Study Guide

House of a Thousand Doors

by Meena Alexander

House of a Thousand Doors Summary

Summary (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

House of a Thousand Doors: Poems and Prose Pieces is a collection of fifty-nine poems and prose pieces. Meena Alexander’s poetry reflects her multicultural heritage and the tension it creates. The book is organized into three sections, the first and third sections serving as a synthesis for the wide variety of subject and theme treated in the body of the work. Many of the poems reflect the writer’s subjective response to her experience; many also project or create new experiences that underscore the importance of imagination as a lens through which to focus the inner life into poetry.

The title poem of House of a Thousand Doors uses the title metaphor to describe the variety of forces that operate on the persona: gender, heritage, language, experience, ideology, and the search for meaning. A complex array of images embody these forces in the book, reflecting the author’s sensitivity to their influence. Alexander uses her writing to integrate the diversity of her experience.

Dominating the persona’s early life is the figure of her grandmother, a powerful member of the family who learned to exercise some control over the many lines of force that affected her life. The mature awareness of the persona is imposed on the re-created memory of herself as a girl watching the figure of the grandmother kneel in turn before each of the thousand doors on a never-ending pilgrimage, “a poor forked thing” praying for the favor of...

(The entire section is 433 words.)

House of a Thousand Doors Bibliography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Perry, John Oliver. Review of House of a Thousand Doors, by Meena Alexander. World Literature Today 63 (Winter, 1989): 163.

Rao, Susheela N. Review of Fault Lines, by Meena Alexander. World Literature Today 68 (Autumn, 1994): 883.