Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The symbolism in “Home” is worthy of a latter-day Nathaniel Hawthorne. Images of masculine sexuality suggest the two women’s warped views: The grizzly bear in the Reader’s Digest story resurfaces as the father in the daughter’s dream, and Jason the football star plays “a threatening Nazi colonel”; wounded Daniel, with “his white and feminine hands” seems more to the daughter’s taste. Physical scarring represents deeper psychic states: There are Daniel’s war wounds and the mother’s “operations of the womb,” while the girl carried off by a grizzly reappears with “a long thin scar near her mouth.” Home is where people go to die, like the submarine crew in an old movie on television (recognizable as Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach, 1959). Home is where the mother’s young aspirations died when she returned to care for her sick mother and to marry an older man, where the family died, and where the mother now lives her hermetic existence and sings out “cancer” at the images on television.

Enter the daughter, who is as obsessed with sex as the mother is with cancer—it is a case of life against death, in the best manner of D. H. Lawrence. Because the story is told from the daughter’s point of view, life wins: The daughter overcomes her instilled sexual fears by violating the taboos of her mother’s house. The main trouble with the story, however, is the point of view, which appears too short on irony: The daughter is so smug and superior that some readers might find themselves rooting for the mother.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Phillips, Jayne Anne. “The Writer as Outlaw.” In The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work, edited by Marie Arana. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

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