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Sense of Home in once More to the Lake and on Going Home

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In her essay “On Going Home,” Joan Didion describes a time when her two differnces of “home” collide, as she brings her husband to the place she grew up in. Didion describes that where she home is with her husband and daughter, it is just simply an image of the real version of her “home,” which is back with her family in Los Angeles. As she wanders around the home she once lived at in Sacramento, Didion is well aware that her husband has no understanding of certain representations that are significance in the house. This idea is shown when Didion herself says “We live in dusty houses filled with mementos quite without value to him”(1).

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Didion comments on how her husband in a way, is considered an outsider; just like someone she had just brought along for a ride he was not ready for. She also reveals that her brother has given her husband the name of “Joan’s husband” and not by his actual name. Didion carries on to explain that while in her childhood home, she pulls out a box filled with mementos that gave her the sense of nostalgia. She becomes overwhelmed with emotion as she looks through it, finding clothing, photographs, hand crafted tea cups with her grandmother’s initials, and many other things. When she visits her great-aunt’s house, reality hits her harder than she expected when she realizes that they have aged and do not even remember who she is. As she takes her trip back home, Didion makes it clear that no matter how far she goes, and no matter how much conflict and tension she experienced, home is where the heart is.

Continuing on the topic of home and having trouble living with a sense of it, while combined with nostalgia, E.B. White discusses these concepts in his essay “Once More to the Lake.” In ‘Once More to the Lake’, E.B. White discusses on how a father struggles to find himself, while living in the moment of nostalgia. The essay is about a little boy and his father. They go back to the lake where the father had spent his years as a kid.The father looks back at those years and tries to relive the moments through his son’s eyes. He knows he can not, and has difficulty dealing with the fact that he can’t go back in time.

The story mentions how the lake has changed since the father had seen it last. How the once gravel roads have been paved over, and the sail boats are now replaced with boat. The father also mentions how his son would wake up early in the morning, just like he would when he was younger. It seemed the little boy just took the trip for granted. He didn’t appear to be as appreciative as the father once was. The father brings up the idea of everything still being the same as it was years ago. Also on how certain things felt the same, like how the moss felt under his feet. He feels like the lake itself did not change, but everything around it did. This is when the idea of a ‘double personality’ comes into the picture.

The father can almost see himself as a child, doing the things he wished his son would do. When he was young he would get up especially early to fix his fishing pole and even help set the dinner table. Then he realizes that his son doesn’t do any of these things, making the father feel as if the trip just isn’t the same. As the story goes on, the father begins to point out the differences of his once peaceful escape. How when arriving was something to look forward to, seeing all of the other family’s greet you, the madness of the train station, and the smells of the wilderness. All of those things were gone, replaced by motor boats. “The only thing that was wrong now, really was the sound of the place, an unfamiliar nervous sound of the outboard motors”(69). As his son gets dressed and deals with the cold swimming trunks, White quickly feels the “cold” reality of death. This strongly takes White back to his role as an adult and father, and it focuses that White is now aware of death.

Both essays revolve around the idea of the sense of home changing and reliving moments of the past. In Didion’s essay, she writes on how she herself has trouble identifying the sense and feeling of home and belonging. She talks about how life with her husband and daughter, is very different from how life was when she lived in her family house. She also deals with her husband’s ideals and lifestyle, contrast from her family’s. E.B. White’s essay deals with living in the past and things changing. The father is reliving moments that have happened in the past with his own father, and now in the present with his own son. He soon identifies with his own father and soon realizes that these moments will not last forever.

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