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Quotes

Quote #4

The garden looked dead. Insects had devoured most of the leaves and vegetables, leaving behind skeletons of stems and branches. Weeds had exploded between the neat rows. All those weeks of backbreaking work had been for nothing. Hot tears threatened, but my grumbling stomach was more painful. (17.37)

Mattie returns home from the country to find the coffeehouse in a shambles and her family's garden completely destroyed. But death is joined to life, and while the garden has been devastated, it can also be transformed back into its former state. Why is the image of the garden important for the theme of transformations? In what ways can a garden be transformed? What does it take to bring a garden back to life?

Quote #5

The water soon turned brown with weeks of dirt and sweat. I held my breath and dunked my head under the water. I scrubbed my hair with soap and dunked again, over and over until my hair was free of blood and filth. I rubbed the soap on a rag and scrubbed my skin until it burned. When even the soles of my feet were clean, I dried myself by the kitchen fire. (18.9)

Back in the city, Mattie takes a bath, washing away the dirt she had acquired from her own illness and travels in the country. How is this moment symbolic? What else is she washing away? Is she being newly born, in a way?

Quote #6

"Excuse me, Miss. Have you seen my granddaughter, Mattie? She must be around here somewhere. Filthy little urchin, she is, wearing a grimy dress and a ragged cap." (18.21)

Mattie is wearing her mother's clothes and cleaning up the coffeehouse. Already, her grandfather notices a change in her behavior and looks. Do clothes really make the (wo)man?

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