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By Fraser, H M

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In his autobiography, The Big Sea, Hughes repeats no fewer than three times how much he regrets ever having placed his full faith in books, beginning with those he read as a child. Upon entering the second grade, he remembers how he “began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world of books…where almost always the mortgage got paid off, the good knights won, and the Alger boy triumphed” (16). H. PHILLIPS family’s mortgage “never got paid off” (16). Elsewhere, Hughes draws a similar conclusion that “lyricism” belongs to “another world” of “ivory towers”; it does not belong to him—“poor,” “colored,” and “stuck in the mud from the beginning” (“My Adventures” 269).

From another angle, the child, from the sheer weight of the expectations heaped upon her, has actually an immense power. The slightest move from her to one side or the other of the line of her conventional demarcation and all order, all propriety, threatens to collapse. Maisie, like Marie, becomes an “extraordinary ‘ironic center’” for James. From the original premise of the child divided and the parents remarried, James imagines her as the center and source for dramatic complications (Preface 29).

The Greek roots algos, signifying suffering or pain, and nostos, signifying a homecoming, illuminate nostalgia’s medical intent to encapsulate both the disease and its cure. The treatment for home sickness was a return home or to allot more time spent at home between deployments. There are a number of important differences between this largely eighteenth-century view of nostalgia and the concept’s more modern permutations. What was originally conceived as an illness of soldiers, exiles, and slaves has, according to Svetlana Boym expanded into an “incurable modern condition” (xiv).

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