Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 201

One central theme in The Turner House is that of the haint, a restless spirit of the dead who materializes in front of Cha-Cha and a few other family members. The haint, embodying a past contingency, shows the novel's living characters that they, too, are products of the social and...

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One central theme in The Turner House is that of the haint, a restless spirit of the dead who materializes in front of Cha-Cha and a few other family members. The haint, embodying a past contingency, shows the novel's living characters that they, too, are products of the social and historical context of Detroit. Even the jobs and familial models they find themselves working under are mostly chosen for them by their society and time period rather than self-determined.

A second theme is the decay of domestic life. Decay is demonstrated concretely in the family home, which is literally crumbling to the ground. The decay of the physical home is a proxy for the economic, social, and moral decay of the characters, who fall into drug and gambling addictions, unemployment and homelessness, and abdicate their responsibilities to their families.

Still, Flournoy's characters go on despite these malaises, revealing a related theme: human persistence. The Turner children grow up to become enterprising adults who learn to overcome and navigate a depressed economic environment to create their own jobs and systems of value. Thus, the novel implies that learning to recognize and actively reject decay is a natural part of coming of age.

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