Pigs in Heaven

by: Barbara Kingsolver

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

Pigs in Heaven

The "Six Pigs in Heaven" is the name the Cherokee give the Pleides constellation—the same constellation that Caucasian Americans would call "Seven Sisters." This name comes from a story about six little boys who never wanted to do any chores. Their mothers became so fed up that they boiled the balls the boys played with and served it to them to eat. The boys got angry, and ran out to the ball field, where the spirits took them up the sky, and they stayed as the six stars. The "pigs in heaven" serve as a reminder to human beings to do well by their people. They also remind parents to always forgive their children. When the six boys went to the sky, the mothers mourned their loss. The constellation therefore symbolizes all the children who have been lost. Cash Stillwater mourns the loss of his granddaughter, as Taylor grieves her potential loss.

We should note the other ways that "pig" is used in the book. The pig is the animal used to tell this Cherokee story, but pigs are also a part of Alice's upbringing and background. In fact, in the first chapter, Alice chases away her neighbor's pigs when they invade her yard. After a while, she decides to let them stay. If one thinks about pigs as being associated with the Cherokee Nation, then this scene parallels Taylor's attempt to chase Annawake out of her life. In the end, she finds herself conceding to the Cherokee way of life. Alice has spent her childhood on a hog farm, and she has a myriad of expressions that use the word "pig." The presence of "pig" in her past and in her speech suggests that she is in some way aligned with Cherokee life. "Heaven" also has a dual meaning in the book. The pigs go up to live in the sky—in heaven—and the Cherokee of the novel live in a place called "Heaven."

Gabriel Fourkiller

Annawake's twin brother symbolizes all the Cherokee children taken from the Nation. Annawake identifies the disappearance of their children as the modern day atrocity suffered by Cherokee people. Throughout history, white Americans marched the Cherokee into Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, cheated them out of the land on the reservation, and sent them to prison-like boarding schools to learn Christianity and the ways of the white man. The novel unveils the social and political injustice still waged against Native Americans today. Gabriel is a tragic reminder that America still takes advantage of its native peoples.

Television

The television symbolizes all that is bad about American capitalism. Cash explains T.V. as something that shows you what you want before you even knew you wanted it. Within the context of the novel, the promise of that materialistic gain never comes to fruition. Television is almost always related to marketing in the novel—it is always selling something, whether it be a product or a way of life. It is the T.V. that projects images of Indians that have nothing to do with reality. Harland is of course so enraptured in this world that he is convinced by the illusion. He does not see any reason to see things for himself when he can watch it on a screen. Alice feels lonely as the result of Harland's love affair with the T.V. It is of course not an accident that American capitalism and loneliness are both represented through this same object.