All Over but the Shoutin’ Symbols and Motifs

Rick Bragg

All Over but the Shoutin’

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All Over but the Shoutin’ Symbols and Motifs

Redbirds Fighting

“I used to stand amazed and watch the redbirds fight.  They would flash and flutter like scraps of burning rags through a sky unbelievably blue, swirling soaring, plummeting.  On the ground they were a blur of feathers stabbing for each other’s eyes…Once, when I was little, I watched one of the birds attack its own image in the side mirror of a truck…It was as if the bird hated what it saw there, and discovered too late all it was seeing was itself” (xi). 

The author starts his narrative about growing up poor in the South with this image.  The birds appeared to fight each other and even an image of themselves for no reason other than a sort of deep hatred for themselves and others.  The author imagines that the people he grew up with, both in his family and his broader community,were like these violent birds.  They were powerless against a socioeconomic system that exploited them, so they fought with each other with great intensity.

House and Home 

Bragg knew that his mother hadalways longed for a house that would be a real home, a safe and warm place for herself and her family, a refuge from the harsh reality of being poor.

Once it seemed that dream might become reality when her husband moved her and the three boys into an old house he had rented.  It was, however, a terrible disappointment.  “I believe that if I would have listened very carefully, I could have heard my mother’s heart break and tinkle down in pieces on the warped floor.  She did not say anything, of course.  She never said anything.  It was just one more broken promise, one more sharp slap to her pride.  But if that was all she had to endure, she could” (53).

Bragg does his best to make his mother’s dream come true.  He saves his money and buys her a real house with a yard and woods and a working furnace.  And his mother is finally happy in her home.

Bragg was born in 1959.  In that time, owning a home was the essence of the…

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