Study Guide

Homecoming Honeysuckle

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When Dicey and her siblings arrive at their grandmother's house, they see that it's not only run down and sad looking, but it's overgrown with honeysuckle vines:

The house was silent, vacant, neglected. Long weedy grass grew up, as high as the porch floor. Honeysuckle spread over the screens of the porch, and its long fingers reached for the trees in the yard. (2.7.118)

Even though Abigail won't let them stay, the Tillermans decide to start doing odd jobs around the house. First on the list? Tearing down that honeysuckle. Of course, this doesn't exactly go as planned:

Finally their grandmother spoke. "I like that honeysuckle." She looked at Dicey.

Dicey's heart sank.

"That honeysuckle's been there a long time. It's the kind of tenacious plant I have to respect," their grandmother said.

"Honeysuckle is parasitic," James announced. "It can be trained and kept back, but when allowed to proliferate without controls, it chokes out other growth. It's begun to climb over the small trees out front."

His grandmother studied him. (2.9.37-41)

This is a pretty interesting exchange. The honeysuckle is making the house look rundown and unlivable—and Abigail likes it that way. She wants to keep outside world away from her, including her grandkids. As long as that honeysuckle is there, her defenses are up, too, and no one is getting into her home or her heart. Good luck, world.

But James sort of pokes a whole in her entire argument. Sure, honeysuckle can be pretty and useful—if you can control it. Otherwise, it's a parasite that keeps all other good things from growing. As the Tillermans pull down the honeysuckle, they tear down their grandmother's defenses, too, making the house into a home and helping her realize that she really does love and care for these kids.

Take that, honeysuckle.

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