Throughout Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline refers to the soil in South Carolina, contrasting it with the streets of Ohio and New York. Likewise, Jacqueline and Mama discuss how the air in South Carolina smells distinct from the air in New York. The red dirt and the smell of the South Carolina air symbolize a sense of home for Jacqueline, who loves Greenville. It also reminds her of Gunnar, since he worked so much with the soil when gardening, and in turn of MaryAnn. When Jacqueline moves to New York City, she thinks of the dirt and air of South Carolina with longing and despair. Eventually, however, Jacqueline learns to love New York City as well, and to appreciate the paved streets and city air.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Dirt and Air appears in Brown Girl Dreaming. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: i am born
Part 2: the stories of south carolina run like rivers
Part 3: followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom
Part 4: deep in my heart i do believe