Brown Girl Dreaming

Gunnar Character Analysis

Gunnar is Jacqueline’s maternal grandfather. He and his wife Maryann live in South Carolina. He is a jovial spirit and enjoys maintaining his vegetable garden in his spare time. He has a close relationship with his grandchildren (especially Jacqueline), who live with him for a time and visit every summer after they move to New York. Gunnar frequently takes them out for ice cream, asks for their help gardening, and tells them stories. For most of the memoir, Gunnar works at a printing press. Later, he falls ill because of his lifelong smoking addiction. While Mama and the children are living in New York, Gunnar dies, and the family returns to South Carolina to attend his funeral.

Gunnar Quotes in Brown Girl Dreaming

The Brown Girl Dreaming quotes below are all either spoken by Gunnar or refer to Gunnar. 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:
Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Nancy Paulsen Books edition of Brown Girl Dreaming published in 2014.
Part 2 Quotes

But I want the world where my daddy is
and I don’t know why
anybody’s God would make me
have to choose.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Gunnar
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 5 Quotes

And all the worlds you are—
Ohio and Greenville
Woodson and Irby
Gunnar’s child and Jack’s daughter
Jehovah’s Witness and nonbeliever
listener and writer
Jackie and Jacqueline
gather into one world
called You
where You decide
what each world
and each story
and each ending
will finally be.

Related Characters: Jacqueline (speaker), Gunnar, Jack
Page Number: 319-320
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gunnar Character Timeline in Brown Girl Dreaming

The timeline below shows where the character Gunnar appears in Brown Girl Dreaming. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: i am born
The North and The South Theme Icon
home. Mama, Jacqueline, Odella, and Hope arrive at the home of Mama’s parents, MaryAnn and Gunnar, in South Carolina. Jacqueline’s grandmother greets them by saying “welcome home,” and her mother cries. (full context)
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
...Mama puts on lipstick, and Jack shaves. Then the family says goodbye to MaryAnn and Gunnar. They board the night bus so that people who might mistake them for civil rights... (full context)
Part 2: the stories of south carolina run like rivers
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...also pays attention to how her grandmother says the names all in one breath, while Gunnar says them slowly. (full context)
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
the garden. Jacqueline describes Gunnar’s garden, talking about the promise the dirt holds for yielding vegetables and fruits. She notes... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
gunnar’s children. Jacqueline describes watching Gunnar come down the road from work while singing, a daily practice. She imagines his daughter,... (full context)
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Jacqueline notes that she, Odella, and Hope call Gunnar “Daddy,” because it is also what Mama calls him. Jacqueline describes his appearance, saying he... (full context)
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
at the end of the day. Jacqueline describes Gunnar’s work at a printing press, where he is a foreman. The ink of the printing... (full context)
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the candy lady. Gunnar takes the children on Fridays to a woman down the street who sells candy out... (full context)
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
south carolina at war. Gunnar explains to the children the reason behind the Civil Rights Movement, which is happening throughout... (full context)
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
When Jacqueline, Odella, and Hope go into Greenville, they see the sit-ins for themselves. Gunnar explains that peaceful protest is the only way to get what they want, but that... (full context)
The North and The South Theme Icon
...blanket. Mama goes to visit New York, leaving Jacqueline and her siblings with MaryAnn and Gunnar. Jacqueline reflects on the close relationship she has with both grandparents, and how the sadness... (full context)
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
family names. Gunnar and MaryAnn tell their grandchildren all the names of their own siblings (the children’s great... (full context)
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harvest time. Gunnar’s garden is in full bloom, and once the vegetables in it are picked, MaryAnn makes... (full context)
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tobacco. Jacqueline thinks over Gunnar’s smoking and his perpetual cough. He is so short of breath that he can no... (full context)
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how to listen #3. Jacqueline awakes, startled, to Gunnar’s coughing. (full context)
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...hot chocolate and doing their work. The children wish they were playing outside instead, enjoying Gunnar’s company and the fall weather. (full context)
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...and listens to her grandfather coughing. Despite his bad lungs, he has not stopped smoking. Gunnar will not go to Kingdom Hall with them, as he is not religious, in part... (full context)
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what god knows. MaryAnn and the children pray for Gunnar, since he is a non-believer. Gunnar, however, thinks they don’t need to; he thinks that... (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
...no words are needed. Jacqueline sits on the porch swing on a winter night with Gunnar, quietly enjoying the company, the view of the stars, and “the silent promise that the... (full context)
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one morning, late winter. Gunnar is so sick with his cough one day that he misses work and stays in... (full context)
Part 3: followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom
Racism, Activism, and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements Theme Icon
genetics. Jacqueline notes that she, Mama, Gunnar, and all her siblings have the same gap in their front teeth. Jacqueline then goes... (full context)
Memory Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
...transport her back to the South. She thinks of catching raindrops on her tongue and Gunnar’s garden. (full context)
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...screen door slam. Later they will drink lemonade and play checkers on the porch with Gunnar. To Jacqueline, Greenville feels like home. (full context)
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
mrs. hughes’s house. Since Gunnar is sick and MaryAnn works full time, the children spend the days at Mrs. Hughes’... (full context)
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...front porch. Miss Bell waves to MaryAnn, who sits with her grandchildren on the porch. Gunnar, meanwhile, gardens. When Jacqueline worries about his sickness, Gunnar tells her that she is too... (full context)
The North and The South Theme Icon
Religion and Spiritualism Theme Icon
...out of her Kingdom Hall clothes and into gardening wear so that she can help Gunnar. After gardening, they will return to the house and she will rub his sore hands... (full context)
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...on the swings, but are no longer as enthralled with them as they once were. Gunnar promises to cement the swing set down so that they can swing higher. Slowly, the... (full context)
Part 4: deep in my heart i do believe
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daddy gunnar. One Saturday, Gunnar calls from Greenville, and all the children fight for the phone, so Mama makes them... (full context)
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...for the summer, Roman comes with them, and he swings on the swing set that Gunnar cemented down. Gunnar is by now gravely ill. Jacqueline brings Gunnar chicken soup, but after... (full context)
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The other children avoid Gunnar’s sick room. Jacqueline, however, attends to Gunnar, who whispers between coughs that she is his... (full context)
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...Greenville summer ends and Robert takes the children back to New York. When Jacqueline hugs Gunnar, she notices he is extremely thin. They wave at their grandparents as their taxi pulls... (full context)
Memory Theme Icon
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...was writing about the mountains they pass on their trip. Jacqueline cries, thinking of Robert, Gunnar, and Greenville: things she perceives as already lost. Jacqueline thinks that if she can remember... (full context)
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The North and The South Theme Icon
daddy. In the spring, MaryAnn informs the family that Gunnar is dying, and tells them to come to Greenville. The weather, Mama says, is the... (full context)
Part 5: ready to change the world
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after greenville #2. After Gunnar’s death, MaryAnn moves to Brooklyn to live with Mama and the children. Spring turns to... (full context)
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...to glamorously smoke their bubble-gum cigarettes until Odella comes out and says smoking is how Gunnar died. Then Maria and Jacqueline chew the cigarettes into gum and stop pretending to smoke. (full context)
Memory Theme Icon
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
what’s left behind. MaryAnn tells Jacqueline that she reminds her of Gunnar while holding a picture of him in her hands. Together, they look at the picture,... (full context)