Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

Pearl's Black Dresses Symbol Analysis

Pearl's Black Dresses Symbol Icon

In contrast to the kewpie dolls that symbolize Olive's immaturity, Pearl's clothing choices—particularly her black dresses in the first and third acts—symbolize Pearl's very intentional act of maturity. Pearl desperately wants to be seen as and treated like a proper lady, and she treats her black dresses as a costume that allows her to assume the role of that proper lady. This suggests that both propriety and impropriety are costumes of sorts that the characters can choose to wear (or not wear). At the end of the play, Pearl's return to her black dress is a telling symbol of her disillusionment with the entirety of the layoff season. By reassuming her outward appearance of propriety, Pearl refuses a final time to see the magic of the season.

Pearl's Black Dresses Quotes in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll quotes below all refer to the symbol of Pearl's Black Dresses. 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 3, Scene 1 Quotes

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:
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Pearl's Black Dresses Symbol Timeline in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

The timeline below shows where the symbol Pearl's Black Dresses 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
...canes) in a decorated living room while Pearl, an older woman dressed in her "good black" dress, sits on the sofa, smokes, and reads a magazine. Bubba begins to stare at... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Tradition Theme Icon
The next morning, Pearl stands in the living room dressed in black again, waiting sadly for a taxi. Olive enters the living room with a cup of... (full context)
Youth, Maturity, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Idealization vs. Reality Theme Icon
Gender and Work Theme Icon
...question. He turns to Pearl, looks her up and down, and tells her that her black dress is the most respectable dress of her wardrobe. He says that he doesn't mind... (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
...insists that Vera will grow up to be visibly respectable even when she's not wearing black. Barney gives in and says he's not going to stop Pearl from being a strict... (full context)