The Wool Pooh is the novel's most prominent symbol. For Kenny, the Wool Pooh symbolizes death, acting much like a grim reaper figure. Kenny encounters the Wool Pooh twice -- once when he nearly drowns at Collier's Landing, and again at the bombed church. Even at the end of the novel, he is convinced of the existence of the Wool Pooh. This symbol has made Kenny more aware of death, while before he appeared to harbor a typically childlike illusion of invincibility.
Kenny's toy dinosaurs are an important symbol of his childhood innocence. Early in the novel Kenny plays with them all the time, and even makes light of war and violence with them through his game of Nazis vs. Americans. After his trip to Birmingham, though, when he sees brutality, hatred, and violence at firsthand, he realizes that these are not parts of life that should be incorporated into his game. Giving his dinosaurs to Rufus represents a shift from boyhood to maturity. He is giving up his innocence -- although in the end he decides that he needs at least half of his dinosaurs back, because he is not ready to grow up completely yet.
The Brown Bomber
The Brown Bomber is much more than just a car; it is a physical representation of the Watson family itself. The car has been with the Watsons through thick and thin, and it performs beautifully during its biggest challenge yet: the trip to Birmingham. The Watsons feel safe and secure inside their old, rickety car, just as they feel safe and secure when they act together, as a supportive family. The Watsons, indeed, would not be the same without their trusted Brown Bomber.
The little angel that Joey recieves from her neighbor may seem small and insignificant; however, as soon as Mrs. Davidson associates the angel with Joey, Joey becomes that angel to Kenny. While he is struggling against the water at Collier's Landing, Kenny thinks that he sees an image of Joey looking just like an angel. Kenny also acknowledges the existence of angels at the very end of the novel; however, he says that angels are a sign of love, and that they are there when family members express their love for one another.
The dove is a universal literary symbol for peace, and this is exactly how the dove functions in this novel. Byron throws a cookie at a dove outside of Mr. Mitchell's store, inadvertently killing it -- so that, in a way, Byron has just "killed" peace. Byron is affected by the death of this bird because he realizes the significance of his action, at least in some respects. While he may not recognize the dove as a common literary symbol, he has killed something innocent and peaceful and he cannot fix his mistake.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Underneath Byron's hard exterior, he feels for the vulnerable bird. He feels compassion for the fragile bird that has done him no harm. We get the sense that Byron might be suppressing his sensitive side as he throws up at the thought he has...
Li was a bully. He uses Kenny and steals his dinosaur. Li tries to control Kenny when they play together. By contrast Rufus and Kenny play well together. Rufus never minds being the "bad guy" when they play and they treat each other with respect....