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Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant

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Maddy Sayer

on 5 December 2014

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Transcript of Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant

Anne Tyler
Born October 25, 1941 in Minnesota to a Quaker family
she moved around a lot similar to the Tull family
Her favorite childhood book was
The Little House
by Virginia Lee Burton, which became an inspiration for this story
She grew up during the 40's and 50's, which is the time period for this book
Pulitzer-Prize winning American novelist
Her books focus on the struggles of American family and marriage
Symbols
Point of View
The point of view of this book is complicated. Although the perspective changed by chapter, it remains 3rd person the whole time. The difference is that every chapter the narrator knows the thoughts of a different character, Pearl, Cody, Ezra, or Jenny
Characters
Dinner At the
Homesick Restaurant
by Anne Tyler

Summary (or else none of this will make sense)
30 year old Pearl marries 24 year old handsome salesman Beck Tull. Because of Beck's job the two move around a lot and lose connection with their family. After they have 3 children together, Cody, Ezra and Jenny, Beck unexpectedly leaves the family. The story tells is from point of view of these 4 characters and how they struggled in the following 40 years of Beck's abandonment.
Significance of the title
Pearl's younger son, Ezra, goes on to own a comfort food restaurant that he calls The Homesick Restaurant. Throughout the book, he is making an unsuccessful effort to bring the family together for a meal. At Pearl's funeral, Beck comes and they all have an opportunity to sit down and eat. Beck leaves in the middle of the meal, but returns to Ezra's restaurant to finish their meal. (pg 253)
Major Themes
Pearl Tull
Beck Tull
Cody Tull
Ezra Tull
Jenny Tull
Character Introductions
Motifs
Audience
Setting
What is significant about this book?
Quotes (ideas)
Quotes (craft)
Abandonment
Beck leaves the family
Pearl abandons being a stay at home mom and goes to work
Jenny feels abandoned when Cody moves out and Ezra joins the military
When Ezra falls in love with Ruth, she leaves him for his own brother Cody
Jenny is abandoned by two men
In the end, Beck leaves in the middle of family dinner
Abuse
Jenny was often abused by her mother Pearl
Cody would pick on and abuse Ezra because he was jealous that Pearl loved him most
Jenny was abusive to her daughter Becky similar to how Pearl treated her
Work over Family
Pearl and Beck both move around for his work instead of being with family
Beck abandons his family and moves elsewhere for work
Pearl starts working at the grocery store instead of staying home with her children
When Cody is an adult, he spends all of his time at work like his father did
Ezra never marries, but spends his life working at the Homesick Restaurant
Pearl is married to Beck, and she is the mother to Cody, Ezra and Jenny. She married the cunning salesman Beck Tull as a last ditch effort of finding a husband before she was an old maid. Her confusion and anger when Beck left translated greatly into the dysfunction of her family. She tells Ezra that when she dies, he must invite everyone in her address book to the funeral, which causes Beck to come back and the family to be reunited upon her passing.
Beck is a young handsome salesman when he meets Pearl. Once they marry, he puts family second to his job. After many moves and having three children with Pearl, he leaves his family with no explanation. He still supports the family by sending $50 a month, but is never interested in further family connections. He returns to the family at Pearl's funeral
Cody is the oldest child of Pearl and Beck. He is 14 when Beck abandons the family, so he is completely aware of reality of the situation. He is always jealous of his younger brother Ezra. Because of this he constantly pick on him, even into adulthood. When Ezra falls in love with and is engaged to Ruth, Cody sweeps in and steals her, and they marry and have a son named Luke. Cody carries a lot of traits similar to his father, mostly his priority of work over family.
Ezra is the middle child in the Tull family. He has always been his mother's favorite child, which became a source of conflict for him and Cody. Ezra was enlisted in the military but was sent home because of his sleep walking problem. When he comes home he works hard at Mrs. Scarlatti's restaurant. When she dies, Ezra is left in charge and he turns it into The Homesick Restaurant and serves comfort food that makes people think of home. After Cody steals his fiance Ruth, Ezra never marries and spends his time with his restaurant and his mother. He often reads Pearl's diary entries which makes him feel closer to her. Throughout their lives he tries to get their whole family to sit together at dinner, which only happens in the conclusion after Pearl's funeral.
Jenny is the baby of the Tull family, but is in no way babied. Her mother is very abusive to her physically and emotionally. Although her mother eases up, she fears being the only child left at home once her brother leaves. Jenny dates and marries Harley until medical school but their marriage does not work and she moved back to Baltimore. She has a quick marriage with Sam, but he leaves before their daughter Becky is born. She finally happily marries Joe, who has six kids of his own.
