Brown Girl Dreaming


Jacqueline Woodson

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Dirt and Air Symbol Icon

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 Georgiana. 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.

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Dirt and Air Symbol Timeline in Brown Girl Dreaming

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
The North and The South Theme Icon
...him: proud and with her children, while Jack (whose skin reminds her of the “red dirt of the south”) waves goodbye. (full context)
Part 2: the stories of south carolina run like rivers
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 that Gunnar only missed slavery by one... (full context)
Memory Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
as a child, i smelled the air. Mama, drinking coffee on the porch, says that the New York air smells different. Jacqueline... (full context)
The North and The South Theme Icon night. She lies down with the girls in their room while the cool winter air streams through the open window. She tells them they have a home in New York... (full context)
Part 3: followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom
The North and The South Theme Icon
the johnny pump. Jacqueline misses the red dirt of Greenville and walking in bare feet. In New York she wears shoes because the... (full context)
Part 4: deep in my heart i do believe
Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
The North and The South Theme Icon
...dies. The silent funeral procession winds through Nicholtown. The family buries Gunnar, tossing handfuls of dirt on the casket. (full context)