The concept of ‘home’ is such an important one to so many people, and features in many stories, but it’s rarely analysed. When you think of home, do you visualise a place or individuals, or both? When Dorothy wanted to go home, was she thinking of Kansas or Aunty Em? Given that all the people she loved were with her in Oz – albeit in a different form – perhaps she was focusing on the place. On the other hand, Odysseus’ struggle to get back from the Trojan War was strongly focused around returning to his wife Penelope.
As an army brat, ‘home’ was always wherever my parents were living at the time and geography had to be largely irrelevant. As an adult (I won’t say grown-up because that hasn’t happened yet, and I hope never will), ‘home’ became the flat I bought and made my own little nest of tranquillity. People were still important, of course, but it became anchored in a physical location.
Apollonius’ Argonautica explores the Greek ideas of home in some depth. Its message is, in essence, that you are home when you are in a place that recognises you. That moves the power of deciding what is home away from the individual and to the ‘home’ itself – if the place or people don’t recognise you, you aren’t home.
As a storyteller, that’s a fantastic concept. Displacement is such a standard story element, but so often it involves the protagonist searching for his home and successfully finding it. Approaching it from the other side – where either recognition is not returned, or the story is told from the perspective of ‘home’ waiting for someone to recognise – is a nice twist.
It has been done before, of course. That is essentially what exile is – home ceasing to recognise the protagonist – but I think there’s an angle that can be played with a bit more here. What is ‘home’s opinion in the story? If a person can recognise a place and call it home, can the place recognise the person?
I talk to my flat. I say hello and goodbye to it every day. Maybe that’s just because I’m weird. (And I am weird). But I’d like to think that, inanimate object though it may be, it knows me.