Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

by

Ray Lawler

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Summer of the Seventeenth Doll can help.
Kewpie Dolls Symbol Icon

Every layoff season, Roo brings Olive a kewpie doll. Kewpie dolls are collectible baby dolls that were created in 1912 and were immensely popular until the middle of the twentieth century. Olive sees the dolls as a symbol of Roo's love for her. However, the dolls also symbolize Olive's willful immaturity, as well as the immaturity of her relationship with Roo. Emma in particular deems them childish and Olive's love for them even more so. When Olive denies Roo's proposal of marriage and he destroys the seventeenth kewpie doll, he symbolically destroys their youthful relationship in his own mind. Destroying the kewpie doll allows Roo to truly grow up, while hanging onto the dolls keeps Olive from having to face the reality that the layoff seasons of her youth are over.

Kewpie Dolls Quotes in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll quotes below all refer to the symbol of Kewpie Dolls. 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:
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Samuel French, Inc. edition of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll published in 2011.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

No, they're not. Someone's taking special care. Other times they've been pretty, but this one's beautiful. You can see.

Related Characters: Olive Leech (speaker), Roo Webber
Related Symbols: Kewpie Dolls
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Gettin' a bit crowded, maybe you should start upstairs.

Related Characters: Roo Webber (speaker), Olive Leech
Related Symbols: Kewpie Dolls
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

I started off trying to fix up what they broke. After that, I couldn't seem to stop. Emma always sez tryin' to shift heavy furniture on your own's a sign you're crooked on the world. Wonder what spring cleanin' at two o'clock in the morning means?

Related Characters: Olive Leech (speaker), Pearl Cunningham, Emma Leech
Related Symbols: Kewpie Dolls
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

All right. But the least you can do is to see what you've got as it really is. Take a look at this place now you've pulled down the decorations—what's so wonderful about it? Nothing! It's just an ordinary little room that's a hell of a lot the worse for the wear. And if you'd only come out of your day dream long enough to take a grown up look at the lay off, that's what you'd find with the rest of it.

Related Characters: Pearl Cunningham (speaker), Olive Leech
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Summer of the Seventeenth Doll LitChart as a printable PDF.
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll PDF

Kewpie Dolls Symbol Timeline in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

The timeline below shows where the symbol Kewpie Dolls appears in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...five, she was jealous of the gifts that Barney and Roo brought, especially the kewpie doll on a walking stick. To placate her, Barney and Roo brought a walking stick for... (full context)
Gender and Work Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...They call everyone into the living room to eat, and Barney passes Roo the seventeenth doll to give to Olive. When Roo gives it to Olive, she cries out happily. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...his back is, but Roo tells Olive to ask Barney. Olive picks up the seventeenth doll and says that she thinks this doll is dressed better than the others—it's beautiful, while... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Johnnie motions to the kewpie dolls and asks what they're for. Bubba explains that Roo gives one to Olive every year,... (full context)
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Gender and Work Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...Nancy. Barney curses at Roo. He grabs the nearest vase, which holds the seventeenth kewpie doll, and tries to throw it at Roo's head. Roo catches it and throws it to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...room. The room has been cleared and tidied of any decoration, including all the kewpie dolls. Pearl tells Olive she heard her cleaning late last night. Olive explains that she started... (full context)
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...and notices that Barney is back. He looks the room over and remarks that the dolls are gone. Irritated, Olive says she took everything down to dust and the birds and... (full context)
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
...asks about Olive. Emma says that Olive is a fool. She drags out the seventeenth doll from a cupboard and says that Olive was up in the middle of the night,... (full context)
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Gender and Work Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...fall apart when she touched them, but she admits that she didn't put the kewpie dolls back out because she was angry. Roo softly tells Olive that it's silly to treat... (full context)
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Gender and Work Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
...several places they can go and tries to turn Roo's gaze away from the seventeenth doll, which sits on the piano. Roo, breathing heavily, picks up the doll. Barney continues throwing... (full context)