Are the family dinners—with Joseph reading, the dad eating, Rose silently trying to survive the meal and the mom talking nonstop—emblematic of the family dynamic and how has it evolved over the years?
I think that there is a definite family dynamic that the dinners capture. Bender illuminates how there is a specific hollowness which lies under the veneer of the typical family. Rose understands this when she first encounters her "special skill:"
I am not happy, help me—like a message in a bottle sent in each meal to the eater.... And now my job was to pretend I did not get the message.
When Rose hears the emotions of her mother in the food, it becomes clear that under the alluring vision of supposed totalizing happiness lies a condition filled with "absence, hunger, spiraling, hollows." The family dinners become part of this construction. They are a world where individuals remain distant from one another, pursuing their own ends apart from one another. The family dinners are a realm where each member is fragmented in terms of their own pursuits. They are unable to fully come to emotional terms with the others. Over the years, this dynamic does not get any better. The divisions widen. Joe simply wishes to become furniture, and leave the pain of human consciousness. Lane and Paul are never able to fully reconcile. Rose's "special skill" enables her to understand the emotions that people experience. However, it is still up to her own sense of will to actually do something about it. In this light, the family dynamic revealed at dinner is understood, and Rose recognizes that it necessitates someone to step outside of their own fragmented condition. Along with understanding her own condition in the world, this becomes her crucible as the narrative progresses.