Frost, Hughes, Alexie the Meaning of "Home" Thesis

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Frost, Hughes, Alexie

The Meaning of "Home" in Frost's "Hired Hand," Hughes' "Landlord" and Alexie's "I Will Redeem"

Robert Frost writes in "The Death of the Hired Hand," "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in" (122-3). Implicit in these lines is the notion that "home" carries certain rules. "Home" is not just a place devoid of higher meaning, but an abstract idea -- a concept bound by a principle of belonging, of submitting, of caring. Just as Langston Hughes shows in "Ballad of the Landlord" (with the tension between negligent landlord and suffering tenant) or as Sherman Alexie shows in "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" (Jackson sharing a portion of his winnings with Mary, whom he considers family -- "It's an Indian thing"), the principles of "home" are understood and upheld by those who realize its deeper meaning. This paper will analyze the way these three works portray that deeper meaning.

Sherman Alexie's Jackson illustrates the main principle of "home" when he hands a fifth of his lottery winnings to the check-out girl who sold him the ticket. He insists that according to the rules of his tribe, "When you win, you're supposed to share with your family." Mary (the check-out girl) answers, "I'm not your family." Jackson replies, "Yes, you are," and makes her take the $20. She takes it, realizing that in a larger, communal sense, they are family. The realization puts a smile on her face. It is this "sense" that prompts Robert Frost's Silas to return to the farm of Mary and Warren in "The Death of the Hired Man." Silas is an old, beaten-down, mostly worthless farmhand, who has a tendency to wander away from the job just when he is needed most. Warren wants nothing to do with him, but Mary cannot help but feel a profound sympathy for Silas. She sees in him a man in need, a man not to be turned away or denied shelter -- because, after all, he is a man. Never mind the fact that his
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own brother judges him and puts distance between them. Never mind the fact that he has his faults, his pride which won't allow him "to beg and be beholden" (Frost 21). Warren relents a tad at his wife's characterization of Silas: does he recognize in the pathetic old man a reflection of his own inner self? If he does the reflection is almost instantly dismissed. Warren believes home is something that is deserved. It is his wife Mary who knows that it is something that is freely given.

Is it a coincidence that both women (in Alexie's story and in Frost's poem) are named Mary? Does it mean something that both possess name given to the Second Eve in Christian theology, the woman who gives birth to Christ, the Savior of mankind? The implications of the name "Mary" are many and deep -- and fitting in both cases as it is used in Alexie's short story and in Frost's story-like poem. In each, Mary "gets" the meaning of "family" and "home." She "gets" the law that binds all men together, that unites them all under one roof (whether that roof is the roof of a community, a town, a single house, or the all-encompassing sky). Fraternal charity is that law. It is the law of Mary's Son in the New Testament, and it is the law that both Mary in "Hired Hand" and Mary in "I Will Redeem" recognize. "Home" means "family" and "family" means "home" -- and both depend upon the law of charity. Jackson reaps the benefits of adhering to that law when the mysterious pawn broker gives him the regalia that he cannot possibly afford (another symbol of the Redemption bought by Christ?), and Warren realizes the law only after Silas dies -- Warren takes his wife's hand in his own and looks with her up at the sky which houses them all and the cloud (a representation of Silas' soul?) that joins its brethren in front of the moon (the symbol of Mary used by the…

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Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman. "What You Pawn I Will Redeem." The New Yorker. 12 Apr 2013.


Frost, Robert. "The Death of the Hired Man." Bartleby. 12 Apr 2013. Web.

Hughes, Langston. "Ballad of the Landlord." 12 Apr 2013. Web.

Cite This Thesis:

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