Dear Justyce

Dear Justyce

by

Nic Stone

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The Rocket Ship Symbol Analysis

The Rocket Ship Symbol Icon

The rocket ship structure at the local park symbolizes Quan and his hopes for the future. When the novel opens, the park and the rocket ship are new and shiny—which isn’t all that different from nine-year-old Quan. At this point, he’s a young kid poised for success, as he’s doing well in school and has the support of his Daddy. And in tough times—like when Dwight abuses Mama and threatens Quan, Dasia, or Gabe with violence—the rocket ship provides Quan a place to escape. In the ship, Quan can imagine blasting off somewhere happy and safe. The fact that he’s able to do this suggests that, at this age, Quan still has hope for his future. He still believes that if he dreams hard enough, he can have as bright of a future as Daddy says he does.

However, like Quan, the rocket ship struggles from the beginning. It soon becomes a favored spot of drug users or couples looking for a private spot to have sex, so much of Quan’s time at the rocket ship includes carefully cleaning up hypodermic needles and used condoms. Around this time, Daddy is arrested and things begin to go downhill for Quan. With Daddy gone and Mama busy dealing with Dwight’s abuse, Quan feels unsupported; he begins to act out and stops trying so hard to succeed in school. In the days after his first arrest, Quan escapes to the rocket ship. But it’s there that Quan meets Trey, the older boy who ushers Quan into premature adulthood by convincing him to join the Black Jihad gang.

In the days after Dwight’s death, Quan discovers that the rocket ship has been removed from the park. Seeing its absence makes it clear to Quan that his childhood is permanently over. With the rocket ship gone, there’s nothing now to facilitate Quan’s imaginings of flying away to a better place or a better life. This is especially true since he knows that Martel, a fellow gang member, was the one who had Dwight murdered as a favor to Quan and his mother. The rocket ship’s absence, then, seems fitting: Quan is stuck in the Black Jihad gang with no way of escape, even an imaginary one, because he now owes Martel a major debt for getting rid of Mama’s abuser. In this way, Quan’s childhood effectively ends, and he feels like what comes next—being incarcerated—is inevitable.

The Rocket Ship Quotes in Dear Justyce

The Dear Justyce quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Rocket Ship. 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:
Choices vs. Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Crown Books edition of Dear Justyce published in 2020.
Chapter 3: Disrespect Quotes

So he told Mama—who for the first time wasn’t healing from a COAN encounter—that he was going out.

And he headed to his former favorite playground place.

Stepping over the latest evidence of unsavory activity inside his rocket ship (at least there wouldn’t be any babies or diseases?), Quan climbed up to the observation deck. Largely to hide himself from anyone who might take issue with/make fun of an almost-thirteen-year-old hanging out in the grounded space vessel.

But once he got up there, Quan relaxed so much, he fell asleep.

Related Characters: Quan Banks, Dwight, Mama
Related Symbols: The Rocket Ship
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5: Delinquent Quotes

Trey couldn’t have known it (or maybe he could’ve?), but in that moment, Quan didn’t actually want to be alone.

He needed a friend.

Someone who cared.

Because from the moment Mama and Quan had stepped out of the fluorescent-lit law-and-order lair into the crisp Georgia evening, it was crystal clear to Quan that she no longer did.

Related Characters: Quan Banks, Trey, Mama
Related Symbols: The Rocket Ship
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

“It’s this ceremony where a young Jewish dude becomes ‘accountable for his actions.’” He used air quotes. “So he goes from ‘boy’ to ‘man,’ essentially. Lawyer homie is sitting there all geeked, telling me about it, and I’m thinking to myself: So your son is a grown man by Jewish standards, yet still gets treated like a kid. Meanwhile ain’t no ceremonies for kids like us, but if we get in trouble we get treated like adults.”

Related Characters: Trey (speaker), Quan Banks
Related Symbols: The Rocket Ship
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Snapshot: A Boy Alone on a Run-Down Playground (2017) Quotes

Quan’s gaze drops. Lands on a word carved into one of the bench’s wooden slats in little-kid lettering:

F U K C

What are kids like Quan supposed to do?

He swipes at his dampening eyes and shifts them back to the black hole where his galactic getaway vehicle used to be.

