49 pages 1 hour read

Jason Reynolds

The Boy in the Black Suit

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2015

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Symbols & Motifs


Photographs symbolize reality and beauty throughout the book, supporting the theme of “Recognizing and Acknowledging the Beauty in Life.” As a repeated motif, photographs also support the theme “Finding Comfort in Times of Grief.”

Early in the novel, Matt looks at a photo taken of his parents at Coney Island. He is in the photo with them, crying because he is afraid of the sand. The photo triggers memories of his mother enjoying the photo; she recalled the beach day fondly, despite Matt’s tears. Matt realizes he never thought much about that photo, though it was taped above the kitchen sink for years; now that his mother is gone, however, “[…] all of a sudden it seemed special. Us as a family” (30). Later in the novel, he intends to use a symbolic photograph he takes of the Sempervivum to acknowledge life’s beauty, wanting to display the picture of the plant near the family photo.

Photographs are important symbols of the recognition and acknowledgement of life’s beauty for Mr. Ray and Love as well. Mr. Ray shares his basement with Matt, where he collected and displayed newspaper clippings and photos with details and images of two things he lost: his basketball career and his young wife.