Study Guide

Homecoming Fear

By Cynthia Voigt

Fear

They hadn't planned this properly. They hadn't planned it at all. Dicey couldn't see how they'd make it to Bridgeport, and a cold panic settled in her stomach. There was nothing for it though, was there? Just going ahead. People might give them food. She might be able to earn food or money, somehow. She couldn't think how they'd manage it. But they would have to manage it, somehow. Then she didn't think any more about it. She couldn't. (1.2.132)

This is where things first start to unravel. Dicey has made a decision to walk away from the car, but now she's regretting it a bit. She didn't really think this through—they have no food, no money, and no place to stay—and it's actually super scary. 

Dicey didn't see James fall, because when he lost his balance she had taken off down the beach. She didn't know what she would do when she got there, but she would be as close as possible in case there was something she could do. She climbed over the small boulders at the bottom of the pile before she looked for James. He had disappeared—except for one foot, which stuck up over a rock above her head.

Dicey found James cradled in among rocks. His eyes were closed. His face looked pale. "James?"

He didn't answer.

Was he dead? That couldn't happen, could it? And why not, considering the other things that had happened. (1.4.135-138)

Super panic time: Is James dead? Dicey knows that there's nothing they can do for him if he's hurt, since they don't have money for a doctor (and they can't explain what they're doing anyhow). She's afraid because they're not immune to misfortune. In fact, they're kind of magnets for it. 

Dicey had a sudden fear that she had forgotten where they were going, so she recited Aunt Cilla's address to herself. Mrs. Cilla Logan, 1724 Ocean Drive, Bridgeport. She ought to make the others memorize it. She made a mental note to do that as they walked that day. (1.7.4)

Um, yeah, that would be bad. In this is also a small worry: What if the kids get separated somehow? What will they do? If they can at least all know where they're going, Dicey can be a little less afraid.

"Don't leave the house empty," Cousin Eunice said. "There must be someone home, at all times. Thieves come, even in broad daylight these days."

"All right," Dicey said.

"It's not as if I have anything valuable," Cousin Eunice said. "But they steal anything. And murder—and other things—I don't know—the world has gone crazy. I'll have a key made for you, just one. Until then, don't leave the house unlocked." (1.10.39-41)

Dicey and her siblings have been living in frightening circumstance for weeks, but they aren't panicking. And here's Cousin Eunice, afraid to leave her doors unlocked. Seriously?

Then Dicey saw that the last afternoon bus heading south to Cambridge left Wilmington at two thirty. The only bus after that didn't leave until nine at night.

Nine. By nine, Cousin Eunice would have been home for almost three hours. By nine, she could call Father Joseph. By nine, they might be able to trace the Tillermans, and maybe find them, and stop them. She didn't know Dicey had money, did she? She might think the Tillermans were walking. But Dicey couldn't count on that. She couldn't count on anything. (2.1.92-93)

Fear of being caught leads Dicey to make a rash decision that leaves the kids on the wrong side of the Chesapeake Bay. Fear stinks.

"You worried?"

He shook his head. "I'm not scared of sailing."

"I never said you were," Dicey answered. "You're not scared of anything, are you?"

Sammy looked at her then, his eyes questioning. "I had a dream that you were all on a bus and the door closed and I couldn't get on. I ran and ran after it, but it kept getting away." (2.3.7-10)

What is Sammy most afraid of? Being left behind yet again. Poor guy.

Mr. Rudyard had the dog in the front seat with him. He climbed down and pulled on a long rope to get the dog to follow him. The Tillermans crowded together. The dog snarled at them.

"There's a bag in the cab," Mr. Rudyard said to Dicey. "The missus said I had to feed you something." He walked off, down to the far end of the field.

"What's he going to do?" Maybeth whispered.

"I dunno," Dicey said. Fear climbed up from her stomach to her throat. A sour, metallic taste was in her saliva and she swallowed it down. She made herself climb up and get the paper bag from the seat of the cab. Mr. Rudyard had left the keys in the ignition.

Mr. Rudyard tied the dog to a tree, using the end of the long rope. (2.5.69-73)

This is probably the scariest part of the whole book. What is Mr. Rudyard going to do? What does he want with the kids? Dicey realizes what a frightening position they're in: Mr. Rudyard could kidnap them (or worse), and no one would ever even notice they were gone. 

What good did it do, worrying and making plans, and more plans, if the first plans failed. It was like money. If you had it, good. If you didn't, then you had to find a way to earn it. There was nothing to be gained by fretting over maybes.

Dicey took a deep breath, which tasted of dampened sunlight and moist earth. They were living with a circus for a day or so. For a day or so they were safe. Something would happen after, but that was after. You had to keep alert and watchful, she'd learned that. You had to be ready to run. But if you wasted every day worrying about the next… And you never knew what was coming, anyway. (2.6.208-109)

Fear doesn't really have a purpose, does it? Sure, the kids have been afraid, but it's been their quick-thinking, perseverance, and good luck that have kept them safe. Worrying hasn't added anything to that.

Dicey was frightened, with a fear that swelled up deep within her. This fear had two heads, and Dicey was caught between them: she was afraid to speak and lose what they had gained of a place for themselves in this house; she was afraid to keep silent and lose what she felt was right for Sammy, for her family. This was more difficult danger than any she had faced before. It wasn't the kind of danger you could run away from, or fight back at. Dicey wasn't even sure she wanted to fight. She just knew she had to stand by her brother and her family. (2.10.104)

Okay, we know we said the whole run in with Mr. Rudyard was the scariest part of the book, but this is pretty frightening, too. If Dicey sticks up for Sammy, she risks losing the one home they really want. We don't blame her for panicking a little before she decides what do to.

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