Buried Child

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Vegetables Symbol Analysis

Vegetables Symbol Icon

The vegetables that Tilden finds in the back yard during the rainstorm represent the unearthing of the family’s past secrets. As more of the family’s past is revealed, the family’s barren farm seems to grow more fertile, more prosperous. Once Dodge admits to the murder and dies, Halie observes a full field of crops, indicating that what’s left of the family may have a future just as the farm itself now seems to, and that both the family and the farm may be able to move beyond their sinful past.

Vegetables Quotes in Buried Child

The Buried Child quotes below all refer to the symbol of Vegetables. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Buried Child published in 2006.
Act 1 Quotes

Things keep happening while you’re upstairs, ya know. The world doesn’t stop just because you’re upstairs. Corn keeps growing. Rain keeps raining.

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Halie
Related Symbols: Rain, Vegetables
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

This complex statement, which comes in a conversation about whether or not there is corn growing in the backyard, gives the audience a sense of the contested reality the family is living in. Tilden, the family member most haunted by their secret, has always been able to see the corn growing in the back yard, and he continues to bring it inside throughout the play. Dodge has previously said to Tilden that there is no corn outside, but here, speaking to Halie, he claims that there is. Halie claims that she can see the backyard from upstairs and there is no corn. Symbolically, this has to do with each family member's willingness to admit to the existence of the murdered child. Halie is in complete denial, while Dodge is willing to reference the child at times when it is convenient for him (in other words, in order to taunt or gain power over other family members) but not at other times, so it makes sense that his statements about the corn are contradictory. Tilden, who makes the family aware of the corn in the first place, is the character for whom it seems most crucial to bring the secret out in the open, and he is the one who, at the end, literally exhumes the body. The imagery of the corn growing and the rain coming down also relates to the process of bringing forward the family secret. The rain and the corn give a sense of possibility for the family, of potential cleansing and renewal if everyone can acknowledge the truth of what happened.

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Act 3 Quotes

Good hard rain. Takes everything straight down deep to the roots. The rest takes care of itself. You can’t force a thing to grow. You can’t interfere with it. It’s all hidden. It’s all unseen. You just gotta wait til it pops up out of the ground. Tiny little shoot. Tiny little white shoot. All hairy and fragile. Strong though. Strong enough to break the earth even. It’s a miracle, Dodge. I’ve never seen a crop like this in my whole life. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the sun.

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Dodge
Related Symbols: Rain, Vegetables
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the passage that concludes the play, and, for a work of such dark and fatalistic themes, it is a surprisingly optimistic conclusion. By this point the family secret is out in the open (partially marked by each family member's sudden ability to see the vegetables growing in the backyard). As Halie speaks this monologue, Tilden comes onstage carrying the bones of the buried child, which he has apparently dug up from the yard. Though it is grotesque imagery, the return of the body to the house symbolizes a restoration of honesty for the family, and the end of a secret that has created torment and suffering for a long time. That Halie, the character most wedded to the family's illusions about itself, gives this optimistic monologue about life and rebirth suggests to the audience that the family is benefiting from having finally dealt with the trauma of their past. 

Throughout the play the vegetables growing in the yard have represented the family's secrets, and the rain has represented the relentless pressure to bring the secrets into the open. With the sun shining and the family realizing that the yard is fertile once again, the audience is left to conclude that some real progress has been made. 

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Vegetables Symbol Timeline in Buried Child

The timeline below shows where the symbol Vegetables appears in Buried Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...man in his forties, enters, wet with rain and holding an armful of freshly picked corn. He simply stares at Dodge as Dodge’s coughing fit subsides. Dodge asks Tilden where he... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Dodge commands Tilden to return the corn to where he found out, but instead Tilden dumps the ears of corn on Dodge’s... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Tilden returns with a chair and pail and begins to husk the corn. Dodge asks Tilden what his plans are for the future, but says that he’s not... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...notices the husks on the floor of the living room. Halie asks Tilden where the corn has come from, claiming that she can see fields from her bedroom window and that... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...falls asleep. Tilden steals Dodge’s hidden whiskey, and then covers the sleeping Dodge with the corn husks and sneaks away. (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...he walks with a limp. He notices Dodge on the couch under the mess of corn husks. Bradley laboriously kneels beside Dodge, violently removes Dodge’s cap, and begins to shave Dodge’s... (full context)
Act 2
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...forces her to stay. Dodge calls for Tilden, who then enters with an armful of carrots, apparently from out back. (full context)
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
As Vince grows even more confused by the situation, Shelly offers to take the carrots from Tilden and begins to help peel them. Dodge asks Vince to get him a... (full context)
Act 3
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
...asks him about a photograph depicting the whole family standing on a farm full of corn and wheat, with Halie holding a baby. Shelly says that Halie looks lost in the... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...for Dodge, telling him that Tilden was right, and that the field is full of vegetables. Tilden enters, covered in mud, holding the rotted corpse of a small child. He ascends... (full context)