How It Feels to Be Colored Me Questions and Answers
by Zora Neale Hurston

How It Feels to Be Colored Me book cover
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In "How It Feels To Be A Colored Me," what do each of the items in the paper bag represent (first-water diamond, empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, and rusty knifeblade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things to heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two, still a little fragrant)?

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Hurston imagines herself as a "brown bag"—a metaphor for her brown body—propped up against a wall "in company with other bags, white, red, and yellow." These other bags symbolize people of other races. Inside of the bag is "a jumble of small things priceless and worthless":

A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant.

The diamond represents something precious and unbreakable. It could be a symbol of Hurston's spirit. The empty spool, accompanied by "lengths of string," represents something of practical use that has been spent. The key goes to a door that no longer exists—a place where she once lived, perhaps. The old shoes were intended for places where she will never walk. The bent nail could be a physical example of...

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