What could the Joshua tree symbolize?

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Perhaps the most helpful quote to understand what the Joshua tree symbolizes comes from Jeannette's mother:

"You’d be destroying what makes it special," she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”

While enduring harsh conditions, Joshua trees are known for growing very slowly and forming unusual...

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Perhaps the most helpful quote to understand what the Joshua tree symbolizes comes from Jeannette's mother:

"You’d be destroying what makes it special," she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”

While enduring harsh conditions, Joshua trees are known for growing very slowly and forming unusual shapes. Jeannette's mother points out that the beauty of the Joshua tree comes from its struggle as well as its strength. Growing up, Jeannette and her family endure many of their own harsh conditions. The Joshua tree could symbolize her own unique growth and strength, shaped by hardship.

The Joshua tree also functions as metaphor for her family and their dynamic and progression. While they're in the desert, we've become aware that they move around quite often and will likely continue to move without warning. In a way, unpredictable movement is the most stable and defining aspect of their family unit. A Joshua tree is also defined by certain yet erratic movement with the wind and by its staying power.

Throughout the memoir, we see various desert plants used to represent Jeanette's family and how it evolves overtime. One example is the cactus. Early on, Jeanette describes her family as poor, often without enough to eat. Much like a cactus, her family must sustain itself for long periods of time on very little nourishment. However, the Joshua tree is meant to stand out as a symbol. To Jeannette, it is bare, twisted, and "ugly." Her mother finds it beautiful and often paints it. Like her family, the Joshua tree is a unique product of its environment because of the way it has persevered, instead of falling victim to the dysfunction it grew within.

While its "ugly" appearance may tell us something about the Joshua tree's surroundings, its appearance cannot reveal how deep the roots go or its true strength. The same can be said of Jeannette's family and Jeannette herself. Their existence starts out as a symbol of dysfunction but evolves into a symbol of strength.

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