over time, this can create a cycle of self-doubt. Breaking free from these relationships and rebuilding self-worth often requires support, therapy, and a gradual rediscovery of one's strengths and value as an individual. The journey toward healing involves challenging and reframing the negative beliefs during the abusive relationship. Experiencing abuse is extremely devastating and can significantly destroy a person’s self-worth and self- esteem. Research shows that abusers often isolate the victim, cutting them off from friends and family. This isolation worsens the person's self-esteem as they feel disconnected from the outside world. Without positive interactions, the negative beliefs imposed by the abuser may stay with the victim. Consequently, the person's self-worth gets tied to the abusive relationship, making it hard for them to leave due to fear of loneliness or a belief that they will not find acceptance elsewhere.

The impact of domestic violence on women’s self-esteem and self-worth is so deep, it can leave lasting emotional scars and hinder a woman’s ability to rebuild her life after leaving an abusive relationship. Recognizing and addressing the effects of domestic violence on self-esteem and self-worth is crucial in supporting survivors on their journey towards healing and reclaiming their sense of self

And one quote by Beverly Engel says, "With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism, and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until he or she is incapable of judging a situation realistically. He or she may begin to believe that there is something wrong with them or even fear they are losing their mind. They have become so beaten down that they blame themselves for the abuse.”

Self Esteem Affirmations[edit | edit source]

Here is a list of daily affirmations a victim of abuse can repeat daily. These affirmations are a way to slowly rebuild your self-worth.

1I am worthy of love and respect.
2I deserve to be treated with kindness and understanding.
3My worth is not determined by someone else’s actions or words.
4I am strong, resilient, and capable of healing.
5I release the guilt and shame that does not belong to me.
6I deserve a life free from fear and harm.
7I am valuable and I deserve a life free from fear and harm.
8I am not defined by the past; I have the power to shape my ideas.
9I choose to prioritize my well-being and happiness.
10I trust in my ability to rebuild and rediscover my true self.
Word Search Activity[edit | edit source]

A little word search activity for you to try!:)


Rebuild Deserve Boundaries

Self-Worth Happiness Respect

Healing Growth Love

The link to the word search solution: [1]


References[edit | edit source]

  1. Connell, Katherine. “A Haunting: A Review of Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House.Plenitude Magazine, 22 Feb. 2020.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. "Gamebook." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 May. 2021. Web. 12 Jun. 2021.
  3. a b Schwartz, David Lerner. “How Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Continues to Show Up in Literary Fiction.Literary Hub, 5 Mar. 2020.
  4. Dutt, Som. "Emotional Abuse: 13 Long-Lasting Impacts on Self-Esteem." Psychology Simplified, Medium, 6 Jul.
  5. "Battered woman syndrome." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Dec. 2023. Web. 17 Dec. 2023.
Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure - Wikibooks, open books for an open world (2024)


Who is Dream House written about? ›

Carmen Maria Machado: Machado is the person the text is centered on. The book is told from her perspective as she recounts her memories of her relationship. The "woman in the dream house": This woman is Machado's ex-girlfriend in the book.

Is Carmen Maria Machado white? ›

Though race rarely figures directly into Machado's work — in a 2018 interview with The Rumpus, she noted, “I am Latina, more or less white-presenting, and writing about race is a thing that I have not done a ton of, because I feel like I exist in a liminal space where I don't want to take space away from women who are ...

Is Carmen Maria Machado Cuban? ›

Carmen Maria Machado was born July 3, 1986, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Machado's paternal grandfather left Santa Clara, Cuba for the United States when he was 18, gaining U.S. citizenship after serving in the Korean War.

Who is the girlfriend In the Dream House? ›

Val is the girlfriend of the woman from the Dream House when Machado first meets her.

Is In the Dream House lgbtq? ›

Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House: A Memoir was published in 2019. It tells the story, set in the United States, of a lesbian couple.

Who wrote Her Body and Other Parties? ›

Her Body and Other Parties is a 2017 short story collection by the writer Carmen Maria Machado, published by Graywolf Press. The collection won the Shirley Jackson Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

What is the summary of Her Body and Other Parties? ›

Brief summary

Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of captivating short stories by Carmen Maria Machado. Each story explores themes of desire, identity, and the female experience, creating a unique and thought-provoking literary journey.

Does Carmen Maria Machado teach? ›

'At Halloween, I'm at the height of my powers': An interview with writer Carmen Maria Machado, currently teaching 'the art of haunting' at UI.

Is Carmen Maria Machado a feminist? ›

From the start, Machado's stories reflected ideas of Queer and feminist theory and helped her deconstruct ideas about patriarchy and heteronormativity. She always knew that LGBTQ+ themes would play heavily into her collection.

Is Carmen Maria Machado Hispanic? ›

Machado: I am Latina, more or less white-presenting, and writing about race is a thing that I have not done a ton of, because I feel like I exist in a liminal space where I don't want to take space away from women who are experiencing racism in a more intense, visual way than I am. So, there's that.

What did Machado do in Cuba? ›

Cuban War of Independence

In 1895 Cubans launched a War of Independence against Spain. Machado joined the rebel forces and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He was one of the youngest Cuban generals in the war. He fought in the middle provinces.

Is Dream House based on a true story? ›

This is the best movie to fall asleep to. I start watching it and immediately feel like I took a sleeping pill. The acting is bad, the flyovers are overused and the story is unbelievable. I know it's based on true events, but this has to be exaggerated.

Is in a dream house book based on a true story? ›

This book may be a memoir, but it could also be classified as a psychological thriller, one based on true events. I found myself taking breaks in between selected chapters, angry at the woman from the dream house and unsettled by the scenes Machado went through.

Is Dream Home based on a true story? ›

Pang concocted his murderous premise after a dinner he had spent with some friends complaining about the property market – but if his protagonist Cheng Lai Sheung (Josie Ho, who also co-produced) is pure fiction, the political, economical and historical specificities of the place and time that she inhabits are all too ...

What does the Dream House represent? ›

'The Dream House' is, ostensibly, the couple's Midwestern home. It is, as Machado urges us to believe, 'as real as the book you are holding in your hands. ' But it's a place of metaphor, too, representing how easily a place filled with the promise of domestic bliss can transform into a prison.

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