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Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols

Horses

Horses play a crucial role in Paul's childhood—he loves horses and is more skilled at befriending, riding, and caring for them than anyone else on his father's farm. Paul's skill with horses indicates his gentleness, his trueness, and his closeness to the natural world. All of the major turning points of his childhood center on horses: his defense of Mitchell, Robert's betrayal of him, and his rejection of his father's authority. Paul's feeling toward the horse in each situation acts as a barometer for his loyalties. When Mitchell rides Ghost Wind, he is first worried about the horse, but he puts the concern aside for Mitchell's sake. When Paul finds Robert and the Waverly boys riding the Appaloosa, his first and overriding concern is for the tired animal. At the horse fair, however, his connection to horses serves a more calculated purpose, and he uses his skill with the horse as a tool to triumph over his father's authority.

Land

To Paul and the society in which he lives, land symbolizes power, self- sufficiency, and legacy. Paul leads a charmed childhood—he can live comfortably on his father's rich land and has the luxury of being able to tell other black children to get off of it. He fully expects to unofficially inherit the land and work it with his brother Robert in an idealized and idyllic world cut off from the rest of society. When Paul realizes that he has no claim on the land, he leaves, determined to find land on which he can raise his family and with which he can provide for them. Paul almost loses his dream land, but is saved by the sale of his mother's land. Like Paul, she bought the land understanding the wealth and opportunity it represented.

The Rocking Chair

Both Paul's mother and Miz Perry enjoy their comfortable wooden rockers. To the rest of their families, the rockers represent the hard work and sacrifice of their mothers and the comfort and ease they wish to bestow upon them. The rockers represent the family's gratitude and reverence for their mothers, evidenced both by the surge of emotion Paul experiences seeing and thinking on his mother's rocker, and the excitement with which the Perrys greet the new rocker for their mother.