In Green Grass, Running Water, what is the significance of the fringed jacket ?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The fringed jacket is a gift that is given to Lionel on the occasion of his birthday by the Lone Ranger, Coyote, Bursum and Ishmael. It is clear that this fringed jacket represents Lionel's cultural heritage and his Native American identity. Given his struggles with life as he hits forty years, this gift is signficant as it acts as a powerful reminder of who Lionel is and his cultural upbringing. Note what the four elderly individuals say about the gift and what Lionel thinks of it himself:

Lionel held it up. It was a jacket. A leather jacket. With leather fringe. Lionel slipped on one arm and was surprised how soft and warm the jacket felt.

"Fits real good... It's pretty old... But these things never wear out."

Symbolically, the jacket is appealing because of its softness and warmth, but also note how it fits Lionel very well, and in spite of its age, it will never wear out. These comments reveal the symbolic significance of this fringed jacket, as it relates directly to the cultural identity and background of Lionel as he comes to understand more about himself and his culture through the course of the novel. Even though his culture is old, it will endure, and it "fits" Lionel very well, just as the jacket does. Lionel comes to understand the importance of his culture for his own identity as a shaping force in his life.

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