The short story “Going Home” is written by Pete Hamill. It was
originally written for “The New York Post” in 1971.
The story starts with a group of friends are on a bus trip from New York
to Florida. On the bus, one of them starts talking to an old man called Vingo.
Vingo tells about how he is on his way home after sentencing three and a
half-year in jail. He does not know if his wife still wants him back or have
moved on. He explains that he wrote to his wife that if she still wanted him
back, she had to tie a yellow handkerchief around an oak tree. When the bus
reaches the tree, they see the oak tree covered in yellow handkerchiefs.
The story takes place during the late 60s or early 70s on a bus driving
from New York to Brunswick. I think this because there is no use of modern
technology during the entire story. For example, Vingo wrote letters to his
wife while he was in prison. The other hint regarding the time the story takes
place in is found when the group of friends discusses Vingo; “Perhaps he was a
sailor; maybe he had run away from his wife. He could be an old soldier going
home…”. Saying that he could be an old soldier going home gave me the idea
that the story takes place when the Vietnam War (1955-1975) was still going on.
I think that the environment establishes the mood of the story. This is
because the bus ride makes the overall mood of the story suspenseful.
Going Home” is written in a third person view. The narrator has a
limited knowledge and does not give out too much information. The narrator’s
voice is more of an observer, leaving it up to the readers to imagine how the
characters might be feeling.
The protagonist of the story is Vingo. He is described as an elder man
with a dusty face. He is dressed in a suit that did not fit him. His fingers
were stained with cigarettes. On the bus ride, he sits quietly and chews on his
lips. Later on in the story, he opens up to the girl telling her about his
situation. The development he goes through is that he becomes happy when he sees
the yellow handkerchiefs around the oak tree.
Other minor characters in the story are Vingo`s wife, the young girl,
and her friends. However, it is important to know that none of them has a
physical description. The young girl and her friends are happy and talkative,
while Vingo´s wife is kind and forgiving.
The conflict in this story is that Vingo does not know if his wife still
wants him. This is an internal struggle because
The climax of the story takes place when the bus finally reaches the oak
tree. When they reach the oak tree, all the passengers in the bus sit on the
window seats, to see if Vingo’s wife had tied a ribbon on the tree, indicating
that she wants him to go back home: “Vingo stopped looking, tightening his
face as if expecting another disappointment. Then it was ten miles, then five.
Vingo was trembling.”
I think that the theme of this story is forgiveness. Since Vingo is on
his way home from prison, indicates that he has done something wrong. He is
waiting to see if his wife is willing to have him back home and forgive him for
his actions. In the end of the story, Vingo´s wife forgave him and waited for
him with open arms. This is shown in the story when she decides to tie multiple
yellow handkerchiefs around the oak tree, instead of only one.
Another literary device in this
story is the contrasts. For example, the contrasts between Vingo and the group
of friends. While the group of friends are full of life, loud and talking
excitedly, Vingo sits in complete silence. Another contrast found in the story
is in the very beginning. Here, New York is described as “grey, cold
spring” while Florida is “golden beaches and blue sea”. I think this contrast is symbolic of Vingo’s
life in prison and his life back home. This can also be a subtle foreshadow
which indicates that the story has a happy ending because it goes from
“grey, cold spring” to “golden beaches and blue sea”.
I think this is a very touching and heartwarming story. Seeing how
Vingo´s wife not only forgave him but also waited for him with open arms makes
me think about how important it is to be able to forgive someone.