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Home Imagery and Symbolism in Literature: The Most Crucial but Underestimated Things in Human Life Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 1st, 2022

Home remains one of the most crucial but usually underestimated things in human life. In literature, this theme is interpreted in a variety of ways, including the physical characteristics of a building and family relationships. In this paper, attention will be paid to three stories by Marshal Curry (The Neighbor’s Window), Scholastique Mukasonga (“Grief”), and Nathanael West (The Day of the Locust). These authors do not directly address the home theme, but their narrations show what it means to misunderstand values. Being the representatives of different literary genres, the chosen stories contributes to the promotion of home as the only place for hope, safety, and empowerment.

One of the most evident characteristics of the home is safety. When people are at home, they believe that they are protected and supported. However, the time comes to leave their safe homes under different circumstances. In her short story, Mukasonga uses massacres and genocide as a symbol of threat that makes the main character go away from her homeland. The theme of compulsion and unfair force is developed to prove that even if “you never know” what to expect or “you might run into a madman,” home is safe, and it is never too late to come back (Mukasonga). In The Day of the Locust, West uses repetition to explain why home is the only safe place for Harry to which he returns. Compared to the previous authors, Curry chooses a family home as the main setting where all events are developed, turning this place into a symbol of transformation. The couple and their children are safe and free to do what they want within the walls of their house.

As long as people feel protected, they enjoy the empowerment that their homes provide. In The Neighbors’ Window, Alli and Jacob seem to be a couple with no common interest except bringing their children and watching the family in the neighbor’s window (Curry). Until they are at home, they can laugh, cry, make jokes, and doubt. In comparison, Mukasonga deprives her character of the power of home and empowerment and introduces the girl as fragile as an egg that could break after a single jolt. West relies on the deceptiveness of the American Dream that makes people believe that a foreign country could become their new home. As a result, empowerment in the novel is similar to domination, and the author adds many similes “like a soldier at the command” or “heads of burnished spikes” to underline the lack of character’s awareness of home (West). While people do not accept their homes as something real and crucial, they do not have a chance to improve their lives.

Hope is the strongest force that contributes to human growth and development, and it is closely related to the home theme. Home is where hope is born, and, according to West, without hope, people suffer from the anguish that is “basic and permanent.” In Curry’s movie, hope is revealed through the thought that something can be changed with time. In “Grief,” hope remains a motivator for the main character to come back home and keep her promise. Home turns out to be a symbol of hope that supports people even if they are left alone.

Although the works by Curry, Mukasonga, and West raise distinctive themes, introduce different settings, and employ various literary techniques, their contributions to the home theme are remarkable. A person must have a place where to go and find support or understanding. It is a source of safety, hope, and empowerment, and if people are deprived of home, their lives become damaged, and the scars never disappear.

Works Cited

Curry, Marshall, director. The Neighbor’s Window. Marshall Curry Productions, 2019.

Mukasonga, Scholastique. “Grief.” The New Yorker, 2020. Web.

West, Nathanael. Project Gutenberg Australia, 1939. Web.

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"Home Imagery and Symbolism in Literature: The Most Crucial but Underestimated Things in Human Life." IvyPanda, 1 Mar. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/home-imagery-and-symbolism-in-literature/.

1. IvyPanda. "Home Imagery and Symbolism in Literature: The Most Crucial but Underestimated Things in Human Life." March 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/home-imagery-and-symbolism-in-literature/.


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IvyPanda. "Home Imagery and Symbolism in Literature: The Most Crucial but Underestimated Things in Human Life." March 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/home-imagery-and-symbolism-in-literature/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Home Imagery and Symbolism in Literature: The Most Crucial but Underestimated Things in Human Life." March 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/home-imagery-and-symbolism-in-literature/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Home Imagery and Symbolism in Literature: The Most Crucial but Underestimated Things in Human Life'. 1 March.

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