Carmen Maria Machado

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What is the symbolism of the green ribbon in “The Husband Stitch”?

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In “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado, the green ribbon seems to symbolize privacy. As a girl and as a woman, the narrator presents herself as routinely vulnerable to the actions and opinions of the people surrounding her. Early on, she tries to fit her desires with her perceived role as a “good girl from a good family.” The graphic account of her first sexual experience reinforces her fragility. “When he breaks me, I scream and cling to him like I am lost at sea,” says the narrator. The pregnancy also supports the idea that the narrator is ostensibly mutable. “My body changes in ways I do not expect,” she states.

What remains consistent for almost all of the story is the narrator’s attitude toward her ribbon. She doesn’t let her husband or her son touch it. Her husband insists that she tell him all of her secrets and that she let him know every part of her. Yet the narrator is steadfast in not disclosing anything of substance about the ribbon. “The ribbon is not a secret,” she informs him, “it’s just mine.” The guarded view of the ribbon suggests that the ribbon represents something that is beyond surveillance. It’s a part of her that’s off-limits and truly private.

The end might complicate the symbolism somewhat, as the husband unties the ribbon and it floats away from her body. However, as the husband still has no clue about what the ribbon means, it’s feasible to maintain that the ribbon remains private and not readily understandable.

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