Introduction

Hannah Green's only novel, The Dead of the House (1972), has been praised for its evocative language and lyrical prose. The novel originally appeared in the New Yorker as a series of shorter fictional pieces. It was published as a novel in 1971 to critical and commercial praise; when it was reprinted in 1996, the novel was discovered by a new generation of readers.

The novel is the story of a girl's passage from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Moreover, it is a much broader history of her entire family. The Dead of the House also paints a rich picture of an older American family and its place within the history of America. In addition, it hearkens back to the mythology of the American West.

Summary

Section One: In My Grandfather's House
The first part of the novel is concerned with the events of Vanessa's childhood, but also with the stones and history of her family. As the name of the section implies, nearly all of this portion of the novel takes place in Grandpa Nye's house located in Cincinnati, Ohio.

While the story is told from a mix of voices filtered through Vanessa's memory, certain events fit within the narrative at the time they are happening. Vanessa's grandmother dies. After the funeral, her grandfather marries Janice, his housekeeper. She is then referred to as Aunt Janice, as the age gap between Grandpa Nye and her seems too large for her to be called grandmother. Vanessa relates much of the history of the family through remembered conversations with her grandfather.

Grandpa Nye and Vanessa's father tell her about her late Uncle Joab. She also takes possession of a book of Joab's poetry; besides reading and memorizing the poems, she adorns the book with flowers, as if it were his grave or even the man himself.

Grandpa Nye tells her many stories: some about his family history, or things that happened to people he knew. He has a skull tattoo and cross-bones on his chest, done himself when he was only a boy. He also tells her of the wonders of his many canoe trips across the wild waterways of Canada, and his friendship with an Indian guide.

Section Two: Summer Afternoon, Summer Afternoon
This section takes place primarily at the Nye family's vacation home in Neahwantah, Michigan. An exploration of Vanessa's adolescence and young adulthood, it chronicles her gradual sexual and mental awakening. She explores her love for Dirk Monroe, as well as her intense love for and jealousy of her sister, Lisa.

Vanessa returns again and again to one event. She remembers arriving early for dinner at her grandfather's...

(The entire section is 777 words.)