What are examples of symbolism in "Chee's Daughter"?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Two major symbols develop the story: Chee's land and Old Man Fat's house and trading store. They symbolize the values of the traditional Navajo way of life and the loss of those values in modern life.

Chee's land, Little Canyon, is beautiful: "Springtime transformed the mesas. The peach trees in the canyon were shedding fragrance and pink blossoms . . . ."Chee loves the land; it sustains him in body and spirit just as it had sustained his people for generations. When his wife dies and he loses his daughter to her parents, Old Man Fat and his wife, as custom demanded, the land produces the crops that allow Chee to bring her back home.

Old Man Fat's place at Red Sands, however, is ugly. The store was built "like two log hogans side by side, with red gas pumps in front and a sign across tarpaper roofs." The house and outbuildings behind the store were unpainted, "squatted on the drab, treeless land." The old man had moved off the land and built his business next to a highway, visualizing money earned without effort. When a new highway diverted traffic, Old Man Fat lost his customers and sank into poverty with no natural resources to draw upon. His granddaughter became "just another mouth to feed," and he gladly gave her up.

Because Chee has remained true to his heritage, he is able to bring his daughter home to live well in Little Canyon. Because Old Man Fat had abandoned his heritage, he lives a miserable life surrounded by squalor.

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