The House of Dies Drear
by Virginia Hamilton
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Doors are a fun and easy symbol to work with. Doors usually signal discovery, and they can mean either coming or going. In The House of Dies Drear doors symbolize arrival, newness, opening.
Think of the first door we encounter in the story, the front door of the house of Dies Drear. Thomas discovers that by pushing a wooden "button" (3.102) in the door this happens:
The front steps were poised about a foot off the ground and wide to the left of their proper place. Where the steps should have been was a black and jagged hole about three feet around. (3.110).
Thomas has discovered a secret passage that leads under the house. In Dies Drear's time, when a person running from slavery came to the house in the night, the button need only be pushed and they could quickly enter. Since there are doors that connect the house with its underbelly, the slaves could get in and out of the house more safely that way. For Thomas, this door is also a doorway to the past, a chance for him to learn more about abolitionists and the slaves they attempted to help.
Are there other doors in the story? What do these different doors mean? How are they similar or different to the front door? What did we leave out in our brief analysis of the front door?