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Sweet Potato Pie

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Sweet Potato Pie” by Eugenia Collier. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Sweet Potato Pie” (1972)
Author: Eugenia Collier
Genre: Short story

Eugenia W. Collier (b. 1928) is an African-American writer, poet, and critic. Collier is best known for her 1969 short story "Marigolds", which won the Gwendolyn Brooks Prize for Fiction award.

Excerpt

Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:

Message

“Sweet Potato Pie” shows how having a united family makes a difference even in the most difficult of circumstances. The story’s message is also about the importance of sacrifice, hard work, and education in breaking the cycle of poverty. Buddy is able to lead a better life at the cost of his older siblings’ sacrifice, who give up school and their childhoods to help the family get by. Not having pursued an education themselves, Buddy’s older siblings have little financial security as adults. In this way, the author draws attention to how poverty influences children, both early and later in life.

Buddy also risks his own life in the war so he is able to get a college education, which shows how difficult it is for impoverished people to get higher education. On the other hand, Buddy is able to attend college through the GI Bill, which shows the importance of such social programs for people who do not have other opportunities.

In adulthood, Buddy and Charley’s love, respect, and support for each other has not changed. Buddy is grateful for the help that he has received from Charley, while Charley respects Buddy and is proud of him. Both brothers are humble in their own way, and this helps them maintain a strong connection despite the fact that they now belong to different social classes. The story’s message could, therefore, be about the importance of respect, humility, and compassion between people whose life circumstances are different.

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Sweet Potato Pie

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