Dwight is dead.

And Quan is here. Stuck. Grounded.

Forever.

No getting out.

No flying away.

No lifting off.

Because Dwight’s death wasn’t an accident.

Related Characters: Quan Banks, Martel, Dwight
Related Symbols: The Rocket Ship
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Snapshot: Two Young Men on a New (To Them) Playground Quotes

“You miss [the rocket ship]?”

At first, Quan doesn’t respond. Because he really has to think about it. His eyes roam the always-clean park space. Touch on his mom [...] his sister [...] his brother [...] his best friend right beside him.

Only thing missing is his dad. But they write to each other weekly, and Quan’s been out to visit the old man a few times, so even that’s okay.

[...]

He smiles. “You know what, man? I don’t.”

“You don’t?”

“Nah,” Quan says. “No need to go to outer space.”

[...]

“Everything I need is right here.”

Related Characters: Quan Banks (speaker), Justyce (speaker), Mama, Daddy, Dasia, Gabe
Related Symbols: The Rocket Ship
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Dear Justyce LitChart as a printable PDF.
Dear Justyce PDF

The Rocket Ship Symbol Timeline in Dear Justyce

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Rocket Ship appears in Dear Justyce. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Snapshot: Two Boys on a Brand-New Playground (2010)
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
When he gets to the new playground, Quan heads straight for the rocket ship and wipes his eyes on his shirt. He’s glad there’s no one around to see... (full context)
January 12
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity, Support, and Community Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...that his Daddy was arrested a few years after he and Justyce met in the rocket ship . Daddy got 25 years in prison. Reflecting on the terrifying experience of watching Daddy... (full context)
Chapter 2: Downhill
Choices vs. Fate Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
...Gabe, and whenever they go to the playground, Quan cleans nasty things out of the rocket ship . He reads A Series of Unfortunate Events books obsessively. The series gives him hope... (full context)
Choices vs. Fate Theme Icon
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
Quan overhears the conversation and, when it’s over, he heads straight for the rocket ship . He kicks a hypodermic needle out, even though a little kid could find it.... (full context)
February 8
Choices vs. Fate Theme Icon
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity, Support, and Community Theme Icon
...this makes Quan wonder how Justyce managed to succeed. When they first met in the rocket ship , they had a lot in common—but they turned out so different. The questions seem... (full context)
Chapter 3: Disrespect
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
Upset with everything, Quan escapes to the rocket ship to relax. He accidentally falls asleep, and it’s dark when he wakes up. He sprints... (full context)
Chapter 4: Defiance
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...remember if his name is Dre or Trey. He remembers finding this boy in the rocket ship , counting money as another guy ran away one of the last times he took... (full context)
Chapter 5: Delinquent
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity, Support, and Community Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Trey is waiting for Quan inside the rocket ship . Quan came to the playground hoping to escape, so he stops short when he... (full context)
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Back in the rocket ship , Trey asks if Quan is going to cry and assures him it’s okay if... (full context)
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
...to take Trey with her. Trey shares this with Quan as they sit by the rocket ship , passing a vape pen back and forth. Trey says he needs to meet some... (full context)
Snapshot: A Boy Alone on a Run-Down Playground (2017)
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity, Support, and Community Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
Quan knew he wouldn’t find the rocket ship ; some guy overdosed in it and the city removed it. But when he sees... (full context)
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...time he first met Justyce, and he wonders if Justyce would be sad that the rocket ship is gone. He goes to a fancy school in the rich part of town now.... (full context)
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
Quan looks back to where the rocket ship once stood and knows he’s stuck. Dwight’s death wasn’t an accident, though Mama doesn’t know... (full context)
Choices vs. Fate Theme Icon
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...full of ways to take flight, just like how the playground used to have a rocket ship . Now, though, his life is broken and hopeless. Quan looks down at the misspelled... (full context)
Snapshot: Two Young Men on a New (To Them) Playground
Justice, Racial Bias, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Family, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Survival, Poverty, and Violence Theme Icon
...11—two years older than when Quan and Justyce met. Justyce asks if Quan remembers the rocket ship , which Quan insists is a silly question. When Justyce asks if Quan misses it,... (full context)