Buried Child | Study Guide

Sam Shepard

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Course Hero. "Buried Child Study Guide." August 16, 2019. Accessed October 17, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Buried-Child/.


Course Hero, "Buried Child Study Guide," August 16, 2019, accessed October 17, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Buried-Child/.

Buried Child | Symbols


Cut Hair

When Bradley cuts Dodge's hair, it symbolizes his attempt to take away his father's strength and to replace him. As the play begins, Halie tells Dodge to cut his hair. Dodge refuses. In the story of Samson and Delilah, from the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible, Samson's uncut hair was the source of his strength. When he revealed this secret to Delilah, Samson lost his strength after his hair was cut. Dodge doesn't want to lose his strength by having Bradley, symbolic of the younger generation, cut his hair. He attempts to avert this by covering his head with a hat. However, Bradley sneaks in and cuts his hair anyway. He does so very roughly, causing injury. Thus, Bradley attempts to strip Dodge of what little strength he has.


Tilden brings in vegetables from his family's fields: corn in Act 1, carrots in Act 2. In Act 3 he isn't seen until the very end. When he is, he brings in the skeleton of a buried infant.

Halie asks Tilden, "What's the meaning of this corn?" The corn has many meanings. The vegetables symbolize the emergence—even blossoming—of the secrets the family has kept buried for all these years. Tilden buries Dodge in corn husks, symbolizing his death. When Dodge tells Tilden to put back the corn, which he believes is stolen, Tilden responds, "Once it's picked you can't put it back." This is symbolic of the irreversible nature of the family's sins. Dodge says that the field has been fallow, unable to produce crops, since the 1930s. He hasn't planted seeds in the fields since then. In Act 3 Shelly describes the old pictures of the family. She says, "There's a picture of ... a big farm ... Wheat. Corn." Then, she adds, "All the kids are standing out in the corn." When the family was prosperous, the crops were plentiful. However, there were signs of discontent even then, and the following year there were no crops. Once Vince arrives and Dodge confesses his crime and dies, the crops can bloom again.


"You know what it is, don't you? It's the rain!" Halie says as the play begins. This quote refers to the rain affecting Dodge's health. However, it also refers to the general effect the rain has on the characters, which is a cleansing effect. The play also ends with a quote about rain. "Good hard rain. Takes everything straight down deep to the roots," Halie says at the end of the play. Tilden has brought in the corpse of a murdered baby, and Halie has seen that the crops are growing. It has rained throughout the play. Secrets have been unearthed in that rain, secrets and vegetables and a baby. The rain represents cleansing, taking away the secrets and guilt that have haunted the family. The family has a deep, dark secret that has haunted them and caused their misfortune. In the play the rain washes the secret away and allows the crops to grow. Through the coming of rain the family experiences renewal.

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