Unlike the other novels we’ve read so far this semester, where the characters rely on their homelands and past lives as strength, Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home implies that the past can be self destructing. The novel tugs at the issues of racism more intensely then our previous readings, as he follows the life of a boy who falls deeply in love with a girl of a higher status. The two are constantly haunted by societal boundaries established before their birth. Their relationship is defined by these boundaries, and eventually falls apart because of it.
However, what I found most interested was the boy’s ability to feel at ease in places that had no familiarity to him. Wendt writes, “Why was it that he was always attracted to desolate places, he wondered…Perhaps it was because such places reflected the truth of the human heart.” Wendt makes the argument that the homeland is simply an illusion, and creates a false sense of who we are and what we stand for. The homeland is confining, and divides you from the people that you are meant to love the most. When it comes down to it, all human hearts look the same, and hold the same blankness as we are brought into the world. Perhaps the couple was driven to abort their baby not because they were afraid of the responsibility of a child, but they were afraid to bring a blank heart into a world that would never accept its mixed heritage.
The past corrupts the relationship on a concrete level as well, as the two struggle to gain their parents approval. However, it is not their lack of support that breaks their bond, but the girl’s inability to come to terms with the failure of her parent’s relationship. She is haunted by their marriage. Wendt writes, “‘You know why I brought you home tonight?’ He didn’t reply. ‘Because I wanted you to see what we can become’” (40). After the pregnancy, she sees herself going in the same direction as her parents. She cannot bear to live the same life that she grew up in. She leaves and tries to free herself of her homeland, however from the brief insight the reader does have access to, it is likely that she can never truly emerge from the prison of the past.
Wendt works to provide an answer to the p as the boy and his father talk about the life of the Grandfather. The father comes to terms with the cruel things the Grandfather does. Wendt writes, “We forget to easily what we are—most of all—the beauty we are capable of if we heal ourselves” (206…ish) It is when we depend only upon the beliefs of our homeland, and ignore the strength of our heart, that we let go of what is good for us.