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A Closed Family In Anne Tyler’s Dinner At The Homesick Restaraunt Essay, Research Paper

A Closed Family:

Growth Through Suffering

The novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is one of Tyler’s more complex because it involves not only the growth of the mother, Pearl Tull, but each of her children as well. Pearl must except her faults in raising her children, and her children must all face their own loneliness, jealousy, or imperfection. It is in doing this that they find connections to their family. They find growth through suffering.

“Cody Tull, the oldest child and the one most damaged by the failure of his parents’ marriage he becomes an aggressive, quarrelsome efficiency expert.”(Voelker 126) He feels that it his fault that Beck, the father, left. Especially when they bring up the arrow incident. Cody never really feels like a family as he expresses: “You think were a family…when in particles, torn apart, torn all over the place?”(Tyler 294). He never recovers from his father leaving.

The optimism of Ezra is never noticed by the family. He never let his past affect his life and very little bothered him. The family does not notice his optimism because Cody resented it, Jenny ignored it and Pearl misunderstood it. His optimism is shown when Cody is reflecting on their childhood, about how bad it was and how their mother was a “shrieking witch”. Ezra responds, “She wasn’t always angry. Really she was angry very seldom, only a few times widely spaced, that happened to stick in your mind”(Tyler 295). Even though Ezra felt his childhood was not that unhappy, he never feel his family is a whole because of Cody’s jealousy, Jenny’s isolation and Pearl’s confusion. “Ezra creates and manages a restaurant that corrects the excessive closeness of his family with an atmosphere that consoles the customer while making no demands.”(Volker 126) This was his idealistic home.

“Jenny, the youngest, becomes a pediatrician, a professional mother, who can avoid stifling emotional obligations.”(Volker 126) She, as a child, ignores most of what’s going on so that no emotional harm is done to her. Jenny exclaimed: “We made it didn’t we? We did grow up. Why, the three of us turned out fine.”, as if she has no regrets nor has made no mistakes. This shows how she ignores and avoided emotional conflict throughout her life.

Pearl often wondered how other families worked and why hers didn’t. “At one point late in life she indulges in the signal act of idealization imagining the lives of other, ‘happy’ families”(Voelker 128). She always kept outsiders out of the lives of the Tulls. She did this for two reasons. The first was so no one could see their problems and the second was so her children couldn’t see what they were missing.

Closed families produce people less socially and personally satisfied. For instance, the son or daughter in a family business may tell the parent what to do with the business, but their relationship problem is never really resolved. It is just deferred until the next argument. This is an immature way of dealing with a situation one cannot cope with.

When family becomes locked into a particular pattern of inter-family strife and too many unspoken areas of responsibility and commitment occur the family will crumble. In another of Tyler’s novels, The Accidental Tourist, this is the problem with Macon’s family. It leads to problems with his wife. After his son dies his feelings are numb. He never opens up until an outsider, Muriel puts him in touch with the world again and real life. This is also the problem with the Tulls. When Ezra wants to become a partner with Ms. Scarlatti his mother tries to persuade him not to, even though it would benefit him greatly. Unfortunately, Pearl sees the world outside her family as alien. Even Ms. Scarlatti’s generous offer was a threat to the family. Because of this no guest ever came to the Tull house and when Pearl saw Josiah Payson at the house with Jenny she rudely insulted him so he would leave. “She employs her practical skills to make the home airtight and efficient, her manipulative skills to bind her children to her”(Volker 128). This is how Pearl kept her family closed.

This double standard Pearl set explains why Cody, Ezra, and Jenny were successful in their careers even though they failed in their relationships with each other as a family. There upbringing in a closed family was destructive and like Macon, from The Accidental Tourist, they did not open up and flourish until they were exposed to the outside world.

Whether short or drawn out all growing is painful. It tests a family for “what it’s worth”. Growth shapes a family’s relationships, identities, and values. However families can not grow without suffering. That suffering is part of the growing process, which includes giving up personal choices, jealousies and animosities. So it is true to say that family life involves some suffering for the individuals and the group but hopefully it is for the better for more acceptance and love of one another.

Voelker, Joeseph C. Art and the Accidental in Anne Tyler. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989, 125-146.

Tyler, Anne. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1982.


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