Study Guide

This Is Where I Leave You Setting

By Jonathan Tropper

Setting

The Foxman Home: Past, Present, and Future

This Is Where I Leave You centers on the Foxman family home, both literally and metaphorically. The family is confined to the home for seven whole days, forced to reckon with its father's death in the house he helped build. So it's not surprising that you can learn a lot about the Foxmans by looking at the way their home is described.

Past

The Foxman home was Mort's pride and joy. He had been an electrician before founding the Foxman sporting goods business, and working on the house connected him to his working-class roots.

Given this, it makes sense that Mort "was obsessive about maintaining the house" (5.2). Judd describes how his dad spent his time "fishing lines through the walls, splicing and rewiring, creating a dense maze of circuitry" (11.2).

There's just one problem: despite his extensive knowledge, the house's electricity still isn't exactly what you'd call up to code. Even to this day, it's unreliable, leaving his family a nice little reminder after his death—as they stand freezing in the shower.

The shoddy but heartfelt electricity provides a fitting metaphor for the way that Mort raised his children—in his desire to do things on his own, he didn't provide his children the emotional connections they needed to grow up. (Nice try, tho.)

Present

The house changes dramatically during and after Mort's death. Hillary was "consumed with Dad's slow death" and lets the house fall into a state of disrepair. Ironically, her distraction makes her forget to cancel the pool service, so the pool still "glistens with blue water" (5.2).

Again, it's easy to see how this image—of a pristine pool in the midst of an unkempt yard—is a fitting metaphor for how the Foxmans repress their grief. Everything looks great from a certain angle, but shift your gaze just a few feet and there be dragons. Or weeds. Or something.

Then, of course, there's the matter of the shiva, which further transforms the home from its original state. As Boner explains, all of the mirrors are covered so that the family can't focus on their physical appearance. Likewise, their living room is practically turned into a community center, with well-wishers coming in and out while the family sits in the low-set shiva chairs. If they weren't already forced to face Mort's death before, this ritualized setup makes it unavoidable.

Future

All of these factors come together to help the Foxmans reckon with Mort's death. They can't avoid their feelings (even if they'd like to) because their father's absence is around everywhere they look. The family has to learn to function without its dad and husband—and whether for better or worse, things are definitely going to change.

Maybe they can start by hiring an electrician.

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