Small Great Things

Small Great Things

Mama's Scarf Symbol Analysis

Mama's Scarf Symbol Icon

Mama's favorite scarf—a red one that Ruth describes as being soft like a rabbit, and which Ruth and Adisa have coveted since childhood—initially acts as a symbol for Mama herself. Ruth often strokes the scarf when she visits her mother, as it makes her think of Mama and the warmth and support she gets from her. After Mama's death, the scarf begins to take on a broader meaning. When it disappears right after Mama's death, Ruth initially has to rely on Mama's church friends to give her the same sense of comfort and support that the scarf once brought her on its own. Later, during Ruth's trial, she begins to see the scarf (which Adisa finds) as a more wide-reaching representation of her black community and the support that the community is willing to provide: though it's unclear if the turnout of church ladies in the gallery influenced the jury or not, their presence—and Mama's symbolic presence, in the form of the scarf—impress upon Ruth that she's not alone and will always have a community to call on.

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Mama's Scarf Symbol Timeline in Small Great Things

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mama's Scarf appears in Small Great Things. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...brought her to work and settled her on Sam Hallowell's couch with saltines and her scarf. Ruth was shocked when Mr. Hallowell himself came in and started asking Ruth about school,... (full context)
Chapter 17, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...casket, and people shuffle past, looking at Mama. Ruth wanted to bury Mama in her scarf, but she couldn't find it. When the service begins, Ruth notices that Kennedy and an... (full context)
Chapter 25, Ruth
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...realizes that she's lost control of her future. Adisa comforts her and then pulls Mama's scarf out of her pocket and gives it to Ruth. (full context)
Chapter 27, Ruth
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...that Kennedy is the only person who could've made the jury understand. She strokes Mama's scarf as Odette begins her closing argument. Odette says that, racial issues aside, Ruth didn't do... (full context)
Chapter 30, Ruth
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Ruth remembers that she forgot Mama's scarf in the courtroom. She runs back to get it and stands alone with the scarf.... (full context)