What does the ship symbolize in Trouble, and how does it bring depth to the story?

The ship could symbolize the futility of trying to avoid trouble or run from problems. The ship brings depth to the story because it helps contextualize the racial strife.

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The ship could symbolize the impossibility of avoiding trouble. At the start of the novel, Gary D. Schmidt muses on trouble. To emphasize the importance of trouble, Schmidt spells it Trouble. The capitalization suggests that this is no ordinary noun; it's particularly serious and should be avoided, which is why Henry’s family moves to Maine.

Of course, Trouble locates Henry and his family in Maine. Trouble manifests in Franklin’s death, his problematic behavior before his death, AAPI hate, and the ship. In a way, the ship symbolizes the link between the central themes of the novel. As the ship was a slave ship, it represents prejudice. Since the ship’s appearance compels a reckoning with history, it also represents how Henry, Louisa, and their dad must deal with issues that they’ve buried or failed to confront.

The ship brings depth to the story because it contextualizes the racial strife of Henry’s town. The narrative of the ship shows that racism has been an ever-present problem in the United States, not something that just pops up from time to time. The formal prohibition of slavery has not produced peace, but different forms of violent conflict. People continue to destroy due to racism and intolerance, as the burning of Mr. Chouan’s small business demonstrates.

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