Is there any symbolism in Aunt Grammy Lith? How does the author make you aware of symbolic actions, people, or objects?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Yes, there are a few symbols in the story.  Let us speak about a couple of them.  Considering this is a modern folktale of the Appalachian Mountains (where this eNotes Educator happens to live), it's is interesting to talk about these symbols.  Most specifically, there is a symbol of protection and a symbol for healing.

The first symbol is the charm from Nomey (Beth's mother) which symbolizes protection.  Found in the part of the story set in the past, this symbol has its roots in Appalachian folklore where charms and amulets are meant to protect people from certain vices.  Nomey is concerned because Casey's first wife perished soon after the wedding.  That first wife died in a kind of gruesome way:  after being impaled (in the face) by a tree branch. Further, Nomey is concerned because Casey's second wife died as well.  That second wife died in another strange accident:  a broken neck at the bottom of the ravine.   This is enough for Beth's mother, Nomey, and she gives Beth a charm to wear against the "hex" that Casey must have on him.

Beth's own sexuality is a symbol as well:  a symbol for the "cure."  Not only is Casey hexed (according to Nomey), but he is also "sick" with a desire for alcohol.  Casey needs a cure, and it comes from Beth's own beautiful sexuality and the desires of a strong woman for her man.  Beth's sexuality is the ultimate healing for Casey, and this is proven by the last scene of the story where the two are in the heat of passion.  How do we know that Beth has provided the cure?  Her "knowing smile" when husband and wife embrace at the end. 

In conclusion, it is important to note that the characters can be seen as symbols themselves.  Beth, as the strong an independent woman can be seen as the guard and protector.  Other women are symbols of temptation.  So, as you can see, this story is ripe with symbolism.

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