Literary Skill of Symbolism

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The piece of literature is the work of Flannery O’ Connor posted in 1965 in the month of January. The setting of the story is during the racial segregation era when the African Americans and the American Americans did no longer live in harmony. Most of the white people considered the blacks as inferior to them due to the fact of their former status as slaves. The story has two main characters that have different perceptions when it comes to racial differences. Julian believes that black humans are good and equal to them. He even considers marrying a black woman to prove the factor to his mother. On the other hand, his mother hates black people and believes they are inferior to them. The social conflict in the story is evident through the symbolism of three major symbols namely the bus, the hat, and the coin.

The hat bought by Julian’s mom is a symbol of the financial ability of the family. Despite having a rich past, Julian’s family is no longer stable. Their grandfather had many slaves translating to wealth (O’Connor 2). However, Julian remembers the house of the grandfather in ruins indicating the financial degradation of the family. Julian’s mom debates between returning the hat and using the money on fuels. Therefore, the hat represented financial strain in the household, where having the cap meant taking the bus due to lack of money for gas.

In the bus, Carver’s mom wears the same hat. In the society, the black people were more unstable financially as compared to the whites. The similarity of the cap on the two individuals of different racial backgrounds indicated that financial strain was common to all persons. Despite the hate that Julian’s mom had for the black people, they both went through the same economic challenges as symbolized by the hats on their heads. The saleswoman sold the hat to Julian’s mother with the perception that the hat is ugly and no one would buy it. The symbolism of the hat from the ideology of the sales woman indicates that nobody likes to experience financial challenges.

The penny symbolizes the inability of African Americans to survive unless given handouts by the white people. In the previous generation, the black people were slaves of the white people. The only income that the black population received came from the white people. Julian’s grandfather was wealthy because he had many slaves that worked for them. No matter how hard the slaves worked, the white people made the decision on how much the black people would earn. Carver’s mom understood the perception of receiving money from white people as the symbolism of continuation of the era or slavery.

She saw it as an indication that the White considered them as poor. To her, Julian’s mother was passing the aspect of slavery to Carver. Receiving the penny would instill the mentality that white people were superior and financially stable as compared to the blacks. On the other hand, the money represented generosity of Julian’s mom. Despite her financial challenges, she was generous enough to sacrifice her money to put a smile on the face of children whenever they met. As much as she did not have much, she always ensured she gave out pennies to children whenever possible. The penny was a symbol of her generosity (O’Connor 10).

The setting of the story is in a period of social conflict. The prejudice between the whites and the blacks is so massive to the point where the characters cannot hide their hate for one another. The bus acts as the platform for showing the level of hatred between the two racial groups. The bus accommodates all types of people. The freedom to choose where to sit and the people to associate with shows the hatred between the groups. Carver’s mother reprimands her child for sitting with the white people. She calls him to come and sit with her despite her not sitting well due to the limited space. Besides, the bus allows the readers to understand that Carver’s mother refers to squeeze herself in another seat as opposed to sitting with Julian’s mom. In the bus, the stories between Julian’s mom and other travelers end when Carver’s mom boards the bus. TO them, she does not deserve to be part of the stories hence the abrupt end of the conversations. The bus is a symbol of neutrality of the society since people from all walks of life can use it. However, the bus also represents the hatred in the society from the designated regions where people sit according to their preference. The sitting positions indicate the hatred in the society between different racial groups.

Symbolism is a work of literature that gives a different meaning to an object that is distinct from the ordinary meaning. In the literary state, a penny represents money; the bus is a mode of transportation while a hat is a form of dressing. However, the story gives different meanings to the images due to the information that the symbols communicate to the reader. The hat is a symbol of financial challenges and middle-income society according to the characters in the book. The bus shows the level of social conflict in the society from the sitting positions while the penny indicates financial dependence and a continuation of the institution of slavery. The use of symbolism is a literary skill that brings out a deeper understanding of the themes in the story.

Work Cited

O’Connor, Flannery. “Everything that rises must converge.” Home | Thomas Aquinas College, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965, Accessed  2016.

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