Sing, Unburied, Sing

by

Jesmyn Ward

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Parchman Symbol Icon

Parchman is the prison in which Pop, Stag, Richie, Bishop, and Michael are all imprisoned at different points in the novel. When Pop is sent there as a 15-year-old boy, Parchman is a working farm structured as a camp, where inmates are forced to toil in the fields all the day. This highlights the strong sense of continuity between Parchman and slavery. Indeed, this continuity is not unique to Parchman but, as Leonie reflects when Misty mentions wanting to see a “pretty courthouse,” is true of the criminal justice system in general. Slavery may have technically ended, but black people like Pop and Richie are still arbitrarily detained and forced to work in conditions that are almost indistinguishable from those under slavery. The extreme violence and brutality that characterizes life at Parchman shows how black people’s lives are treated as disposable within the highly racist world in which the characters live. Although Michael is not black, his imprisonment in Parchman highlights the pervasiveness of incarceration among poor people in Mississippi, and again emphasizes a vicious cycle of injustice. Poverty, racism, drugs, and prison are a daily reality for all the characters in the novel, and escaping them can seem nearly impossible.

Parchman Quotes in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The Sing, Unburied, Sing quotes below all refer to the symbol of Parchman. 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:
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Sing, Unburied, Sing published in 2017.
Chapter 7: Leonie Quotes

Sometimes I think it done changed. And then I sleep and wake up, and it ain't changed none.

Related Characters: Richie (speaker)
Related Symbols: Parchman
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
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Parchman Symbol Timeline in Sing, Unburied, Sing

The timeline below shows where the symbol Parchman appears in Sing, Unburied, Sing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Back in the present, Jojo asks Pop to tell him about Parchman. Pop explains that he and Stag had the same father, who died young. When they... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Pop explains that Richie was 12 years old, and had been sent to Parchman for stealing food, as had many of the other inmates. Parchman didn’t seem like a... (full context)
Chapter 2: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...day Leonie and Pop argue about Leonie bringing the kids to pick Michael up from Parchman. When Leonie got her period for the first time, Mam told her that some women... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
...tells her, Mam asks if Misty is coming too. Misty’s boyfriend Bishop is also in Parchman, so she and Leonie usually drive up to visit them together. Mam tells Leonie: “You... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...told them it was a hunting accident. Michael’s cousin was sentenced to three years in Parchman. Mam now plants a tree every year on the anniversary of Given’s death. (full context)
Chapter 3: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...having the “sex talk” with Mam, Jojo asked Pop to tell him more of the Parchman story. Pop describes the agony of working in the field all day, saying it was... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...“Keep this close.” It could be either Mam or Pop’s handwriting. Jojo starts thinking about Parchman again. Pop describes Parchman as “mass murder.” He once told Jojo that there was “spirit... (full context)
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
...man who was put in charge of the prison’s dogs even though he’d previously escaped Parchman and been brought back. One of the black men holding the dogs tripped and fell,... (full context)
Chapter 4: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Leonie reveals that Misty encouraged her to transport drugs on their trip to Parchman. Misty pointed out that it would pay for the trip and allow Leonie and Michael... (full context)
Chapter 5: Jojo
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...younger, he wanted a dog, but Pop could never keep dogs after his time in Parchman. In Parchman, Pop had tried to get Richie put to work on the dogs, too,... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...and get back in the car to continue their journey. Before long, they are at Parchman and suddenly reunited with Michael, who embraces Leonie before anyone else. In the parking lot,... (full context)
Chapter 6: Richie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...true for Richie. Things got worse when the enormous white man nicknamed Hogjaw returned to Parchman. Hogjaw was a “killer” who had escaped Parchman once but was brought back. Richie wants... (full context)
Chapter 7: Leonie
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...The officer questions her, and as soon as Leonie admits that they are coming from Parchman he handcuffs her. Shortly after he handcuffs Misty, too, and tries to do the same... (full context)
Chapter 8: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...mother, and Jojo replies “No.” Richie says that he knows he (Richie) tried to escape Parchman and that he didn’t make it, but that he doesn’t know how he died and... (full context)
Chapter 9: Richie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...white settlers. Luckily, Richie never wakes up in the time he and River were at Parchman. Back then, River “had a woman,” a prostitute nicknamed the Sunshine Woman because she wore... (full context)
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Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
Before Richie was sent to Parchman, he and his siblings had once found the remains of a man who had been... (full context)
Chapter 10: Leonie
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...and the kids are the reason why Michael’s parents never came to visit him in Parchman. On the way, they drop off Misty, who is still annoyed about all the vomit... (full context)
Chapter 11: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Animals and Nature Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
...himself with them, considering that Mam was sick and Pop could never go back to Parchman. Richie tells Pop he sees his face every day, “like the sun,” but again Pop... (full context)
Chapter 13: Jojo
Family, Heritage, and Homecoming Theme Icon
Illness, Wounds, and Death Theme Icon
Feeding, Healing, and Care Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Miscegenation Theme Icon
...joined the lookout for Blue and Richie, ready to lynch them. Eventually, the men from Parchman found them. They cut off pieces of Blue’s body and skinned him alive. Pop knew... (full context)