by Paul Fleischman
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
For a book about a garden, there sure is a lot of garbage in Seedfolks. Looking for a run-down fridge? You've got it. How about an old locket with a potentially creepy picture of a girl inside? No lack of that here. Bottom line: before the neighborhood helps clean up the vacant lot, the whole place is chock full of garbage.
Gross Garbage Be Gone
The garbage tells us a lot about the part of Cleveland where our characters live. Basically, none of the characters in Seedfolks are rich. And according to Leona, all this garbage represents the way her neighborhood is seen as less important than other fancier neighborhoods. In fact, a bunch of rude litterbugs send their trash to Gibb Street:
The garbage was piled high as your waist, some of it from the neighborhood and some dropped off by outside people. The ones who don't want to pay at the dump, or got dangerous chemicals, or think we're such slobs down here we won't mind another load of junk. We can't get City Hall to pick up our trash, but we got it delivered just fine. (5.3)
We can't lie, this sounds like a pretty gross sea of trash. Feel like wading through some dangerous chemicals so you can plant a patch of goldenrod? No thanks. All this garbage reminds us that Gibb Street isn't known as the swanky part of town. In fact, it becomes like a "dump" for the rest of the city. And that stinks big time. (Pun intended—duh.)
But there's also a sunnier side to all this garbage. The garbage doesn't just clutter up the garden. In some cases, it actually helps the garden to grow. Take a look at what Wendell discovers about the abandoned refrigerator and Kim's lima beans:
Then I saw what had kept her seeds from freezing. The refrigerator in front of them had bounced the sunlight back on the soil, heating it up like an oven. (3.11)
Without that discarded fridge, Kim's beans would have died in the cold weather. And without Kim's beans, Ana would never have noticed the plants. And without Ana finding Kim's plants, Wendell wouldn't have started his own garden. You know the rest. So it sounds like that old busted refrigerator actually gets this whole story started.
So does this mean that trash becomes a good thing? Or is it still a nasty reminder of the way people think about Gibb Street? What do you think?