43 pages 1 hour read

Richard Peck

The Teacher's Funeral

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade

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Symbols & Motifs

The Pointer

Tansy is outraged when she sees that Miss Myrt is set to be buried with her teacher’s pointer, a “fine polished maple shaft with a brass bullet tip” (45). Tansy objects to this, knowing that the pointer is valuable and “there’s plenty of use left in it” (45). Tansy knows that she can utilize the pointer more effectively—and be a better teacher—than Miss Myrt. When Tansy takes the pointer, she assumes Miss Myrt’s position and authority. Russell notes, “The pointer has passed” (78), signifying that Tansy has taken on an adult role. The pointer signifies a change in Tansy’s life and represents Tansy’s power as teacher. Miss Myrt did not use the pointer for whupping, and neither does Tansy, but she does use it as a symbol of her control.

Tansy threatens Pearl, her most unruly student, with the pointer. When Pearl initially tests Tansy’s authority, claiming “you’re not the boss of me, Tansy” (80), Tansy advances on Pearl and brandishes the pointer “this close to her nose” (80). Tansy wins the challenge and establishes her dominance over Pearl. Tansy also utilizes the pointer to boost her self-confidence. When the letter from the superintendent arrives announcing his visit, Tansy “went pale and gripped her pointer” (163).