The mimosa tree in Celia Foote’s
backyard represents her repressed hatred of the gender norms that she has internalized. Throughout the novel, Celia is confined to her home, unwilling to leave for fear she will have a miscarriage. Guilty about her inability to give her husband Johnny
a baby, Celia is so attached to the idea of the importance of motherhood that she imprisons herself in the home so as to increase her chances of carrying the baby to term. Though she hates the mimosa tree, she is unwilling to get out of bed and chop it down for fear of losing the baby and letting down her husband. She even describes the tree as having disgusting hairs like those of a baby. Her disgust at the thought of baby hairs reveals her repressed aversion towards motherhood, so cutting down the tree would represent her triumph over society’s expectation that she become a mother. At one point her husband plans to cuts it down for her, but ultimately he does not, symbolically suggesting that Celia must be the one to overcome the gender norms – no man can do it for her. Only after Minny
—in an act of sisterhood that transcends racial divides—convinces Celia of own self-worth does she find the strength to leave the house, cut down the tree, and let go of the societal expectations that she should become a mother.