Symbolism In Cynthia Ryland's 'A Crush'

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In the story, “A Crush,” by Cynthia Ryland, Ernie, a mentally challenged 33-year-old man, finds (unrequited) love with the mysterious store manager, Dolores, and friendship with a college student—Jack—who works at his group home. Through the use of symbolism, Ryland shows a social outcast coming into his own—much like that of a blooming flower—through the introduction of love, suggesting that life without love is incomplete. Without love, Ernie is not able to find true happiness and fulfillment; he’d just be a sheltered, disabled, and incomplete being. The part where Ernie goes out to the garden and watches Jack is the most important event in the entire story, starting the chain of events which concludes in love incorporated in Ernie’s life.

One of the young men who worked at the group home—a college student named Jack—grew a large garden in the back of the house. It was full of tomato vines and the large yellow blossoms of healthy squash… Then one day when Ernie was watching through the window, he noticed that Jack was ripping open several slick little packages and emptying them into the ground.… Ernie panicked and ran to his room. But the box of Burpee seeds was still there on his table,
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It makes Ernie associate Dolores and the seed packages—the seed packages whose seeds bloom into flowers, a gift left for Dolores from Ernie and a show of love or admiration. Without this event, the seeds might never be planted, grown into flowers, then gifted; Ernie might never display his affections for Dolores, causing a part of him to remain hidden—his soul incomplete. Also, if this never happened, Jack and Ernie would not have bonded over the plants, their friendship—a form of love—never existing. Without this scene, Ernie would not be able to discover any love and a part of himself along with it, leaving him unfulfilled. Without the seeds, he wouldn’t have love; without love, Ernie is
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