By mnwltd, Updated
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""You've got to do it! You've got to!" I kept talking to myself as I dug my hand into the ashes. "I'm not a thief. I'm not a thief. It's only dirt to them. And it fire to us. Let them laugh at me" And I did not return home till my pail was full of coal." p8
" Ach! I was thinking to myself, if only we didn't have to pull out the torn bedding from its hiding place to sleep the rages to dress ourselves if only we didn't have to dirty up the new whiteness of the oilcloth with the eating, then it would shine in our house always like a palace. It's only when poor people begin to eat and sleep and dress themselves that the ugliness and dirt begins to creep out of their black holes." p38
""Poems of Poverty" cried Mother. "Ain't it black enough to be poor, without yet making poems about it?" p67
She has to pick through the ashes to get fire for the family she has to find dirt. Her mother asks her to do a job she dislikes cause its all she can do at her age. It also reinforces the dirt in the story that she cannot escape it she looks for it then goes home each night to live in it.
" My head was clear, and I looked with full eyes on the thick dirt that I had grabbed in such anxious haste. There were only a few rusty nails on the door for my clothes. The table was shaky and the one chair was patched with boards. Against this heart-choking dinginess flashed Mashah's shining little palace. Her place was once worse than this, and she polished it up. p162
Saras older sister is trying to impress a man and has her sisters clean the house in order to make them seem like they are not dirty that they have pride in their small dwellings. They clean and cover the dirt and will live in the happiness of cleanliness knowing that they will soon return to the dirt as it foreshadows what is to become of the sisters love.
"Maybe if I could only live like other and look like other, they wouldn't pick on me so much. A grey face. A stone face. Turned to stone from not living. A black shirtwaist, high up to the neck. Not a breath of colour. Everything about me was gray, drab, dead. I was only twenty-three and I dressed myself like an old lady in mourning." p181
They are comparing poverty with dirt throughout the novel and they compare the love letters between Fanta and her poet boyfriend. The father reads the letters and says that the poems are a disgrace and she should not be with him cause a writer could not provide for a family. This is also dirt cause it is a low point for Fanta.
"Through the window, I saw him walk quickly, with his head bent, through the rain. Quick as lightning I seized my umbrella and ran after him, crying, " Mr. Edman- Mr. Edmund! You mustn't get wet. Remember, you have a cold. Here's my umbrella." He stopped. He turned around. "Miss Smolinsky, you mustn't bother so about me. I don't like it."" p229
She moves away from home having very little and has to start all over. She starts work at a launder and has to work hard all day and goes to school at night and studies after that making her day long. She spends her first day off cleaning her own apartment to make it less dirty, dingy, and brighter. It symbolizes that she came from dirt things got better and then she went out on her own and had to start from the dirt again.
When Sara moves to college she sees all the other girls in bright colored dresses with shoes and accessories to match. She goes to class the next day and they all have more then out fits like it and that becomes he goal is to work hard enough to save up and buy one of the bright colored dresses. She makes the decision as she looks into the mirror and sees her self in the dirt and dark black dress that makes her look like a lot women in morning of her husband.
Sara meets a Professor and thinks that she may love him and when he moves back from summer break she is able to find where he is living and move into the same building. The night prior to when the quote takes place she brings something warm for him to drink which make shim uneasy but he takes it. The next morning she is was waiting for him but missed him cause the rain made it harder for her to hear him close his door. She ran after him to save him from becoming dirty by the rain but in the process she gets wet and has to live with the dirt that day.
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