General Question

marauder76's avatar

Need help understanding the saying: "You can't go home again."?

Asked by marauder76 (390points) May 14th, 2010

“You can’t go home again.” It’s the title of a Thomas Wolfe novel, but it’s a theme that pops up numerous in various works of art.

What do you think it means? And can you think of a work of art (novel, film, song, play, etc.) where this theme is explored or exemplified?

Thank you.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

20 Answers

cfrydj's avatar

In my understanding, it means that after the experiences you’ve been through, nothing will ever be the same as it used to be. So the “home” that you remember doesn’t really exist anymore, because the “you” from the days that you remember doesn’t exist anymore.

I could be completely wrong, though.

dpworkin's avatar

It’s not possible to put your feet in the same river twice. That’s once way of thinking about it.

Primobabe's avatar

People and places are constantly changing; nothing stays the same. Nostalgia makes us yearn for places—whether tangible or metaphysical—from our past. But, those places no longer exist, at least not in the sense that we’d hope to find them.

At the end of Thomas Wolfe’s novel, the protagonist, George Webber, realizes, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood,...back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame…back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

deni's avatar

what @cfrydj and @dpworkin said. things are always changing. anything that you once experienced will never be experienced the same again. none of the factors will ever all be the same at once again.

krose1223's avatar

Never read the book but it is something I am experiencing right now.

I have visited my two home states in the past couple of months and spent lots of time with friends and family but it just isn’t the same. I am married now and have a son and it just feels so different. The things I used to find comfort in aren’t comforting anymore, the house I lived in throughout high school doesn’t have that warm feeling it used to. Home is where I live with my husband and son. Before it used to be really hard to say good bye to my sisters, but now that I have started my own family it just feels a little bit easier. My priorities have changed and my world no longer revolves around the same things. I am a big girl now, and coming back to the town I graduated high school just isn’t the same. I have a lot of good memories but that’s all this town is now. I am in my hometown right now it’s not home… Home is where you make it. hehe I could ramble on and on and on because this is something I have been talking about a lot lately…

marinelife's avatar

If you go back to a place you remember, it will have changed. The people, the place itself, your relationships, you. You will not be the same person who once left that place.

Kayak8's avatar

There is a song called Spoon River that kind of sums it up:

Once having left you can never return
There’s no going back, there is only the yearn
It haunts me, it hunts me wherever I roam
Spoon River, Spoon River is calling me home.

For the river is time and it flows toward the sea
And in leaving its banks you are free, you are free
But you’re haunted, you’re hunted wherever you roam
Spoon River, Spoon River is calling you home

Jeruba's avatar

Especially well said, @Primobabe.

evandad's avatar

.Visit the town you grew up in and you’ll see exactly what it means.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

On the other hand (there’s almost always an other hand, you know), you should keep in mind what Robert Frost said about home:

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

The Death of the Hired Man

YARNLADY's avatar

When you return to where you have been, it is not the same as you remembered it. One example I remember reading about – “The rooms are much smaller than I remember.” a character remarking on his childhood home.

This excerpt from the wikipedia article: “In the X-Men: The Animated Series episode “Days of Future Past – Part 1”, Rogue and Gambit give a copy of the novel to Beast while visiting him in jail. Beast recalls Thomas Wolfe and fondly describes the book as an old favorite. Gambit remarks that Beast is easy to shop for, saying “just buy the books that have the most dust on them.” The episode explores similar themes on the passing of time as dealt with in the novel.”

CMaz's avatar

The past is gone.

perspicacious's avatar

There are many books and movies (especially Lifetime movie) where the storyline is one going back to their hometown and hating it. Sometimes though, they end up staying, but that’s usually because of the resurfacing of a long lost love.

Buttonstc's avatar

Or to put it most succinctly:

The only constant is change.

Sunsetseast's avatar

I’m surprised no one has mentioned this yet, but there’s a great scene in the film “garden state” about this topic. Check out the swimming pool scene/ convo between Zach braffs and Natalie portmans characters. (about midway thru, maybe closer to beginning)

anartist's avatar

I have tried.
I actually have driven past many of my childhood homes, looking at them with some longing, some tristesse. Even thought of knocking on the door and introducing myself, but I really don’t want to see someone else’s life in there. I’d rather stay outside and remember the life I knew there and maybe take a picture.

jeanmay's avatar

One example that springs to mind is Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Throughout the novel, Scarlett’s childhood home, “Tara” remains a nostalgic symbol of an old way of thinking and an old way of life. At the end of the novel, in the ultimate moment of personal crisis, she finds comfort in the image of her old home:

“She felt vaguely comforted, strengthened by the picture, and some of her hurt and frantic regret was pushed from the top of her mind.”

There is a sense of doubt mingled with comfort, a knowledge that returning to Tara does not mean she can return to “the old days”:

“She had gone back to Tara once in fear and defeat and she had emerged from its sheltering walls strong and armed for victory. What she had done once, somehow – please God, she could do again! How, she did not know.”

Perhaps she can find a place there “to lick her wounds, a haven in which to plan her campaign.” But ultimately Tara, the land, and all it represents are gone. Her image of it is the source of her solace, not the reality.

LostInParadise's avatar

The one thing that I would add to what has been said is that not only does a person change, but the places where you have been have changed. The chances are that the people that you knew have moved from the neighborhood where you grew up, and even if they are still there they have gotten older. There is a good chance that stores and other landmarks that you recall have been replaced or altered.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Not only can’t you go home again, but in Holden, Massachusetts you’d better not try.

Growing up in Holden, we lived on a dead-end street in a residential neighborhood, and most of our neighbors were pretty ‘set’—there wasn’t a lot of homeownership turnover. So when we moved out of there to Paxton, the neighboring town five miles away, my folks kept up their friendship with one family from the old neighbors with an annual exchange of Christmas cards.

Time passed. Thirty or more years. I grew up and had a family of my own.

One year while visiting my folks with my own family my wife and I left after a week or so, and the grandkids stayed with my folks for another week to visit. Dad decided to show my kids where their dad had grown up, so he took them to the old neighborhood, thinking they’d visit their old friends, too. (By this time it had been quite a few years since they had actually been in each other’s presence—the way casual friendships lapse.)

The old neighbors weren’t at home, so Dad just cruised slowly down the street and parked in front of the old home. To hear him tell it later, he spent a few minutes there, no more, and no one got out of the car. Since it still is a dead-end road, he backed his car into his old driveway to turn around, and then left, to return to Paxton.

When he got there, the Paxton police arrived within a half-hour to talk to him. Apparently someone in the old neighborhood had taken down the car’s tag number, phoned the Holden police about “suspicious activity”. They had run the tags and called the Paxton police to ask them to assist in their “investigation”.

Of course, it all cleared up in a two-minute explanation, but still…

Don’t try to go back to Holden if you know what’s good for you.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther