Throughout the play, Tilden keeps bringing in vegetables from the backyard. First, he brings corn, which he husks in the living room. Then later, he brings in carrots, which he gives to Shelly to cut and peel. This imagery evokes that of a traditional working farm, a place where the crops are abundant and hands are never idle.
While the symbolism is never explored in-depth, at the end of Act 1, after Dodge has fallen asleep, Dodge's son, Bradley, comes in and shaves his head with a razor without his knowing. This is Dodge's worst fear, as he does not feel comfortable with his son cutting his hair, and when Bradley is done, it is clear that he has not even done a good job, as Dodge's scalp is cut and bleeding.
The play takes place in a very traditional but dilapidated family home in the Midwest. All of the action takes place inside the living room of the home, and in many ways, it physically symbolizes the family's experience. When Shelly and Vince first arrive, Shelly cannot stop laughing about how traditional and wholesome it all feels, comparing it to a Norman Rockwell painting or the Dick and Jane books. However, once they enter, they find that the all-American elements of the house itself are overshadowed by its dinginess and disrepair, and the dark secrets that it holds. It is the image of a defunct and faded American farmhouse, a place where dreams have died.
At the end of the play, Tilden comes into the house carrying the corpse of the long-buried child. While he has spent much of the rest of the play bringing in vegetables, he now brings out something much darker, but which he also plucked from the ground. It is a horrifying image that reflects the dramatic arc of the play, in which characters dredge up their past and their horrifying secrets.
Buried Child Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Buried Child is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.