Study Guide

The House of Dies Drear Religion

By Virginia Hamilton


He recalled the day was Sunday and jumped up to get dressed. (9.5)

Thomas is really excited about going to church. It's one of his favorite things to do, even though he sometimes falls asleep during the sermons.

"I can yield to its separateness when I realize that without it segregated there would be no story of the Underground Railroad. There could be no sure refuge for the exhausted, runaway slave." (10.3).

During times of slavery, black churches were completely separate from white churches. This gave black people freedom to organize and to hide running slaves. Ohio, where the story is set, has a rich history of African-American churches. It's in Mr. Small's nature to want to preserve the tradition.

"That's the past, Papa," Thomas had told him. "That's no reason for the way it is now." (10.4)

We see in other moments that Thomas is really upset by segregated churches. He thinks that people of all colors should pray together in the same church. What do you think? Why?

Mama is sure to come every Sunday, Thomas thought. She will say Preacher has a voice good enough speak with the Lord. (10. 70)

Thomas is really impressed with the beauty of the preacher's voice. He knows his mother well enough to know that she is too. This is probably part of why she starts to really like the town.

Mac Darrow played the piano beautifully. Thomas recognized the hymn at once and smiled. (10.64)

Thomas sees that Mac is part of the church and that he approaches his music much the way Thomas approaches his carving. We think Thomas is beginning to see the other boy as a potential friend.

"This isn't no Baptist place! Carrying on in the aisle, Darrow said. We're Methodists here!" (10.94)

"I said sit down. Mr. Pluto wants to kneel, let him kneel! The minister said. (10.95)

Baptist and Methodist are both denominations of Christianity. Darrow says that Methodists don't kneel in the aisles while Baptists do. He seems to look down on the Baptists that do so. According to the preacher, such points aren't important. What do you think?

Nobody will come home with us. No one will laugh and talk with Papa. I won't have anyone to show my carvings to. (10.101)

Thomas wants everything to happen right at once. When the church people prove slow to embrace the new family, Thomas temporarily loses his hope. This shows how important his relationship with his church is to him.

"But let's get back to the Sunday-moaning church folks who never once cared whether my father lived or died. […] They're the reason they left town." (15.18)

Mayhew clearly doesn't trust the people in the church. Do you think there's a chance for them to mend relations? Do you think Mayhew wants to? Is Mayhew religious? On what do you base your answer?