In chapter 10, what does the dining room symbolize to Leper after he is dismissed from the army?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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After Leper goes AWOL (Absent Without Leave) from the army, Gene goes to see him at his family's home in Vermont. Somewhat strangely, Leper insists they sit in the dining room to have their visit. He tells Gene that the dining room is preferable to the living room:

You aren't lost for something to do in dining rooms. It's in the living room where people can't figure out what to do with themselves. People get problems in living rooms . . . . In here you never wonder what's going to happen. You know the meals will come in three times a day for instance.

Significantly, Leper chooses to sit in his father's chair at the head of the table.

For Leper, considering where he has been and the horrors he has experienced in bootcamp, the dining room represents order, stability, security, and control. Living rooms, in contrast, are where "people get problems" ("people" meaning himself) because sitting in a living room with others requires social interaction. Leper's social skills have always been lacking. Always the loner, he lived in a world of his own creation. When he went to military service, he broke under the demands and the regimentation. The dining room at home represents an escape from disorder and uncertainty. All one has to do in a dining room is eat food. His choosing to sit in the chair at the head of the table suggests Leper's desire for some kind of control amid chaos.

 

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