The character introductions are crucial to the structure of this book. It starts from the point of view of Pearl on her death bed recalling her life. It goes on to tell the same story through the eyes of all three children, describing their internal struggle and perspective through their family's hardships.
The most common patterns in this story are first the reoccurring cycles of generations, and second, the struggle of reunion. Beck's characteristics are mirrored in his oldest son Cody. They both are very stoic and emotionless, and they value work more than family. Jenny also shows similarities to her mother Pearl. She is abusive towards her daughter Becky and she overworks herself for her family. The pattern of the struggle for reunion is mostly in Ezra's yearning for a family meal, which only becomes reality once Pearl is dead.
The Arrow
In the beginning of Cody's perspective, he recalls a time when he was blamed for Ezra hitting Pearl with an arrow and she has to go to the hospital. This represents the feud between these brothers, and how Pearl still favored Ezra despite the harm he inflicted on her, and how Cody tried to protect her
Pearl's Diary
Ezra remains close with his mother Pearl and often reads her diary entries. Her diary represents how close they are because he assists her once her sight has gone and she lets him into her most personal thoughts.
The Homesick Restaurant
Ezra's restaurant is a symbol for what their home never was. He makes comfort food when at home they never felt true comfort. The whole family comes together here after the funeral when that was never a possiblity at home after Beck left. The concept for the restaurant is that homesick people go there when they want food from home, when in reality Ezra is homesick for what their family used to be.
Anne Tyler's intended audience is struggling families. She very clearly adresses not only the family as a whole, but every individual in the family and connects to what potential troubles they may face. Many of her books are directed towards the family.
Although Pearl and Beck move around a lot during their portion of the story, most of the book is set in Baltimore from the 40's (their childhood) to the early 80's (Pearl's funeral). Most of their childhood is spent at hime, because they are afraid to leave.
The purpose of this book is to teach that everyone sees the world differently. Even though someone may appear to have a excellent care free life, you do not know what struggles they are going through internally and externally. An article on theguardian.com says,
The title Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant captures the dichotomy on which her fiction rests: nearly all the characters are homesick in some way – either longing for home, or completely sick of it. This conflict between security, inheritance, love, and their corollaries independence, solitude and freedom, drives many of her narratives: characters are always running away from, or returning to, the marital or childhood home. Kakutani has argued that for Tyler these represent "the two imperatives in American life". "This is why I don't read reviews," Tyler laughs. "I'm not thinking at all about what it means to be American."
The purpose of this book is not only for American life, like Kakutani suggested, but for all life and how we all desire to feel at home
“When you have children, you're obligated to live.”
-Pearl Tull
“Everything,' his father said, 'comes down to time in the end-to the passing of time, to changing. Ever thought of that? Anything that makes you happy or sad, isn't it all based on minutes going by? Isn't sadness wishing time back again? Even big things-even mourning a death: aren't you really just wishing to have the time back when that person was alive? Or photos--ever notice old photographs? How wistful they make you feel? ... Isn't it just that time for once is stopped that makes you wistful? If only you could turn it back again, you think. If only you could change this or that, undo what you have done, if only you could roll the minutes the other way, for once.”
-Beck Tull
“You think we're a family,' Cody said, turning back. 'You think we're some jolly, situation-comedy family when we're in particles, torn apart, torn all over the place, and our mother was a witch.”
-Cody Tull
"...all she remembered was equally pleasant. She remembered the feel of wind on summer nights - how it billows through the house and wafts the curtains and smells of tar and roses. How a sleeping baby weighs so heavily on your shoulder, like ripe fruit. What privacy it is to walk in the rain beneath the drip and crackle of your own umbrella."
“It was funny, in her old age, to look back and see for how short a period her nest had NOT been empty. Relatively speaking, it was nothing - empty far longer than full. so much of herself had been invested in those children; who could believe how briefly they'd been with her.”
"...she said to Ezra, and she took the bowl of peas and brought it down on his head. It didn’t break, but peas flew everywhere. Ezra cowered, shielding his head with his arms. “Parasites,” she told them. “I wish you’d all die, and let me go free. I wish I’d find you dead in your beds."
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