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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 428

Hidden Abuse and Family Dysfunction

Boy, Snow, Bird is a modern fairy tale set in 1950s America. It explores issues of race, color, and the social phenomenon of "passing."

Boy, the protagonist and narrator of part one, is a white teenaged girl with an abusive father. They live in a small town where everyone knows each other. It is a picture-perfect, cookie-cutter type of town in which all the residents seem to enjoy productive middle-class lives. Every neighbor has a craft: this one makes his living in woodworking and that one makes his living by painting houses. Everyone in the community enjoys his labor and has enough money to take care of his family. Boy enjoys school and has fun hanging out with the neighbors' kids. Yet, within the confines of her home, Boy suffers at the hands of her dysfunctional, abusive father. He beats her severely, and his fits of rage are erratic and unpredictable. No one else knows, and Boy lives in terror. This terror is maintained and reinforced by her isolation; she is afraid to disclose what goes on in her home because all her friends and neighbors seem to live such perfect lives.

The Horrors of Racism

In part two of the novel, Boy marries and conceives a child with her husband, Arturo. When she gives birth to a dark-skinned baby, it becomes clear that Arturo is passing for white. Arturo, describes the horrors of growing up "colored." He explains that as a young person, he believed that life could be better for him and his family. However, as he grew older and continued to experience a continuous onslaught of racially motivated violence, he began to lose hope that he could ever enjoy a better life so long as he was "colored." He made the painful choice to cut off all family ties and pass as a white man. He carries great pain and shame around his personal history.

Reflection and Personal Identity

Many characters mention mirrors repeatedly. Boy and Bird comment on how they feel when they look at themselves in the mirror. Mirrors serve as a symbol for characters' ability to see themselves reflected in others. Because many of the characters are hiding parts of themselves or are lying about their identities, it becomes difficult for them to even know or remember who they really are. In order to develop healthy identity, we have to be rooted in authentic relationships with others. Because many characters are stuck in abusive or inauthentic relationships, they are not always able to establish healthy personal identities.

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