by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Like the continuous thread of yarn that forms its colorful zigzags, Abuelita's blanket connects all the different parts of Esperanza's story. It carries us from the beginning of the novel, where Abuelita teaches Esperanza to crochet the zigzag pattern, to the very end, where Esperanza finally finishes Abuelita's blanket and teaches little Isabel its complicated stitch. Now that's some pretty powerful yarn.
Keeping Things Toasty
Remember that super deep and wise saying that Abuelita passes along to Esperanza? "Do not be afraid to start over" (2.38). And do you remember when she says it? Yep, while she's showing Esperanza how to crochet. As it turns out, the lessons of crocheting often expand beyond the skill and into—wait for it—real life.
As Abuelita explains to Esperanza, the zigzags in the blanket's pattern look like mountains and valleys, representing the series of obstacles that Esperanza will have to overcome in life. "Right now you are in the bottom of the valley and your problems loom big around you," Abuelita explains when she and Esperanza have to say goodbye. "But soon, you will be at the top of a mountain again" (4.76).
In other words, it will take patience (just like crocheting!) but these mountains, or obstacles, can be overcome. After she has lived—and crocheted—many mountains and valleys, Esperanza and her grandmother will be together again.
Living the Blanket's Meaning
Esperanza's life in the United States turns out to be even more difficult than she expected. And guess what? By the time she's reunited with Abuelita, the blanket is huge—long enough to cover three beds. It's also kind of funny looking, because Esperanza has had to use yarn given to her by her neighbors at the camp. She stopped worrying about whether the yarn matched a long time ago. It's not about the final product—it's about the journey.
When Abuelita joins Esperanza and Mama at the camp, Esperanza puts the final stitches on the enormous blanket. It's a hodgepodge of colorful yarn from caring neighbors and bits of hair from Abuelita's and Esperanza's heads, sealing their love and good wishes into the blanket forever. It smells of burned smoke from the fire, and a little bit of mint, Abuelita's signature scent. It has many, many mountains and valleys. Sounds like it kind of represents Esperanza's new life, don't you think?
At the end of the novel, Esperanza teaches Isabel the zigzag stitch and repeats Abuelita's advice: "Do not ever be afraid to start over" (14.111). It looks like the student has become the teacher. After all those mountains and valleys, Esperanza has grown up—a lot.