The Century Quilt
The Importance of Quilt Through the Use of Imagery, Tone, and Structure in The Century Quilt, a Poem by Marilyn Wanie
Quilts can be a narrative factor of the history behind many cultures. The powerful symbolism in each stitch of their unique patterns has represented many intimate bonds between families, communities, and friends. In her poem “The Century Quilt,” Marilyn Waniek effectively illustrates the importance of her quilt using imagery, tone, and structure. She is able to convey the pride she takes in her rich heritage using the symbolism behind it.
Through a descriptive use of colors, Waniek creates a vivid image of her quilt. “Six Van-Dyke brown squares, two white, and one square the yellow brown of mama’s cheeks” (15-17). These colors are not only describing the quilt but also the colors of her background. The quilt is used throughout the poem as an extended metaphor to imply the great amount of pride she takes in her interracial family. She goes on to illustrate what she would dream of while sleeping under it. She mentions her Father’s “burnt umber pride”(39), her mother’s “ochre gentleness”(40), and her grandfather’s white family. This demonstrates the diversity in the poet’s history and how they were all able to come together out of love and acceptance for one another.
Waniek’s diction creates a nostalgic tone as she looks back on her Meema’s blanket in admiration, wrapping herself in it and pretending to be a princess. “I remembered how I planned to inherit that blanket” (9-10). The past tense memories she adds at the beginning of her poem emphasizes the sentimental value of the indian blanket. She then juxtaposes it saying that she has now found a quilt “[she] would like to die under”(13-14). She allows the reader to relive her past through her own perspective. The reader can see the happiness she experienced while under the century quilt and the significance those experiences have to her. From her reminisces to her dreams about the future, she is imagining the happiness her quilt brings her. She dreams of the future, passing the quilt down to her unconceived child whom she suggests she might meet while dreaming under the quilt.
The structure of this poem is chronological and free-verse. In the first stanza, the author tells us about her past with Meema’s blanket. During the second stanza, she describes her present and what she is now experiencing with a quilt of her own. In the third stanza, she tells us what she wishes to get from her quilt in the future. The use of structure helps us further understand her comfort and emotions towards her quilt and how she has grown to love and cherish who she is. It is sketched up together to symbolize her family bonds and diversity within it. At the end, she speaks of the future and the “pattern of leaves”(45) by which she names the quilt, which will continue to keep growing as she passes down her pride to the next generations to come.
Through imagery, tone, and structure Waniek is able to emphasize the strong family bonds and deep self-pride that she attaches to her Century Quilt. From her childhood memories to her heritage there is a great significance that the quilt has for her. Aside from its warmth and comfort, it brings her sentimental gratification.