Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is filled with many complex characters that make up the Tull family. However, throughout the interconnected lives of siblings Ezra, Cody, and Jenny, the one key figure they lack is their father, Beck. In Anne Tyler novel, Beck’s characteristics ultimately lead to a disjointed family unit. The eldest son of the Tull family, Cody, is a character who is perhaps the most misunderstood out of everyone. Like Beck, he is never able to settle down in one area and is constantly moving around for his work.
The same way Beck had worked so hard to impress Pearl, Cody works so hard at his job to impress his father. His subconscious desire to please his father is seen when it is said, “His success had finally filled its purpose. Was this all he had been striving for—this one brief moment of respect flitting across his father’s face?” (291) Cody’s dedication to his job leads to his family’s inability to take up roots the same way Pearl’s family had been because of Beck. Cody’s disjointed family unit is also caused by his inability to connect with his child, a characteristic seen previously with Beck. While Beck’s poor job as a parent stems from his abandoning his family, Cody’s simply stems from the lack of having a father figure in his own life. The distant father-son relationship seen between Cody and Beck is paralleled with the distant relationship that Cody then has with his own son, Luke. Ultimately, the characteristics Cody inherits from Beck are what lead to the dysfunctional nature of the Tull family.
Aside from Cody, another character that inherits traits from Beck is Jenny. Like Beck, she is eager to make others happy. This is seen in her occupation as a pediatrician as well as in her constant need to lighten the atmosphere around her. Similarly, she is always molding herself to be the person she thinks others need. This is seen in the way she tries to be a sort of mother figure for Slevin as well as in the way she gets a divorce as soon as her husbands appear unhappy. These characteristics all stem from her father, Beck. His desire to please others is seen when he says, “There’s my downfall…I just can’t resist a person I make happy…moving on again when she got close to me and didn’t act so please any more” (300). Beck’s inability to ever settle down with a lifelong partner is seen again in his daughter Jenny, who marries three times. Because of Beck and Jenny’s constant need to make others happy, both are never able to find true happiness for themselves. The characteristics that Jenny inherits from Beck are what hinder her from settling down with her own family.
Like Cody and Jenny, Beck’s other child, Ezra, also inherits certain characteristics that lead to the disjointed nature of the Tull family. Throughout Ezra’s childhood, Beck always had good intentions that somehow failed to achieve the desired effect. This is seen in the surprise archery set he buys for his kids that results in an arrow piercing Pearl’s shoulder. While he had originally bought the archery set as a fun family activity, the accident it causes with Pearl is what ultimately leads to his decision to leave. The way Beck’s good intentions always turn out badly is seen again in Ezra’s determination in having a nice family dinner. No matter how hard he tries, each family dinner he sets up ends in a fight. This is seen when he says, “Please. For once, I want this family to finish a meal together. Why, every dinner we’ve ever had, something has gone wrong” (297). Yet each time Ezra tries to set up a family dinner, it ends up bringing out the worst in the Tull family. Similarly, Ezra also inherits Beck’s passiveness. The way Beck simply gives up and leaves the family rather than try and fix things with Pearl is seen again in the way Ezra simply lets his fiancée run off with his brother. The passiveness Ezra inherits from Beck is seen in the way he used to give up so easily when he played Monopoly with his brother.
Ultimately, his passiveness and determination to have a nice family memory lead only to more fighting within the Tull family. In Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, the most influential character may not have been Cody, Ezra, Jenny, or even Pearl, but rather Beck— a character who is almost never present, and yet at the same time so important to the plot of the story. Ultimately, it is Beck’s characteristics that lead to the disjointed unit that is the Tull family.
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