meaning of "you can never go home again"?

I never really understood this quote. Does anyone have better insight?

I always took it to mean that things and you change, and that you can never recapture the feelings you had in the past. It will always seem different.

Either that, or your parents have moved without leaving a forwarding address.

Once you have grown up, and been out into the wide world, “home” will not be the same place it was when you left. So much so that it will no longer be “home” to you any more than any other place you live.

Incidentally, Look Homeward Angel was once the most popular gift for college freshmen.

And no, the preceding is not true at all.

“The stranger who comes home does not make himself at home but makes home itself strange.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Read the book.

Thomas Wolf - 1940

Spartydog, I support you totally in recommending the book. But I’m going to nitpick only about the copyright date which was 1929. (The author was dead before 1940.)

If you liked the book that much, you might want to visit Ashville, N.C. which is the real setting for the book. The house that served as the boarding house in Look Homeward Angel was his own mother’s boarding house. It still stands and is open to the public. There is a short walk to the place where the “stone carving” business was supposed to be. The boarding house is on the same street as the Radisson parking lot downtown.

Characters in the book were modelled after his own family and there are books available at the Thomas Wolfe Center behind the boarding house that compare the two. (Many other interesting things there too.)

The hook is coming again. Silenus answered the question well.

My humble apologies. Knowing the author I Googled his name and the bibliography. 1940 came up, which must have been the year for a particular publisher.

Just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet!

Nonetheless, it is a book that I read many years ago and consider one of the most important books I have ever read.

It means:

I’ve seen their ways
too often for my liking

I moved away from Ireland 8 years ago and can never “go back home” as it does not exist anymore as the Ireland that I left in 1997. This is what I understand by the phrase.

no really don’t.

As Edward Abbey wrote in A Fool’s Progress “Home is where, when you have to go there, you probably shouldn’t.”

I really understand this phrase! I returned recently to the “home” where I grew up. I hadn’t been there in over 15 years. Everything was different. I was in the same physical location, but I wasn’t “home.”

The phrase “you can’t go home again” means that you can return to a particular hunk of land, but the old home simply doesn’t exist anymore so there’s no way to return to it.

And as T.S. Eliot wrote:

Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again was published in 1940, indeed posthumously. I think there was some confusion over which title was being referred to.

I didn’t read Wolfe’s book but I have a slightly different interpretation than what has been said here.

It’s not home that has changed, it’s you. You return to a place hoping to recapture that part of your life, but you have moved on and that part of your life was not waiting around for you to recapture it.

My 20th high school reunion party was just down the street from the school, and they opened it up for us for a tour. I went in. It was the first time I had been back since graduation day. It was maybe a coat of paint away from being just as it had been 20 years earlier. But it wasn’t quite how I remembered it. The biggest difference was that I wasn’t a teenager anymore, so I just saw it completely differently. I had expected to be a teenager again when I walked through the doors, but it just didn’t happen.

A similar story can be found in Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour where, in his 40’s, he persuaded his brother to join him in returning to the French countryside of their youth, to recapture some of those lost years. Some things had changed, to be sure, but the author seemed to find himself sitting there in the cold eating oysters wondering what was it that he thought was so great about this when he was 10.

It’s not home that has changed, it’s you. You return to a place hoping to recapture that part of your life, but you have moved on and that part of your life was not waiting around for you to recapture it…/QUOTE]I think both you and place changed.

I don’t know who said it but, “A man cannot step into the same stream twice.” and its opposite, "The same man cannot step into the stream twice.

Wikipedia to the rescue. It was Heraclitus.

And it was L.P. Hartley who said, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

The way I look at it, it’s like when you leave, you and all your friends have a picture in your mind of how things were. You go back a couple of times trying to recapture that picture in your mind. One day, you look at the picture and are like “who the fuck are these people”.

The movie Garden State gives a good example of the strangeness of returning to a place you haven’t been to in awhile and seeing everything as familiar yet alien.