Study Guide

The House of Dies Drear Appearances

By Virginia Hamilton


When Thomas Small moves into what may or may not be a haunted house, nothing is as it appears. Behind the walls and under the floors are secret passages, and all the people in the neighborhood seem to wear masks and disguises. It's really hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and even the living from the dead. The characters learn that you have to look beyond appearances to get to know people. They also learn that disguises can be quite useful from time to time, like when running from slavery, or even when trying to walk in someone else's shoes.

Questions About Appearances

  1. How does Thomas see the house when he first arrives? Does his vision change throughout the story? If so, what are some of the changes? If not, why not?
  2. What is Thomas's impression of Mr. Pluto before he hears his story? What makes him begin to see Mr. Pluto differently?
  3. Why does Mayhew dress up like his father?
  4. How does the scene where the Smalls, the Skinners, and Pesty scare the Darrows relate to the theme of appearances?
  5. What are some of the things in the story that aren't as they appear?

Chew on This

The emphasis on disguise in the story argues that we have to look beneath appearances and first impressions to find out who people really are.