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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
At every juncture in Homecoming, money motivates characters and sets the plot into motion. Momma abandons the children because she can no longer find the money to provide for them. Dicey watches fearfully as their money dwindles and surges with elation and relief when they manage to earn money. Dicey receives money from Momma's car and begins saving in Bridgeport, providing her with a sense of protection and efficacy. She again anxiously watches the money dwindle on the trip to Crisfield, and in Crisfield, Gram explains her own fear that she does not have enough money to support the children. In every case, money is an index for how much power and control over events a character holds: less money leads to increased anxiety, dwindling hope for the future, and constricted options. However, while the children traveling with the circus, Dicey, taking a lesson from the way in which they were unexpectedly and fortuitously saved from grave danger by Will and Claire, learns to let go of her worry over money and trust that, by working hard and maintaining her integrity, she will always be able to provide for herself.
Three characters commit thefts in the space of Homecoming. First, Edie, goaded by Louis, steals money from her father. Next, Sammy steals food and money from park patrons, and then James steals money from Stewart. Each theft has a specific context which gives it a specific character—Edie steals from her father money he might well have spent on her anyway, Sammy steals from a stranger who likely will suffer no great loss from the theft of food and twenty dollars, and James steals twenty dollars from a friend and benefactor, who also will not likely suffer greatly from the loss. Dicey senses that theft, while it benefits them in the short run, will invite trouble in the long run, in the form of attention from and pursuit by the police. Stewart elaborates on her reasons, arguing that the long-term detriment is loss of self- respect. As desperate as the Tillermans are for resources, they gain great personal strength from providing for themselves using honest means. Just as importantly, their honesty allows them to travel with less fear, and gives them a greater likelihood of befriending the people who cross their paths, who also often happen to offer them crucial help. Their honesty, while not so quantifiable as money, acts as a resource that helps them complete their journey safely.
Fighting lurks in the space before the start of the narrative, on the periphery of the narrative, and within the narrative itself. First, Sammy and Dicey have learned to fight skillfully in defense of their family and their sense of pride. Fighting allowed the two children to fend off the threats and taunts of the outside world. Sammy's fighting continues in Bridgeport—though we never see him engaged in a fight, he brings the scratches and scrapes from them home. Sammy's fighting, presumably still going on as an attempt to defend his family and his sense of pride, threatens to undo Eunice's offer to adopt the four children and allow them to remain together. While Sammy's fighting poses an immediate threat to the children's togetherness, it ultimately furthers their ability to stay together, as Eunice's reaction to it makes it patently obvious to Dicey that the children do not belong with the fussy, prissy woman. Finally, Gram and Dicey fight over Sammy's punishment for disobeying Dicey. This fight, again, precipitates an immediate threat to the family's integrity. During the fight, Gram makes it clear that she wants the children to leave. At the same time, the fight gives rise to the late-night conversation in the kitchen between Gram and Dicey, in which Gram tells Dicey of her past and constitutes the most crucial turning point in the relationship between the children and their grandmother. Fights, in a narrative about four children's desperate fight for survival, serve indirectly as means of expressing oneself and communicating.
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