“I don’t remember my parents at all,” she told him. “My father was born on the island and was sent to England to school. He met my mother there and brought her back to Barbados with him. They had only three years together. They were both drowned on a pleasure trip to Antigua, and Grandfather and I were left alone.”
“Were there no women to care for you?”
“Oh, slaves of course. I had a black nursemaid. But I never needed anyone but Grandfather. He was –” There were no words to explain Grandfather. (2.20-22)
As she explains here, Kit lived with her grandfather as a child. She was raised by him and her black nursemaid. What does it mean that there are “no words to explain Grandfather”? How is Grandfather “home” for Kit?
She relaxed slightly at the first glimpse of her uncle’s house. At least it looked solid and respectable, compared to the cabins they had passed. Two and a half stories it stood, gracefully proportioned, with leaded glass windows and clapboards weathered to a silvery gray. (3.5)
Though the home of Aunt Rachel and Uncle William is plain, it is also sturdy and respectable. How is the house a reflection of the family?
“You mean that, just on an impulse, you left your rightful home and sailed halfway across the world?”
“No, it was not an impulse exactly. You see, I really had no home to leave.” (3.65-66)
We learn that Kit lost her home in Barbados. Because her grandfather was in debt, she was forced to sell his land. Homeless, she is driven to Connecticut to the Wood family.
“Be quiet, girl! It is time you understood one thing at the start. This will be your home, since you have no other, but you will fit yourself to our ways and do no more to interrupt the work of the household or to turn the heads of my daughter with your vanity.” (4.49)
Uncle Matthew, a stern Puritan, has a fit when he finds his daughters and wife playing dress up in Kit’s fancy aristocratic dresses. Through this culture clash, we learn that, if Kit is to call New England her home, she will have to conform to the values of the Puritan Wood family.
As they came out from the shelter of the trees and the Great Meadows stretched before them, Kit caught her breath. She had not expected anything like this. From that first moment, in a way she could never explain, the Meadows claimed her and made her their own. As far as she could see they stretched on either side, a great level sea of green, broken here and there by a solitary graceful elm. Was it the fields of sugar cane they brought to mind, or the endless reach of the ocean to meet the sky? Or was it simply the sense of freedom and space and light that spoke to her of home? (8.7)
The Meadows remind Kit of her home back in Barbados. The place will become a home, of sorts, for Kit. The Meadows are a place for quietness, but also of friendship. Who does Kit meet in the Meadows?
If only I could be here alone, without Judith or anyone, she thought with longing. Someday I am going to come back to this place, when there is time just to stand still and look at it. How often she would come back she had no way of foreseeing, nor could she know that never, in the months to come, would the Meadows break the promise they held for her at this moment, a promise of peace and quietness and of comfort for a troubled heart. (8.8)
While the Meadows are an isolated place where almost no one lives, Kit finds comfort in the solitude. We learn through the narrator’s foreshadowing that the Meadows will always offer Kit refuge. How do the Meadows become important to Kit?
This is the way I used to feel in Barbados, Kit thought with surprise. Light as air somehow. Here I’ve been working like a slave, much harder than I’ve ever worked in the onion fields, but I feel as though nothing mattered except just to be alive right at this moment.
“The river is so blue today,” she said sleepily. “It could almost be the water in Carlisle Bay.”
“Homesick?” asked Nat casually, his eyes on the blue strip of water.
“Not here,” she answered. “Not when I’m in the meadow, or with Hannah.” (12.26-29)
Kit has been working hard with Nat on Hannah’s roof, yet she feels very much at home and at peace with the world. What is it about the Meadows – and Hannah – that creates this feeling for her? What does Nat have to do with Kit’s feelings about home?
Also, what do you make of Kit’s comparison of herself to a slave? As a child that grew up in a slave-owning family, how has she been able to change her thinking since leaving Barbados?
“A man is loyal to the place he loves” (12.50).
What does Nat mean by this comment he makes to Kit? To whom in the novel does this statement apply? Why does it apply?
How peaceful it is, thought Kit, lazily stretching her toes nearer to the blaze. Why is it that even the fire in Hannah’s hearth seems to have a special glow? Like the sunshine on the day that I sat on the new thatch with Nat. If only, right now, on that bench across the hearth—But what ridiculous daydream was this? Kit shook herself upright. (16.78)
If Kit feels at home in Hannah’s tiny house, why does she call her thoughts a “ridiculous daydream”?
“’Tis true I did not welcome you into my house,” he said at last. “But this last week you have proved me wrong. You have not spared yourself, Katherine. Our own daughter couldn’t have done more.” (18.6)
During Mercy and Judith’s illness, Kit takes on the family chores. Kit’s hard work has allowed Uncle Matthew to accept her into the family and think of her as his own daughter.
One night she woke from a vivid dream. She and Nat had stood side by side at the bow of the Dolphin, watching that familiar curving prow carving gently through calm turquoise water. They came soundlessly into a palm-studded harbor, fragrant with the scent of blossoms, and happiness was like sunshine, wrapping her round and pouring into her heart till it overflowed.
Shoe woke in the freezing darkness. I want to go back, she admitted at last, weeping. I want to go home, where green things are growing, and I will never see snow again as long as I live! (20.60-61)
Kit dreams of returning to her home in Barbados on the <em>Dolphin</em> with Nat. How does she interpret the dream? What do you think her dream means?
If only I could go with Nat, she realized suddenly, it wouldn’t matter where we went, to Barbados or just up and down this river. The <em>Dolphin</em> would be home enough. (21.17)
Kit’s realizes that home is not where she is, but who she is with.
“There’ll be a house someday, in Saybrook, or here in Wethersfield if you like. I’ve thought of nothing else all winter. In November we’ll sail south to the Indies. In the summer –”
“In the summer Hannah and I will have a garden!” (21.42-43)
Kit is getting married and has a new family now, one that will include both the Woods and Hannah. Her home will be in many places, with many different people.