The Family Value Portrayed with Imagery in The Century Quilt

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In the poem “The Century Quilt” Marilyn Nelson Waniek uses imagery, symbolism, and tone to capture the families heritage and love, while also reconciling on her past memories. The hope to keep the families history within them forever is the main concept that is stated throughout the poem. In the beginning of the poem Marilyn uses her Meema’s blanket to emphasize the memories with her and her sister when they used to “wrap {themselves} at play in its folds and be chieftains and princesses.” (Waniek 10-11) This creates a happy but nostalgic tone because this will never appear in her life again, but brings happiness whenever this moment was thought about. But now she has found a “quilt” to build a new memory that will live on ideally forever.

When Marilyn explains that her and her sister, “Fell asleep under army green, issued to Daddy by Supply.” (Waniek 3-4) The Army green color in the blanket symbolizes their dad, and how he was fighting for their country at a time when they were younger. Not only does she use the sense of color to get the image across, she also uses color to symbolize the family members that are now present in her quilt as well. There is “Six Van Dyke brown squares, two white ones, and one square the yellowbrown of Mama’s cheeks.” (Waniek 15-18) The yellow brown is the color that is imagined whenever Marilyn thinks of her mother, and that color now sits on the quilt as a square symbolising that relationship between them, and her mother as an individual. This quote also shows the biracial views by using tones of brown and white meaning her Meema’s “grandfather’s white family”. ( Waniek 26) The colors show the heritage and how family mattered more than racial standpoints, which would normally be expected when reading a poem that took place earlier when racial feuds did occur. But the level of a strong family connection is shown when they are enjoying themselves like “When their father came home from his store they cranked up the pianola and all of the beautiful sisters giggled and danced.” (Waniek 28-30) Not only does this come through as love, but the use of imagery that is portraying a memorable moment is the most important. It is through Meema’s life so readers get background on a good starting foundation of how Marilyn hopes her future would be like. Which leads to the last sentence in the poem stating that Marilyn will call it “The Century Quilt”. (Waniek 45) Where over a lifetime starting from Meema eventually growing to Marilyn, provokes that every starting foundation grows into a century and that's ideal in this poem especially to Marilyn when she wants the history to be remembered forever.

Overall through the use of imagery, tone and symbolism the poem showed a level of family value that's undeniable between them. And the significance of the quilt and blanket gives off an undeniable success and well being in the families future, due to the loving past of Meema’s blanket in her life but also the quilt in Marilyn’s upcoming future.

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