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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Going Home Again

  • Author(s): Riggs, William
  • et al.

In Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel You Can’t Go Home Again, the main character, George Webber, writes a novel that depicts his hometown in an unflattering light, leading to death threats and exclusion of the author from his home community. More than simply a case of vigilante exclusion, Webber’s severed connection with his hometown is part of his exploration of a changing America, about the relationship between city and country and the tensions that surround a rapidly urbanizing country. This nostalgic disconnect has entered our lexicon to refer to the line between those who have moved to the “sophisticated” metropolis from the rural backwater (or perhaps now the bucolic suburb or exurb), and for whom a return, as Susan Matt has suggested, might constitute a failure.

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