Study Guide

Samuel "Sammy" Tillerman in Homecoming

By Cynthia Voigt

Samuel "Sammy" Tillerman

At six-years-old, Sammy is the baby of the Tillerman family. And he sure acts like it sometimes. Of all the kids, Sammy is the one that gives Dicey the most trouble when they're starting out on their journey. He refuses to walk or share his food at times, and Dicey even threatens to leave him behind if he won't keep up with them. Harsh? Yup, but necessary, too.

Even though Sammy can be the hardest of her siblings to control, Dicey still has a soft spot for him. Dicey remembers that Sammy used to be a happy, joyful baby, but she understands that his personality has changed over the years. He gets picked on at school for having a "crazy" mother, and other kids tell him he'll wind up in a foster home because no one likes him. Experiences like that don't just roll off your back:

Dicey fell asleep before the fire that evening, thinking of Sammy and how he must have hated to go to school every morning and then come home, and if Momma was there she would talk to him—but less and less like a mother, and if she wasn't there he would wonder. That could change a person. (1.3.166)

Of all the kids, Sammy is the most effected by the loss of Momma, though he doesn't seem to care much for their father and even claims that he doesn't have a dad. Up until he realizes Momma is sick, Sammy refuses to believe that she won't come find him and take him back home. Even after Momma gets her grim diagnosis, he still believes that she'll get well enough to be their mom again:

"They don't think she's ever going to get well."

"Who don't think?" her grandmother asked.

"The doctors," Dicey said.

"They don't know," Sammy said. "She might. Isn't that right, Dicey?" (2.8.204-208)

Aw, poor kid. Despite the softness we see in him here, though, Sammy is also a bit of a fighter. He gets in physical fights with the boys at school and is rude to Cousin Eunice (which Dicey realizes is not helping their chances with her). He's also stubborn and impulsive at times and runs off without telling anyone where he's going, which creates a huge issue at Abigail's house.

In the end, Dicey has to stick up for Sammy. She understands why he is the way he is. And she doesn't blame him for being a fighter:

"He doesn't need to learn to give in and give up. That's what you mean, isn't it? The way Sammy is—he's not perfect, but he's all right. Stubbornness isn't bad."

"He fights," she said.

"So do I," Dicey answered. "And I'm glad he knows how to." (2.9.229-231)

She's happy that Sammy can hold his own in this world. Sure, he can be stubborn and disobedient, but he's also fiercely loving and loyal to his family. Dicey knows that he's going to need that determination to make it on his own. The kid's got spirit and, like Dicey, we think this is going to come in handy as he makes his way in the world.

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