For the 2016-2017 NEHS Scholarship Competition
based on Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
In many works of literature, past events can affect, positively and/or negatively, the present actions, attitudes, or values of characters. Discuss how one or more characters from Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant must contend with aspects of the past. Show how the character's/characters' relationship to the past contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.
The role of food is important in many novels; in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, food becomes a motif, allowing readers to see how the Tull family members interact with each other. Examine who cooks, who eats, who is "nourished," and in what ways. Do each character's feelings about food affect them individually or collectively? How does this focus on food enhance the full novel?
Pearl's descent into blindness is not just a physical decline for her. Examine how lack of vision and/or emotional blindness help or hurt her and others in the Tull family. Determine if the ability to "see" or not "to see" determines one's perceptions and one’s "truth" as well as the novel's "truth."
John Updike has observed in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant "the family, that institution meant to shelter our frailty, in fact serves as a theatre for intimate cruelties." Defend or refute this insight.
Craft a personal thesis appropriate for this novel and write an essay responding to that self-designed idea. The prompt must be of sufficient significance to generate quality writing that presents important analysis, one that engages the reader in reflecting on the serious topics springing from Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.