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Maxine Clair’s "Cherry Bomb": Analysis of Memories

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Memories in “Cherry Bomb”
  3. Conclusion


“Some memories dim and fade away into almost nothing, but others are implanted into a person’s brain until they perish away.”

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In the passage taken from Maxine Clair’s “Cherry Bomb”, Clair characterizes the adult narrator’s unhappy memories of her fifth grade summer as remarkable, sentimental, and has influenced her as an adult through her use of descriptive and detailed imagery, diction that helps reveals the true feelings of the author, and the memoir like structure that the author maintains throughout the entire passage.The narrator describes in vivid detail, the setting of her childhood to outline the characteristics of her memories during this time. Clair specifically shows the use of descriptive imagery when she illustrates how to find her “box of private things” through her depiction of old jackets, walking to the cool texture of the plaster on the wall, and finding the aroma of the cigar box.

Memories in “Cherry Bomb”

From lines 34-41, the author says that “If you parted the heavy coats between the raggedy mouton that once belonged to my father’s mother, who, my father said, was his Heart when she died, and the putrid-colored jacket my father wore when he got shipped out to the dot in the Pacific Ocean where, he said, the women wore one piece of cloth and looked as fine as wine in the summertime, you would find yourself right in the middle of our cave-dark closet.” She explains the exact two coats that you have to part in the closet in order for you to follow the next steps in finding this secret box of hers. She continues this step-by-step instructable to how to go to her private box by explaining that,“If you closed your eyes, held your hands up over your head, placed one foot in front of the other, walked until the tips of your fingers touched the smooth cool of slanted plaster all the way down to where you had to slue your feet and walk squatlegged, fell to your knees and felt around on the floor” To conclude to these instructions, she says that, “then you would hit the strong-smelling cigar box.” where you would be able to find her “box of private things”.

Considering she was illustrating the way to her box in vast amounts of detail, it is obvious that the box was so sentimental to the author that its hiding spot is forever etched in her memory. To her, a simple cigar box symbolizes her childhood. The contents of the box and her childhood are mostly hidden from the reader’s knowledge. Rather, Clair barely writes about the importance of both the box and her childhood in detail. Instead, she makes blunt, short statements. Examples of these are in lines 49 when she says,“My box of private things” and in lines 61-62. “After Eddy’s accident, he gave me a cherry bomb. His last.” Descriptions of the weather and the heat in lines 7-10 aids in giving readers a sense of the heat that the narrator was going through as a young child.

The Hairy Man and random depictions of her childhood illustrates the childish tone the narrator seems to go off several times throughout the passage. The diction illustrates how remarkable the memories are to the narrator and allows her to show her true feelings about her childhood. Specific words that defines the setting is the references to God, the Bible, and heat waves. The author references God and the Bible multiple times throughout the passage in order to portray the importance of God in many Midwestern homes. An example of this is shown when Eddy, her cousin, throws a cherry bomb and she says that, “Before it reached the top of the porch it went off, and a piece 55 of tin shot God-is-whipping-you straight for Eddy’s eye.” Clair specfically uses the “God-is-whipping-you straight” phrase to signify the importance of how God reacts to a person doing something that he/she shouldn’t be doing or in other words, Karma.

The narrator seems to be under the influence of those around her at this age as she refers to “Daddy-said-so facts,” “my father said,” “which my mother said” and “I wasn’t sure what it meant but it just had the right ring.”

The narrator is influenced by her surrounding as a child, making her seem like she can’t form her own opinions. To add onto the revealing, yet, strange diction, the narrator uses a lot of hyphens in order to connect sayings or phrases, such as “God-is-whipping-you,” “that-old-thing,” and “Daddy-said-so,” which reveals that, as a child, the narrator absorbed what everyone said and kept them in shortened sayings for her to remember as a child.

The passage’s structure starts out as being generalized then becomes very detailed with it going back to being generalized. This shows that she is reflecting on her childhood. The first paragraph is a general overview of the childhood setting of the narrator. The description of the heat wave, the locusts, the vegetation and her neighborhood and her statement “Life was measured in summers then” becomes the descriptive detailing of her summer as a fifth grader. The second paragraph briefly mentions the cherry bomb which results in anticipation growing considering the title is “Cherry Bomb” and the author introduces the concept behind the title. The third paragraph is the detailed description of how to reach “My box of private things”. The fourth paragraph tells the story of the narrator’s cousin, Eddy’s incident of the cherry bomb hitting his eye. The fifth paragraph pulls the piece together and explains the sentimental value of the cherry bomb, “It was the first thing anybody ever gave me.”

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The memories behind the cherry bomb are considered bittersweet because they are more or less, unhappy times, but there is a silver lining in this memory in which her family is together to endure this tragedy. The sentimental tone of the last line illustrates the irony of the result from the cherry bomb as a “memento of the good times.”The author characterizes the narrator’s memories through descriptive imagery, revealing diction, and a memoir-like structure. Through these literary devices the unpleasant memories of her childhood are characterized as sentimental and memorable, despite how unfortunate they appear.

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Maxine Clair’s “Cherry Bomb”: Analysis. (2021, December 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from
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