How it Feels to be Colored Me

by

Zora Neale Hurston

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Bags Symbol Icon

Zora Neale Hurston introduces bags as a symbol of her own experience of and thinking about race. She refers to “brown” and “white, red and yellow” bags that represent skin color, but that’s the end of her description of the bags themselves. In contrast, Hurston describes their contents in rapturous detail, mentioning objects both exceptional, such as a “first-water diamond,” and mundane, such as “an empty spool.” But even the worn or commonplace objects achieve pathos in Hurston’s language, as she describes things such as “old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be.” By privileging contents over outward appearance, Hurston draws attention to the hopes, memories, relationships, and challenges that might be found in any bag—and, it follows, human being. Suggesting that all the contents be “dumped in a single heap” may gesture towards a post-racial future where what is essential in human experience—namely personality, character, and history—transcends skin color.

Bags Quotes in How it Feels to be Colored Me

The How it Feels to be Colored Me quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bags. 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:
Race and Difference Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Applewood Books edition of How it Feels to be Colored Me published in 2015.
How It Feels to Be Colored Me Quotes

Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag.

Related Characters: Zora Neale Hurston (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bags
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
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How it Feels to be Colored Me PDF

Bags Symbol Timeline in How it Feels to be Colored Me

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bags appears in How it Feels to be Colored Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
How It Feels to Be Colored Me
Race and Difference Theme Icon
Hurston describes herself as a brown bag among white, yellow, and red bags. Each bag has a jumble of contents both marvelous... (full context)
Race and Difference Theme Icon
Although each bag has its own assortment of objects, they’re often similar to the objects in differently colored... (full context)