Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Annie's mother's trunk

Annie's mother's trunk and the other trunks in the story symbolize the self. When Annie is a young girl, her favorite pastime involves looking through her mother's trunk. Annie uses the stories about the objects in the trunk to define who she is. At that young age, Annie shares her mother's trunk because she has no separate self of her own. Annie's mother's trunk came all the way with her from Dominica and therefore seems to be the object that contains all the family history. Eventually, when Annie decides that she has a separate self, she wants her own trunk. It, in turn, will become her history and a representation of herself, as her mother's was for her. When Annie leaves Antigua for England, she brings her trunk with her. Her trunk bears a label that reads, "My name is Annie John," a strong affirmation of Annie's new sense of self.


The first two marbles that Annie receives are given to her by her mother after they arrived, free in a package of oats. One is white with blue and the other is white with yellowish brown. Annie thinks that the one with blue represents the oceans, while the one with brown represents the landmasses of the world. In fact, these marbles and the ones that Annie subsequently gathers represent the new world that she is creating for herself. After receiving her first marbles, Annie goes on to become a marble devotee. She wins marbles from everyone and gathers a small stash. Just as her marble career is getting underway, so too is Annie's world changing as Annie spends hours with the Red Girl, a representative of the non-socialized order. The time playing marbles will help Annie to see beyond the world that her mother and teachers outline. When Annie's mother furiously searches for Annie's marbles, what she really wants to find is not so much the little balls, but rather the new world that these marbles have opened up for her daughter. This world is one that defies the common social program and her mother does not want her to have it.

Milton's Paradise Lost

Annie's principal makes Annie copy Paradise Lost as punishment for having blasphemed Christopher Columbus in her history book. The specific use of Paradise Lost for this punishment is apt. The book describes how the angel Lucifer challenged God and was subsequently tossed out of the paradise of heaven into darkness and exile. Annie's current predicament is similar to that of Lucifer's. Annie wants to challenge the dominant power of both her mother, and by association the colonial order, but fears the fate of exile. The principal's choice of the book also carries an implicit threat, indicating how Annie will be punished if she continues to question the colonial authority that establishes Columbus as a hero. On the other hand, the idea of exile simply compounds Annie's already existent fears about being left all alone. The concept of a "lost paradise" also seems appropriate in Antigua, an island that may look like paradise but became a virtual hell when the British arrived and set up the institution of slavery.