What are the themes of the novel Pictures of Hollis Woods?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The themes in the novel Pictures Of Hollis Woods include:

1)The importance of friendship in promoting a sense of belonging.

As the story progresses, Hollis comes to see that Josie and Beatrice are her friends. They are not there to judge her, but to help her realize that she is in a safe place. Both the cousins include Hollis in their favorite weekly rituals, especially their Monday night Chinese take-out dinners. Josie even incorporates Henry the cat into Hollis' circle of friendship. She is surrounded by warmth in a place where even the cat is her staunch defender:

"You don't have to worry about Henry. Henry's ready to stick up for you whenever the chips are down."

I had to laugh thinking about Henry in boxing gloves fighting for me.

2)The healing power of art.

Both Beatrice and Josie are former art teachers. They encourage her not to be afraid to allow her art to heal her with its honesty and its simplicity.

"But when it's down there on paper, and you look at it, really look, you'll see the way things are."

"Drawing is what you see of the world, truly see."

Hollis comes to realize that she has to accept who she is in order to find her place in the world; to that end, art becomes a vehicle for self-awareness.

3)The importance of unconditional love in a child's life.

When Hollis finally comes face to face with her foster brother, Steven, she is shocked that Steven was able to figure out her location. Steven tells her that his family received a letter from the agency asking about Hollis' whereabouts. Hollis becomes emotional and doesn't understand why the family would want her back when there were so many arguments during her stay. Steven tells her that she 'doesn't know about families yet.' He tries to reassure her that every family has its own idiosyncracies (behavioral characteristics peculiar to an individual or a group of people) and in his family, he and the Old Man tend to argue a lot.

Despite the arguing, Steven and his father love each other. This is unconditional love, and Hollis comes to understand that conflict in a loving family need never be a marginalizing experience. The story ends with the birth of her new baby sister, Christina, and the Regan family adopting her as one of their own.

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Pictures of Hollis Woods

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