In Educated, how does Tara use the mountain as a symbol for home?

Quick answer:

The mountain serves as a symbol for home in Educated in that it reflects Tara's relationship with her family. Both the mountain terrain and Tara's family pose threats, as Tara suffers abuse from her brother. Additionally, the mountain represents the home Tara eventually creates for herself in the outside world, outside that of her family. 

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By personifying the mountains—especially the Princess—Tara adds a layer of literary symbolism to her memoir. The Princess is a real, tangible element of Tara's physical landscape, but by leveraging it as a metaphor, she's able to illustrate abstract ideas that weave through her lived account.

The mountain is an exceptionally dangerous place. But because the Westovers know the terrain so well, it also offers them a form of safety and cover if and when they need it. They just have to take care—to work with the mountain instead of against it, using their intimate knowledge of its hazards and assets to their benefit.

The family's relationship with the mountain mirrors Tara's relationship inside her family home. She suffers significant ongoing abuse at the hands of her brother Shawn, and her relationship with her parents is deeply complex and volatile. But it's still her home—when she needs to feel safe there, she does it by working with the terrain just like the family does on the mountain.

The mountain also towers over the family. No matter how big Tara's father, Gene, and the life he's built might seem, the mountain is always bigger—there's always something beyond the compound. One might argue that this, too, could be a representation of Tara's home—after all, she only truly comes into herself when she embraces the outside world. In doing this, she makes her own home—a much bigger one than she ever could've had while living under her father's roof.

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