Second-year business accounting student Marc Lavigne won the a critical essay category on the concept of someone’s home.
Lavigne, 26, was urged to enter the contest by his Canadian literature professor, Catrina McBride. It was a push in the right direction that paid off, literally, with $150.
He was inspired by Alice Munro’s The View from Castle Rock and the short story inside that novel, titled Home. Lavigne, whose hometown is Vancouver, was able to relate to the content because he moved away from home at a young age.
Within the essay, he discussed themes of one’s sense of home and the path not taken. The concept of home is close to his heart.
“Home means to me where I’m most comfortable, surrounded by people I care about,” Lavigne said in an e-mail.
He plans to put his prize money towards visiting his nieces in British Columbia after his May graduation.
To Build a Home
By: Marc Lavigne
In the short story “Home” by Alice Munro, the depiction of what creates one’s home is considered when Alice travels back to the house she once grew up in. She discusses the physical changes the house has undergone since the passing of her mother, the feelings she has towards her childhood home, and the life she may have lived had she stayed. These points illustrate Alice’s views on what she considers a home, and where that may be.
Alice leaves home at a young age to pursue an education and life leads her across the country. She reflects on “[living] more than a thousand miles away and [going] for years without seeing this house. [She thinks] of it then as a place [she may] never see again and [she is] greatly moved by the memory of it” (Munro, 2006, p. 229). During this time, her mother passes away and her father remarries a woman named Irlma. The introduction to a new matriarch in the family further begins to disconnect Alice from her childhood home. She notices small differences, such as her father drinking in the house, and flashes back to when her mother is alive and, “there [is] never a bottle of liquor in this house, or even a bottle of beer or wine” (Munro, 2006, p. 228). The renovations to the old, dated farmhouse make it, “seem that this peculiar house – the kitchen part of it built in the eighteen-sixties – can be dissolved, in a way, and [is] lost, inside an ordinary comfortable house of the present time” (Munro, 2006, p. 230), and Alice cannot relate to it anymore. Throughout the story, Alice recalls many fond childhood memories, but is not one to look for memory triggers, such as the smell of a blanket, or an old photo album. This signals a change in the way she feels towards her childhood home, and the distance she has put between herself and it.
Wandering through a former school, home, or neighbourhood can create a very nostalgic feeling. Sarah Dobbins, a freelance writer for apartmenttherapy.com, says that “part of why it pains [her] to say goodbye [to her grandparent’s home], is the fact that [she] will no longer be able to visit [her] younger self. Every time [she comes] back [she] revisits the eight year-old [her], the thirteen year-old [her]. Forgotten memories resurface, and old smells and sights allow [her] brief glimpses of the world as [she] saw it as a child” (apartmenttherapy.com, 2012). Alice feels a similar sense of nostalgia towards her own childhood home. While wandering through the home, Alice’s father turns to her and says, “I know how you love this place” (Munro, 2006, p. 231), he says, “apologetically yet with satisfaction. [She does not] tell him that [she] is not sure now whether she [loves] any place, and that it seems to [her] it was [herself] that [she] loved here – some self that [she has] finished with, and none too soon” (Munro, 2006, p. 231). Alice loves the child she was in that home, the child and teenager who decides to leave, and to make a life for her-self outside of town. She begins to relate the word home to the life she creates for herself, wherever that happens to be, and sees how her father’s views are different. She states that, “he has lived here and nowhere else. He has not escaped things by such use” (Munro, 2006, p. 239), showing readers how differently Alice regards her hometown after being gone for so long, and how she views her own father and his sense of the word home. The word home contains more of a city aspect for Alice now, along with a place where she is able to write her novels. When her father asks Alice her opinion on the renovations, Alice, “[feels] obliged to hide from him the fact that the house does not mean as much to [her] as it once did, and that it really does not matter to [her] now how he changes it” (Munro, 2006, p. 231). She experiences disconnect towards her childhood home and this causes her to wonder what may have been had she stayed.
Throughout the story Alice often reflects on life at the farmhouse, and what the word home would mean to her if she had stayed. While her father is in hospital, Alice begins to perform some of the daily chores, and she experiences that, “time and place can close in on [her], it can so easily seem as if [she had] never got away, that she [had] stayed here [her] whole life. As if [her] life as an adult was some kind of dream that never took hold of [her]” (Munro, 2006, p. 248). When Bryher Scudamore, of Upper Norwood, West London, purchases her family home off her mother, she says that, “although I [did not] know it for so many years, I am rooted to this place like an old tree. And that is the way I like it” (dailymail.co.uk, 2011). Bryher is able to feel at home in her family house, and move on with her life in a productive andmeaningful fashion. In contract, the familiar tasks of being at home make Alice visualize and she, “[sees herself] as a middle-aged daughter who did her duty, [staying] at home, thinking that someday her chance would come, until she [wakes] up and [knows it would not]. Now she reads all night and [does not] answer her door, and comes out in a surly trance to spread hay for the sheep” (Munro, 2006, p. 248). Alice realizes that this life in the town she was raised in is not meant for her, and it was not in her early adult years either. Home means many different things to her and this particular home is not the home she is meant to stay in. She sees the changes in herself since she left so long ago, and when faced with a problem on the farm and her father’s health, she realizes that she now, “[does not] think about things like that. [She] did at one time, but not anymore. Now [she thinks] about [her] work, and about men” (Munro, 2006, p. 244). Alice ponders the life she could have had in that farmhouse, but it is ultimately the life she builds for herself that she considers her home.
The word home can convey a different message for many individuals. Alice Munro explores the term as she travels to her own childhood home and notices the physical changes that have happened to it, and how that makes her feel. She reflects on what life could have been like for her, had she stayed in that home, and ultimately realizes what she considers to be her home.