47 pages 1 hour read

Judith Ortiz Cofer

American History

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1993

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Symbols & Motifs

The Old Woman’s Flowers

The old woman who lived in Eugene’s house tended the flowers in her yard until her husband died in June 1963. The flowers symbolize the love and care that the woman put into her home and marriage, which Elena observed and sought to imitate, wanting to “climb down into the yard” and water the flowers that the woman had tended to lovingly for so many years (20).

After Eugene moves in, Elena notices that El Building blocks the sun from shining on Eugene’s house, except for “the tiny square of earth the old woman planted with flowers” (22). It is as though the patch of garden symbolizes hope, particularly for Elena, who admires the beauty and color the tiny garden provides in an otherwise dirty and grim-looking place. Eugene’s father mowing down the flowers is therefore foreshadowing—a loss of beauty and hope that anticipates the end of Elena’s fantasy of living with Eugene as the old woman had lived with her husband.

Gray Snow

On the day of President Kennedy’s assassination, it is “a cold gray day” in Paterson (19). The color gray recurs throughout the story to indicate the city’s grimness and its industrial dirtiness. When