Girl in Translation

Skirts Symbol Icon

In Girl in Translation, skirts come to represent the way that the inhumane factory system fundamentally warps Kim’s outlook on the world and threatens to doom her to a lifetime of factory work. At the factory, Ma and Kim are paid one and a half cents per skirt, forcing them to work long hours to simply survive. Displeased that Kim has learned to hang a skirt in an impressive seven seconds (which would make Ma and Kim more money, seeing as they can get through more skirts each day), Aunt Paula cuts down their wage to one cent per skirt, forcing them to work harder and longer still. Furthermore, as Ma and Kim spend more time at the factory, their thoughts about money begin to shift from thinking in dollars to thinking in skirts—as in Kim's dictionary costing 200 skirts, rather than $2.99—illustrating the way that the factory system has ensnared them.

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Skirts Symbol Timeline in Girl in Translation

The timeline below shows where the symbol Skirts appears in Girl in Translation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Three
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...to the factory the next afternoon, she sees Matt dragging a cart piled high with skirts. She helps him push the cart to the hemming station and learns that she made... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...too much on words. She buys a dictionary to study with, which costs her $2.99—200 skirts. She begins thinking of any cost as being in skirts rather than in dollars. (full context)
Four
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...white girl, but they eventually decide on a plastic plant that costs $1.99, or 133 skirts. On the last day of school before Christmas vacation, Kim presents the plant to Annette... (full context)
Six
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...him protection from the gods in Chinese. Ma buys Kim a pretty dress for 1,500 skirts to wear to her graduation ceremony. Ma is sad they can't afford Harrison, but declares... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Ma buys Kim a boxy polyester blazer, a white shirt, and a dark blue skirt with rhinestones on it—it was the cheapest one. Kim feels uncomfortable and unrecognizable, especially since... (full context)
Seven
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...for herself since arriving in the U.S. Kim tries to remove the rhinestones from her skirt during a break, but settles for finding a fabric scrap to use as a sash... (full context)
Eight
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...her classmates tanned from ski trips and marvels that their special ski jackets cost 20,000 skirts. Girls also begin applying makeup, which fascinates her. One day, Annette uses a cover-up stick... (full context)
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
...that she and Ma are responsible for bagging garments, which takes Ma thirty seconds per skirt to do. Kim begins timing herself and by the end of the summer, develops a... (full context)
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Later, Aunt Paula approaches Ma and Kim and tells them that the rate for skirts is going to drop to one cent after this shipment. Kim is enraged; she realizes... (full context)
Twelve
Poverty and Shame Theme Icon
Family, Choices, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Work vs. Education Theme Icon
Independence and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
...feels even more like an outsider, as she thinks her only real skill is bagging skirts very fast. She feels she has no chance against kids who have been groomed since... (full context)