What theme (or themes) do Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist, both by Anne Tyler, have in common?
The one theme that both Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist (both by Anne Tyler) have in common is alienation and loneliness.
In The Accidental Tourist, Macon Leary is a man whose life has fallen apart. His son has died, and soon his wife Sarah leaves him. He does not like to travel. He writes books for others like himself who do not like to travel, but must—such as businessmen. However, he enjoys the order of living quietly at home. Macon's days file along, one after another, with little change. He meets Muriel where he boards his dog when he does have to travel, but this thread is left hanging for some time. Before long, Macon is fearful that he is going to turn into some kind of lunatic living on the rim of society:
...turning into one of those pathetic creatures you see on the loose from time to time— unwashed, unshaven, shapeless, talking to themselves, padding along in their institutional garb.
He decides to turn his life around, but breaks his leg, forcing him to go live with his sister and two brothers.
At Rose's house, Macon enjoys the comfort of his sister's care and the orderliness of the household. It may be that as much as he likes things his way, being alone does not make him happy. A memory of going to live with his grandparents leaves Macon with a sense, again, of alienation—his childhood a...
...glassed-in place with grownups rushing past, talking at him, making changes, while he himself stayed mute.
The reader begins to understand that feeling as if he is not in control of his life makes Macon feel disconnected.
His wife, Sarah, criticizes his need for alienation—that he's disconnected from society because...
...there's something so muffled about the way you experience things ... You're encased. You're like something in a capsule. You're a dried up kernel of a man that nothing real penetrates.
Though cannot deal with him, Muriel eventually gives Macon hope that he can overcome self-imposed loneliness.
In Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, loneliness is another prevalent theme. Pearl Tull is dying, and telling her story in flashback. Pearl recalls feelings of isolation after marrying Bull, unable to form any meaningful connections in the many towns where they lived as Bull constantly moved them around. Bull leaves and Pearl is left alone to raise their three children—and true to form, she chooses to raise them totally alone, telling everyone her husband is away on business.
The Tull children deal with loneliness (and a sense of rejection). Pearl was physically and psychologically abusive. Cory is always jealous of Ezra, but when his mother was abusive, Cory protected the others. He had no father; he was the oldest. He wished for a "normal" mom...
What he wouldn't give to have a mother who acted like other mothers! He longed to see her gossiping with a gang of women in the kitchen...
Cory marries and they leave town, cutting ties with his family. Ezra serves in the military; returning, he inherits a restaurant, but can never seem to get his family to successfully survive an entire dinner without fighting. He never marries, and he is alone. Jenny Tull is haunted by her father's abandonment as well, and feels cut off by her mother's psychotic behavior—calling Jenny a "cockroach" and telling her that "she was raising Jenny to eat her."
Pearl's alienation and isolation take a terrible toll on her children.
Both of Tyler's stories explore the theme of alienation.