The Button: A Literary Analysis of Turn Homeward Hannalee

The Button


In the book, Turn Homeward Hannalee, Patricia Beatty uses a persimmon-seed button as an important part of the plot. It is used as a symbol of several things; her promise to Momma, her home in Georgia, and most of all, a reminder to Hannalee of where her heart is.

We’ll take a look at how it is a reminder of her promise, but first let’s find out what that promise is. In the very beginning of the book when Hannalee and her brother are taken from home by the Yankees, Momma and Hannalee are saying a tearful good bye when Momma does something very strange. She takes a button from the top of her dress and gives to Hannalee, and then makes her promise something very important.

“Then she [Momma] did something mighty strange. She jerked one of the persimmon-seed buttons off the top of her dress and gave it to me. She told me softly, “They won’t shoot you and Jem. I just know they won’t. But I think they’ll take you away from here, God knows where. Wherever you go, keep this to remind yourself to come home. Turn your heart to me. Turn homeward, Hannalee! Promise me!’

‘I promise you Mama.’ I [Hannalee] took the button into my hand”

The button reminded her of that promise while she was away. There are three places we will look at. First of all, the moments when she is being taken away from her hometown in Georgia. As the soldiers are taking all the mill hands out of town Hannalee spots Momma waving and cries back: “‘Indiana, They say we’re goin’ to Indiana. I’ll be back. I’ve got the button. Watch out for yourself and the baby.’…As my soldier put his horse into a canter, I turned around to look back at Mama. She wasn’t waving. She had her hand over the top of her dress where she’d pulled off the button I had in my pocket. She was weeping and so was I.”

Second, when the mill hands are being held in Marietta until a train comes to take them to Indiana, Hannalee wants to escape right then. But her older brother’s sweetheart, Rosellen, who is a mill hand too, says no.  “But I promised Mama I’d go home” Hannalee protests. But Rosellen is resolute.

Even though she submitted and got on the train to go to Indiana, her promise was not forgotten.  “I was still set on keeping my word, though. The persimmon-seed button was deep in my apron pocket. The promise was deep in my mind.”   The button motivated her to start forming a plan of escape.  With some ingenuity and Rosellen’s help she was able to keep her little brother with her so it would be easier to escape.

When Hannalee discovers that Rosellen has changed during the time she was working in “Yankee land,” the button is a comforting reminder that didn’t change.  “A cold feeling came over me. I could see that Rosellen had changed up here in Yankee land. It wasn’t just her new clothes. She was different in ways I couldn’t put my finger on. I slid my hand into my pants pocket to take hold of Mama’s persimmon-seed button. As always, the feel of it gave me comfort. It didn’t change”

As she endeavors to find her brother and return home,  the persimmon-seed button is a  reminder of home, of Mama, and the good days before they were kidnapped.  “Touching Mama’s button in my pocket, I asked, “Miz Burton, do you think you could help Sally or Rosellen write a letter home to Georgia to let their folks know they’re all right?”

When she finds her brother and they escape towards home together she shows him her motivator.  “I want to show you somethin’ I been keepin’ secret.’ I reached into my pants pocket and brought out the persimmon-seed button. Jem knew it by sight. He cried, ‘It’s Mama’s!’ ‘Yes and I’m takin’ it home to her. She gave it to me and told me to fetch it back to her. But I’m bringin’ her more’n that. I’m fetchin’ you too. We’ll both take it back to her.”   As Jem and Hannalee walk up the road to their old home Hannalee’s thoughts wander back to the day they were taken away.  “Turn homeward,” Mama had asked me. I’d said I would, and Hannalee Reed always kept her promises.”

When they finally reach home Hannalee finds out that not only did the button motivate her to return home, it kept the ones at home hopeful too.  “Now I handed the old women the persimmon-seed button and said, “Miz Sanders, I’d thank you kindly if you’d give this to the Widow Reed. Tell her that her girl has brung somethin’ home to her again that she gave her last summer…. She [Mama] opened her hand to show me the persimmon-seed button Marilla had given her. Smiling, Mama went on, ‘I reckoned I’d see this again someday–that my pretty older daughter would be bringin’ it home to me.”

Though the button returns to Mama unchanged no one else does. It dawns on Hannalee that everyone, including herself, had changed because of the war, but the button was an important symbol that kept her heart turned towards home.


{P.S. I’ve updated my reading list, be sure to take a look}


Paragraph for Grammar

1997 Suzuki GS500E in black in the Rose Bowl p...

Image via Wikipedia

On Sunday we were riding back from church and had to slow down all of a sudden, even though it was a back road! When we had gotten closer to what was blocking the road we saw that it was a motorcycle accident! There were many police cars and people who had stopped to help. We saw the motorcycle, all smashed and dented, sitting on the side of the road. We also saw a car that was damaged too. But then we caught sight of officers and doctors kneeling by a man, the cycler! He was alive, but he was very injured, and it looked like he had broken his neck! Then, as we drove past the scene towards home we saw many more emergency vehicles coming to help. It reminded us how fragile life is, and how blessed we are to still be living!

James Watt

My brother took my writing topic so here’s a sneak peek to my real one

Sneak Peek at School Writing

Abraham Darby was born April 14 1678…

more coming soon! (That was a fact, not part of my report :))

Abigail Adams


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Did you know that Abigail Adams had a coin with her name on it!!! I’m writing about her this week, hopefully sometime soon I’ll post it.


Right now I’m typing at our “new” computer while our printer is working full time to print out our curriculum, and hornets are buzzing around my head,  school is coming fast!

I’m exited to see how well I can do, and to try to do my best in everything, 8th grade, Wow! That seems so strange to think that next year I’ll be in senior high! (according to our curriculum)

And, writing assignments again! I love writing!

My story

this is made like a newspaper report… eventually it will go in a newspaper. (our own of course :))

King George III Imposing Intolerable Acts on Boston!
On June 1rst,King George imposed the yet another Intolerable Act. It is time for action! He has: forced us to house the Lobsterbacks, forbidden any town meetings without permission from his General Gage, allowed enemy officers to be tried back in Britain, and finally- closed Boston’s harbor, cutting us off from all necessities!!We must take action, but in order to take the action that is needed we must understand more thoroughly these terrible laws. The first of these acts is that the citizens of Boston may not call a town meeting, this is intolerable! We must be able to govern our city the way we wish, not the way a king across the ocean wants it to be. We need to call these meetings anyway, showing that we will not submit!  The second law this king is imposing on us, is the order that all British officers may be tried in Britain, where they will be judged guiltless! How can he expect us to submit to a king who is not just in how he judges crimes! We must not let these criminals be pronounced “Not guilty”! The third Intolerable Act is that all the overflow of these terrible Lobsterbacks, taking over our city, may be housed in our own citizens houses if there is not room in their own barracks! We can not let them take over our houses and family live! We must refuse to submit to this terrible law! The overflow of these unneeded British soldiers should be sent right back to Britain where they belong!  The last cruel law George has imposed upon us is the most terrible and destructive, he has shut up the harbor and trade ships, or any ships for that matter, may not go in or out for any reason! He has cut us off from all necessities and will starve us unless our fellow citizens of this country come to our aid. Please contribute any food, livestock, or provisions to help this country procure freedom and show King George we will not submit! So, one and all, harken to our cry of distress and help us procure freedom! If you would like to bring provisions or know of some other way to help us be free from the tyranny of King George please go to Samuel Harman, the second house on Freedom Street, Boston.

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