Eun Bi Lee
The Struggles of Home Ownership and Self Acceptance
House of Sand and Fog is a text that revolves around Kathy who loses the house that had been left to her by her father. The house is auctioned by the authority on the grounds of failing to pay her taxes. Behrani admits that the house was taken from Kathy because she was irresponsible (Dubus, 5). Behrani is the lucky man who manages to buy the house but it does not end there as Kathy comes back to reclaim what she thinks is rightfully hers. Kathy tells Behrani, “this is a stolen house” (Dubus, 15). In relation to the book, this article will attempt to explore how language has been used to create a sense of self by the characters throughout the book.
From the novel, Kathy finds out how tenuous is the dream of home ownership. Through no fault of her own, she is evicted from her legally owned home by a bureaucratic clerical error the tax office was seeking payment for the house on Biscove Street, not Bisgrove Street. She tells Nadi, “the county evicted me from this house by mistake and your husband bought it…..” (Dubus, 12) Although Kathy cannot afford a lawyer, she is assisted by a Legal Aid lawyer, paid for by the state. Although Kathy's lawyer has filed suit against the county whose tax office made the error, Kathy has nowhere to go after she is evicted and, were it not for Lester's help, would become homeless.
The novel kicks off with Massoud Behrani who is formerly a colonel and has been exiled from Iran following the Iranian Revolution and now works as a trash collector and a store clerk. Kathy Nicolo on the other hand is a former drug addict and is still recovering from trauma of her husband leaving her. She has been unjustly been evicted from her own home due to some unpaid taxes which the county claimed she owes them. Afterwards we learn that, the penalty was a bureaucratic mistake. Her house is placed for auction and Behrani who is from Iran seizes the opportunity and purchases it. He chooses to commit his son's entire college fund, in view back in his mind that ,he would be able to renovate the house and hopefully sell it at a higher price than he bought. He decides to shift his family from the formerly very spacious apartment into the new unwelcoming home. As a result Kathy has to move out and that when she meets her savior the deputy. Kathy is forced to live in her car and rented motel rooms but she cunningly befriends one of the Sheriffs who had come to evict her. They go through the protocols and ends up hiring a lawyer to help them peruse the case, but their plans don’t yield a thing. From how the law is interpreted, the house legally now belongs to Behranis. Following her desperation, Kathy goes to her home and dares to commit suicide twice without success. At first she tries to shoot herself and secondly tries to overdose herself with pills.
Some would deem the events that unfold horrifyingly in Part II of the book to some kind of mischance. Behrani opted to buy the house because it was up for auction and not because he had purposed to hurt Kathy. He had the cash and knew it was a good deal. Kathy decides to over-dose by using sleeping pills, because they were available in the medicine cabinet. The officers shooting Esmail did not know the gun he was holding was not loaded. Some would attribute the lack of justice to bureaucratic ineptitude: Behrani would have never purchased the house if San Mateo County had not erroneously auctioned it off for back−taxes, and Kathy would not have been evicted from what was rightly. An emotionally broken woman, Kathy, suddenly finds herself homeless after her house is wrongly repossessed and auctioned. Seeking respite from his marriage, Lester, a lustful but sympathetic sheriff's deputy comes to the aid of Kathy and becomes intimately involved in her situation. Soon, Behrani, a proud emigrant Iranian and his family move into the house only to find their new lives burdened by harassment from Lester and Kathy as they attempt to reclaim her former home. The once prosperous colonel denies Kathy's pleas for he knows his recent purchase promises a profitable return and a better future for his adolescent son and extravagant wife. But latent consequences lie beneath Bahrain’s well intentioned plan as Kathy's emotions spiral out of control and her actions spark a tragic chain of events that will leave no resident unscathed in the House of Sand and Fog.
Though the novel starts with Behrani living a two sided life where he leaves home as well dressed man but later changes clothes and gets to his job where he moves around picking up trash from the highway department during the day and acting as a store clerk by night. He again changes back and returns home well and decently dressed. The wife Nadi thinks that if they maintained their disguise of living a wealthy life, it would help their daughter win a wealthy husband where indeed the marriage type they looked forward to occurs as the novel comes to an end. Behrani responds to her saying, “for four years we have lived a life we could not afford and spent almost everything to marry Soraya with a good family”, (Dubus, 65). Kathy too becomes a victim of living a life of disguise by not telling her mother that, she had been left by the husband. So Bahrain’s love for his own family seems to be deeds of selfish cruelty to Kathy and Lester. When Kathy's lawyer comes and blames Behrani for trying to get a good deal from the purchase of the house, he defends himself by claiming that things were not as they appeared…Here is where the fog motif factors. Fog is deceptive, diverts perception and taints definition. It has been displayed that even very good people with kind hearts can be destroyed and be humiliated as criminals.
The novel which present an unbearable suspense where there are three fragile yet determined guys who become involved in a fiercely relentlessly. Colonel Behrani was once a wealthy man in when he lived in Iran, but now becomes a struggling hopeless immigrant and is willing bet everything he possibly has to all she has left, and who refuses to let her hard-won stability slip away from her. Sheriff Lester Burdon is a married man who starts falling in love with Kathy and in the final end becomes extremely obsessed with helping the poor lady fight for her justice. With no legal recourse and no home, Kathy falls into an immature relationship with the helpful cop. He uses Kathy for energy to help him finally escape a marriage that has started getting unemotional for him .He gets obsessed with Kathy's plight, and goes to any extent to force Behrani into selling the house back to the county at the original price, and this way Katy could reclaim it.
The theme of a home and the blessings that comes with it finds themselves conceding in this eventful novel. Due to her neglect of the house which her father has labored so much to secure finally gets her to being evicted and hence losing its possession. Lester has decided to take his wife and children for granted and selfishly abandons them to be with Kathy who now becomes a source of another big tragedy. On the other side Bahrain’s diligently repairs and improves the house condition and has purposed to improve his family status. Appreciation for God's blessing is also another recurring point. Behrani goes ahead and explains to Esmail that Americans don’t deserve what they have. He attests that Americans can have the very eyes of a small one but in the real sense be looking forward on how they can work out destruction on the one they behold with the deceiving eyes… (III)
As the story comes to close, the theme that has become evident is the struggle of home ownership and the consequences that are followed by some mistakes committed. There the two characters who are in fear with living with some truths and so they reside to live a lie. Soon than later they find themselves being faced by the fears they had so much determined to escape. Bahrain’s had purposed t make some good profit from the deal but unfortunately ends up being forced to resell the has back to Kathy at the same price he had bought it despite the renovations made. The Iranian immigrant Behrani was desperately inclined to pursuing his American dream of acquiring the social status, earn himself some dignity and to the very end find a source of livelihood for his family as well as have them own a home.
On the other end Kathy Nicolo has decided to leave her very own family but finally finds her losing control of her life. All her bewilderment could have been avoided had she decided to open the mail she had been sent from the county offices… She appeals to be very sympathetic as the book opens in the first scenes, but too bad for her wrong choices which land her in some unforgettable tragedy. There is also Lester, the representation of the bad cop who is not only adulterous but also hungry for power. When he decides to leave her wife and kid to be with Kathy and this can be termed as a coincidence of tragedies .Both of them are co-dependents, they cling to each other and consequently brings the world down with them. Due to the problem of working out the issue of Kathy’s’ house, tragedy comes knocking one after the other. Each of the characters is in need of the house for personal and diverse reasons and in the final end ends up violating the moral fabric in their endeavor to have it.
III, Andre Dubus. House of Sand and Fog. Massachusetts: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999 (4- 123).