Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Sailboat

When Dicey explores the barn in Gram's yard, she finds a sailboat that belonged to her uncle and promises it to herself as a prize if Gram lets them stay. The sailboat symbolizes Dicey's newfound thirst for and appreciation of impermanence and motion, which she discovered most explicitly during her trip across the Chesapeake Bay. Significantly, she takes the sailboat as a prize for finding a home, which is a symbol of permanence and stability. Thus, Dicey realizes that even within the space of a stable household, she is negotiating change. By naming the sailboat as her prize, she attempts to articulate her own duality: she longs both for a stable home and for the new adventure.


When the Tillermans arrive at Gram's, honeysuckle covers her dilapidated farmhouse. While Gram appreciates the tenacity of the plant, James points out that the plant is parasitic and destroys other vegetation. Indeed, the plant has grown into the very screens of the doors. The children, however, begin removing the heavy shroud of honeysuckle from the house, letting in light and working it out of the screens. The honeysuckle symbolizes the stubbornness and solitude in which Gram has cloaked herself for almost her entire life, and the children's attempt to remove it symbolizes their role in her life of catalyzing her own growth and relinquishment of the past.


The Tillermans sing throughout the entirety of Homecoming, and the songs come to symbolize their human connection. First of all, they sing to make themselves feel safe and to remember Momma. As the book progresses, they accept a song about remembrance and friendship from Stewart, one of their most thoughtful benefactors. At Eunice's, the children, as though deprived of sunlight and warmth, do not sing. But at Gram's, their singing not only holds them together, but draws Gram in to the circle they create. Through song, they remember the past and reach out to those around them.