What is the significance of the scene with Nelly running through the wild flowers in Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The scene with Nelly running through the wild flowers takes place in Chapter 11, when she, Pascal, Gideon, Gladness, and Mr. Freedman arrive at their "forty acres." To be landowners is a concept beyond belief for the newly freed slaves, and they have compared their quest from the very beginning to going to Heaven. Nelly and the others use Biblical references liberally in developing and communicating their understanding of the world, and to them, their own forty acres is like the Promised Land.

It is actually Gladness who first sees the field of wild flowers and runs joyfully through them; Nelly joins her a few moments later. The author describes the blissful scene, saying,

"Gladness...suddenly...squealed and ran into the waist-high wildflowers. 'Flowers,' she screamed, 'pink and yellow and blue and white.'..Arms raised, she swirled her long skirt. Nelly, laughing, ran into the wildflowers after her."

The joyful scene is symbolic of the great joy one might experience upon reaching heaven. The flowers and the children signify innocence and purity, as well as beauty, freedom, and life. The myriad colors of the flowers might also signify harmony, and hope. The slaves, who have lived until this moment downtrodden because of their color, have hope that, on this new land, they will be released from the bondage and ostracism associated with the color of their skin.