Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like many of Barbara Kingsolver’s stories, “Homeland” deals with the power of family resistence and endurance, with cultural survival, and with the sacredness of nature. From the beginning, Great Mam’s tribe resists the efforts of the United States government to move them west, away from their homeland. Although Great Mam has no choice but to move because she must marry outside her tribe, she retains her cultural heritage inside her head. Through the Native American oral tradition, she passes down her knowledge to her great-granddaughter, Gloria. Great Mam honors her Native American background and feels no shame about her marriage, which was never sanctioned by a Christian church. However, Gloria’s mother, the Baptist, who wears white gloves and polishes her scuffed purse with white shoe polish, worries all the while what the neighbors might think. Despite her shame regarding her family roots, Florence Ann is a good mother, caring all the while for her family. Similarly, Gloria’s father’s love and deep concern for Great Mam prompts the family trip to her homeland in Tennessee.

Kingsolver demonstrates that narrative, particularly the oral form, plays a major role in the preservation of cultural identity. The only remnant that the family finds of Great Mam’s homeland in the midst of the tacky souvenir shops is a mangy, one-eyed buffalo. Great-grandmother seems to float above this gruesome evidence of her people’s demise and speeds up...

(The entire section is 502 words.)