Small Great Things

Small Great Things


Jodi Picoult

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Small Great Things makes teaching easy.

The Photograph Symbol Analysis

The Photograph Symbol Icon

When Ava attends Mama's funeral with Kennedy, she offers Ruth a photograph of her as a child with her black maid, Beattie. Ruth spends much of the novel bitter and angry at the way the Hallowells speak about Mama like she's family, while they, in her estimation, continue to abuse her willingness to work until her death. The photograph, however—which shows Ava tenderly putting her hand on Beattie's cheek—very clearly indicates that while one's definition of family may differ, love can transcend skin color or employment status, and can exist in spite of all manner of boundaries. In this way, the photograph represents the possibility for love and familial relationships to flourish even in unexpected places.

The Photograph Quotes in Small Great Things

The Small Great Things quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Photograph. 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:
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Chapter 17, Ruth Quotes

It is a picture of a Black woman wearing a maid's uniform, holding a little girl in her arms. The girl has hair as light as snow, and her hand is pressed against her caregiver's cheek in shocking contrast. There's more than just duty between them. There's pride. There's love. "I didn't know your mother. But, Ruth—she didn't waste her life."

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Ava (speaker), Kennedy McQuarrie, Mama, Beattie
Related Symbols: The Photograph
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
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Small Great Things PDF

The Photograph Symbol Timeline in Small Great Things

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Photograph appears in Small Great Things. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 17, Ruth
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...away for someone else and was too busy to finish it. Ava takes an old photograph out and hands it to Ruth. It's of her as a child with Beattie, and... (full context)