Analysis

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229

The Turner House is an investigation of a specific era of Detroit, cataloguing its rich emotional life. It also makes universal points about the historical determinism of most people's lives, as well as the specific means and ends (such as one's career, or one's aspiration to build a family) that people use to make sense of their life stories. Flournoy accomplishes both of these effects by writing about a wide range of characters embedded in Detroit's mid-20th century society, including the huge, 15-person Turner family, factory laborers, police, medics, migrants, and homeless people. All of these characters are portrayed as essentially good, though the range of possibilities for their future selves may be either expanded or foreclosed by their choices and conditions. For the people of Detroit, the central condition is an economic depression caused by a decline in the auto industry.

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Most of the plot pivots on the story of the Turners, who desperately try to furnish a stable home. Through the family's example, Flourney suggests that the best one can do with the conditions given to them is love and support the people the world determines for them, in one way or another. The family interacts with haints, or ghosts of past lives which suffered even worse fates, enriching them with the knowledge of the universal relativity of intimate emotional values such as sorrow and joy.

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