What is the symbolism and significance of the pumpkin seeds in Valley Song?

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The pumpkin seeds in Valley Song can come to symbolize many things within the story, such as the growth of one's dreams and ambitions and the growth of a country during a period of social change. A seed is the beginning process of transformation and requires cultivation in order for the desired result to be achieved, just like dreams and cultural systems.

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The play opens with the Author, a white man in his 60s, holding a handful of pumpkin seeds from pumpkins he grew in the Karoo region of South Africa the year before. The pumpkin seeds are from the "Flat White Boer" variety that is native to South Africa. Buks, whose full name is Abraam Jonkers, is a black man who also plants pumpkin seeds. He plants them carefully, and has planted many seeds in his 76 years as a tenant farmer. 

The seeds symbolize the men's hope in the land and their delight in watching the crops in the Karoo grow year after year. The significance of the seeds is that both white and black men delight in planting the seeds and watching them grow, so black and white men share similar dreams and hopes. The land in South Africa offers a way to unite the races. 

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The pumpkin seeds symbolize dreams.  Like seeds, the dreams have a chance to grow into reality, but it is a long and difficult process.

Just as pumpkin seeds need the richness of the land to grow into pumpkins, dreams need the right conditions to grow.  Anyone can have seeds, but they won’t necessarily be able to grow pumpkins. 

The pumpkins are also unique to the region in South Africa where the play takes place.  Just as the author wrote the play, he grew the pumpkin.  The seeds of the play come from him.  He recognizes that “a girl can’t make adventure and romance out of pumpkin seeds.”

In my little village in the Sneeuberg Mountains spring is now well underway and everyone has already planted their pumpkin seeds. (p. 1)

This is significant because as the play is starting, the dreams have already been cultivated.  The play does not start as the seeds are planted.  Ultimately, when the play starts events have already started and there is no way to alter them from their course.

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Explain the symbolism and significance of the pumpkin seeds in Valley Song by Athol Fugard.

The idea of growth and fertility is central to the entire play and it applies to people as well as agriculture. Athol Fugard begins Valley Song with the Author holding the pumpkin seeds to indicate that this elderly white man is a farmer, not just a writer. He understands and values his country as a person who is directly connected with the land as fertile soil, not merely as territory. The pumpkins that people grow in the Karoo area not only stand for sustenance that they get from the land, but they are also a local item, so the fruit symbolizes the distinct regions as well as the whole country. Furthermore, the majority of the farmers are black or “colored,” so the white man is showing his solidarity with people who have previously been divided by race—including the important character of Jonkers or Buks. Ironically, seeds that people classified as nonwhite grow have the name "Flat White Boer."

The idea of ongoing growth is contained in these seeds as well. Now that the country has moved away from its racist policies, a new society will emerge. The Author tells the audience that the seeds have been planted and that “spring is … well underway.” At the same time, however, these everyday crops can only do so much. They represent potential that must be nurtured, like Veronica’s dreams of “adventure and romance,” which cannot be made only out of pumpkin seeds. A beginning is just that, and the longer-term vision the people share will require constant care.

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Explain the symbolism and significance of the pumpkin seeds in Valley Song.

In Valley Song, the pumpkin seeds are meant to represent dreams and tie in to the play’s themes of cycles of change and miracles. Just as seeds can grow into something tangible such as a plant, tree, or fruit, a dream can also grow into something tangible if enough time and hard work are dedicated to that dream.

The pumpkin seeds grow from the land, just as the “Author” and Buks have grown from the same land; however, one of the men has turned out to be an author, someone who takes stories and turns them into plays, while the other is a farmer who takes seeds and turns them in to pumpkins. And, just as not everyone can meld words into literature, not everyone can take seeds and grow them into pumpkins. Either fate could be construed as miraculous.

For the people of the Karoo Valley, the pumpkins provide hope for a better future, and the cycle of their growth is similar to the cycle of growth (or lack thereof) of the characters. Veronica has dreams that she wants to nurture into reality, just as Buks has pumpkin seeds that he grows into actual pumpkins. But, Veronica’s dream is to leave home and go out into the greater world beyond the valley. Buks is opposed to this and feels like people always leave him, since Veronica’s mother also left home. He is in a cycle of abandonment, just as Veronica is following a similar cycle of her mother, wanting to leave home and grow beyond the valley.

Works Cited

Fugard, Athol. Valley Song. Theatre Communications Group, 1998.

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