The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

Chapter 14

why does the wool pool show up

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The Wool Pooh is one of the most obvious symbols in this story. Since the Wool Pooh functions much as the grim reaper does in contemporary culture, it represents death. Death is not something Kenny has ever thought about or encountered before; naturally, he does not believe in it at first. Byron presents the idea of death in an absurd way, but there were other warnings (aside from Byron's) and Kenny refused to heed them because he believed that death could not touch him. But the moment he begins to get pulled under the water, Kenny sees the Wool Pooh and realizes that his life can be in danger if he makes reckless decisions.

The lake incident appears to have a profound effect on Byron, too, even though he is not the one who nearly loses his life. This is the first time Byron has shown signs of true affection and compassion for his little brother; we have seen him display strong feelings once before, but his feelings were for a dead bird. Byron truly does care about Kenny, but he only realizes the depth of his attachment when it is nearly too late. He feels somewhat responsible for the incident, too, since he knew that Kenny was going to the forbidden area but made no serious attempts to stop him or supervise him. The trip to Alabama is already changing Byron in profound ways -- exactly as it was intended to do.