By Alyx Gragg

Students in ENG 442 are sharing their reading responses to the Major Nebraska Writers we have encountered this Fall. Alyx’s post was inspired by her reading of the Nebraska novelist Wright Morris

Barber Pole/Main Street in “Lone Tree,” page 97 in The Home Place

I chose to write my reading response of The Home Place by Wright Morris because it was quite literally written about my own home town. While the name of the town (as well as many other things) has changed, I do see and feel a lot of familiarity within the story. I think the theme of home shows throughout this story in a few different ways. The biggest one, I would say, is the use of photographs throughout the story. Most of these pictures are of Morris’s own home and land, but there are some of the parts of the town of “Lone Tree.” For example, page 97 is a photo of a street with trees and buildings lining it.

I know exactly where that picture was taken. That street looks a little different now. The buildings have been changed some, but it is still recognizable. Also, the landscape pictures are still very similar to what the town looks like today. These pictures honestly just resemble most of Nebraska in general. I think that is why this book is enjoyed by so many people, especially those that are not from Lone Tree or Central City. Readers are able to connect with these pictures because of the familiarity that comes from them.

The Home Place, University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, Lincoln, 1948

Another way in which the theme of home shows throughout this story is through the focus on family. Small towns tend to be very family oriented and Lone Tree/Central City is no different. Spud Muncy shows this place as his home, but not necessarily through the way it looks. His sense of being home came from the nostalgia of his childhood and the fact that his family was there. The entire story revolves around the family, much like my life in Central City. Small town Nebraska is all about family. That is why you often see many generations of families in the same town. These places might not have all the fancy stores or fun things to do or go, but they are full of family. And that is a lot more than some people get.

Maybe one of the biggest examples of the “home” theme in this story comes from Spud Muncy’s wife. When they are looking through uncle Ed’s home and deciding whether or not they are going to take it, she has a realization. She sees Ed’s life there. Every wall is full of memories and personality that belong to uncle Ed, not her. This realization shows the theme of home because as much as the Muncy family wants a new place away from the big city, she knows that this is not her or her family’s home. Ed’s life is intertwined with the house and she feels that it will never truly feel like home to her. And she is right. Home is a very personal thing. If it does not feel like home to you then it is not your home. If it does feel like home to you, then it is your home, no matter where or what it is.

I took this photographical style and put my own spin on it here:

Photo by Author

Leaves crunch under my feet as I trek down the hill back towards the river. The trees sway in the breeze all around me. A revving truck approaches in the distance. They are almost here. I sit on top of the old wooden picnic table and watch the entrance. A large white pick-up truck rolls in, horn honking, with heads and hands waving out of the windows. The truck comes to a stop and the guys all hop out, mischievous smiles plastered on all of their faces. We all grab out drinks and hike down to the overpass. We set up camp under the cement bridge and laugh, dance and fuck around for hours. Darkness sets in. It is time to go home, but I am not ready. 

Photo by author

I go for a walk around town, looking up at all of the old buildings as I pass. The dim streetlamps make the bricks glow a soft red-orange. These structures have been through and seen so much. I wonder what stories they would tell if they could. If only I could share in their memories of what has happened within them. All the happiness shared within their walls. All the sorrow that stained their floors. Unfortunately, I will never know. It is getting very late. Time to go home.

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