Coming of Age in Mississippi | Study Guide

Anne Moody

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Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the symbols in Anne Moody's memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Coming of Age in Mississippi | Symbols


Food and Farming

Food symbolizes self-sufficiency, self-determination, and social status. The Moody family members feel more confident when they supply their own food. Raymond dreams of being an independent farmer, and Anne works to earn money for staples like milk and beans. Food demonstrates the difference in economic status between the Moodys and their white employers. While the Moody children take peanut butter biscuits to school, Anne's employer Mrs. Claiborne eats meat and vegetables. Anne can see how despite her family's fierce determination, the food they eat shows the discrimination they still experience.

Farming represents a Southern rural agrarian way of life and identity. Mama and Raymond are "hooked to the soil." Gardening is one of the few times Anne sees her mother happy. Though farming gives a sense of purpose to her family, Anne notices how little control Mama and Raymond have over their crops, and how they're unable to farm their way out of poverty.


Clothing represents transformation, independence, and positive change. Key transitions and moments in Anne's life are often symbolized by a new outfit. Her baptism dress demonstrates her membership in a church community and her connection to black churches. Her homecoming gown shows her growth into a respected, confident young woman. The new clothes she buys after a summer in New Orleans in Part 2, Chapter 15 show her increased desire for an independent adult life. Her graduation cap and gown demonstrate her hard-won accomplishments. Anne's attached to her clothes and the investment in herself they represent. When she leaves her Centreville family home for good, she makes a point of returning for her clothes, despite the risk of confrontation.

Music and Spirituals

Music represents heritage and pride. Music and spirituals, or religious songs associated with African American Christian communities, show the unity, strength, and passion of the civil rights movement. Activists sing in jail, while marching, and on the bus to Washington. The songs "We Shall Overcome" and "Oh, Freedom" become particularly important to Anne. She hears the strengths and the limitations of the movement expressed in the lyrics. Though the songs provide needed inspiration, they focus on a distant afterlife instead of the here and now. The lyrics to "Old Folks at Home" and "Dixie" inspire Centreville's nostalgia for an older version of the South, complete with racism and subordination of black Southerners. These songs show Anne the challenges the movement will face in Mississippi.

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