By Maggie Swofford, Marketing & Editorial Assistant
“What’s your home like, Marguerite?” asked William.
“I can’t describe it exactly,” said Marguerite. “But when I am living in a particular sort of way I say to myself that now I am in my own country. It is when I am living very simply, and rather hardly, and the light is clear and the wind cold and there aren’t any lies or subterfuges. When I am there I have a feeling that a door opens out of it into yet another country where my soul has always lived, and that one day I shall find out how to unlock the door.”
—Elizabeth Goudge, Green Dolphin Street
-A house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
-The place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.
-Any place of residence or refuge: a heavenly home.
-A person’s native place or own country.
(Definition from dictionary.com)
As I perused Elizabeth Goudge’s beloved novel Green Dolphin Street, I unexpectedly stumbled across the above quote from William and Marguerite. Goudge, in her ever-illuminating, imaginative, and beautifully delicate writing, seemed to reach out and touch me somewhere sensitive in my heart in this short but penetrating conversation. As Marguerite explains to William what home is to her, the definition of that word dances around the boundary of fluidity and precision. In varying ways throughout Green Dolphin Street, Goudge explores the notion of home and what it means to the main characters Marguerite, Marianne, and William.
As the novel unfolds, the readers see how Marianne deeply connects with her childhood home, yet she also longs for adventure and a new home in New Zealand. William, on the other hand, finds his home in his relationships with Marguerite and Marianne, as well as their parents, because of his crumbling family life. But when it comes to Marguerite, a whole new idea of home is formed. She loves her family and William, of course, but she is often described as being off in the world of her own mind and heart. Because of her whimsical and spiritual personality, Marguerite is drawn to a home that offers a kind of solitude and peace that the others’ don’t. Marguerite’s unique impression of home is what I would like to delve into in more detail.
Marguerite starts off by describing her home as a way of living that takes her to her own “country.” Through her efforts to live “simply” and “hardly,” she is taken to a place in her heart and mind where she feels the most comforted. There are no “lies or subterfuges,” the light is crisp, and the air chilled. Marguerite’s description of home transports my mind to wintertime. Whenever I walk outside after a snowstorm, often the sky is bright blue with not a cloud to be found and the air as icy and rigid as a brick wall. When the piercing, freezing air makes contact with my warm throat, I often sputter and cough. Despite the harshness of that environment, the wintertime usually leaves me feeling curiously refreshed and invigorated; the cold sharpens my mind to a new state of awareness and clarity, and my body seems to relax in a comforting way, compacting together to warm me. In the freezing, unabashed winter, it seems that nothing can hide itself; everything is out in the open. This state of candidness offers a kind of warmth of righteousness and new beginnings.
In the same way as I feel in wintertime, the cold wind and simple state of life convey a truth of complete sincerity and love to Marguerite. Those uplifting, constant sensations are where she finds her home. Unlike William and Marianne, who find their homes in specific environments and people, Marguerite has a sense for the eternal, what lasts beyond the physical world. When she says, “One day I shall find out how to unlock the door,” it makes me think of eternal life in heaven where the Lord will immerse us in his perfect, holy, and joyful transparency and love. Heaven is our true home.
As tempting as it can be to rely on people or places to provide these comforting feelings of acceptance and love, we must seek to rely solely on God. While worldly love is a beautiful and God-given gift, only he can truly fill those gaps in our hearts and souls in this fallen world. We rest in the faith that one day our home will no longer be comprised of this broken physical world but will reverberate eternally with the enduring, unconditional love of our Savior in his kingdom.
About Green Dolphin Street:
When Marianne LePatourel meets William Ozanne in the 1830s on an island in the English Channel, she sets her heart on him. However, her sister Marguerite falls in love with him too. And so begins this sweeping novel that takes the characters on dramatic adventures from childhood through old age, on land and at sea, and from the Channel Islands to China to the New Zealand frontier.
When William’s naval career is cut short, he settles in New Zealand and writes to Mr. Le Patourel to ask for Marguerite’s hand in marriage – but in his nervousness he pens the wrong name in his letter. It is Marianne who arrives aboard the ship The Green Dolphin, and William’s gallant decision not to reveal his mistake sets in motion a marriage that is difficult, but teaches them both that steadfast love which is chosen is stronger than the passion of love at first sight.
For more information about this entrancing and beautifully-written novel, check out this video, this post in honor of Elizabeth Goudge’s birthday, this interview with the cover designer, and our website.