This essay will provide a close reading of the scene in which Nana Peazant creates a syncretism of her traditional African magic and the "modern" Christian philosophy with which her family will be bombarded upon crossing over to the mainland. By creating a charm using Yellow Mary's St. Christopher medal and other objects from her tin can and affixing it to Viola's Bible, she creates a charm that contains elements of both the family's traditional African background and its future Christian American one that is intended to protect them and tie them to her despite their soon-to-come separation. This scene is significant to the plot for many reasons, the greatest being its demonstration of the fact that the traditional African folkways can be melded with changing American ones. It also is important because it promotes part of the Afrocentric philosophy put forward in the film about community and family. Persons who were not necessarily born into the Peazant family are nevertheless accepted into it when they profess a commitment to the family's values. Finally,
it shows that this amalgamation is not harmful to either culture; the Christian does not suffer from the influence of the African, or vice versa.
 Throughout the film, Nana has been charging her family not to forget about their past, while some of the other Peazants (headed up by Haagar) have been criticizing Nana for refusing to accept the present or look towards the future. Repeated references to Nana's "old tin can" are often made with a derogatory tone, indicating that many of the Peazants have lost their faith in the old ways which Nana still practices. Haagar is at the forefront of this criticism of Nana's ways, and openly expresses her distaste for them. During this climactic scene, Haagar cries out against what Nana has done, calling it a "hoodoo mess" and denouncing her relatives for their participation in an act of sacrilege. Once again she rejects the old ways, insisting that none of the old traditions are going to change anything now; despite Nana's pleas, Haagar turns and walks away from the ceremony, effectively alienating herself from the rest of the family. She even becomes distanced from her own daughters, who remain behind to take part in the ritual, and from one of whom she will ultimately be separated forever when the next morning arrives.
 The scene nevertheless ends on an uplifting note, with Viola's struggle with and final acceptance of Nana's charm. Because of her devout Christianity, Viola was the first Peazant to become upset when Nana incorporated the Bible into her root working. As Nana begins to offer her charm to the family to be kissed and accepted, Viola becomes hysterical; she feels as though she should, as a good Christian, reject these "heathen" ways. But having watched Haagar's near-violent reaction and resulting denouncement of her family, and being moved by Mr. Snead's desire to accept and be accepted by the Peazant clan, she realizes that there is nothing sinful in what Nana has done. Discovering that what Nana has been preaching bears such a similarity to her own Christian beliefs - love for the family and honor for its past - she is able to reconcile the two in her heart and finally participate in the ritual Nana has created.
 Mr. Snead and Eula's participation in the ceremony are also significant to conveying Nana's message. Although these two were not born into the Peazant family - Eula married Eli Peazant, and Mr. Snead has never even met the Peazants until today - their willingness to embrace the family's traditions and to love its members for their connection to the Peazant family history makes it very simple for them to gain acceptance into that circle. It seems that the Peazants have an ability to provoke the desire to learn more about traditional African folk-ways in willing students; Eula, who is not a Peazant by birth, nevertheless sees much of herself in Nana and embraces her as her own great-grandmother. Mr. Snead also is moved by his brief meeting with the Peazants to delve more into the history of the Sea Island Negroes; by this scene he has been so altered and uplifted by his learning that his desire to become part of the Peazant family has overcome his mainland Christian propriety; he kisses Viola with what seems to be abandon in comparison with all his earlier logical and scientific behavior.
 Nana's use of the Bible in creating a charm for her departing family disproves Haagar's claim that she is too firmly rooted in the past, and demonstrates that Nana is capable of changing with the times. Furthermore, it shows that to juxtapose the Christian and the traditional African does not lessen the impact or the meaning of either. The African, represented by Nana, clearly feels no animosity towards the Christian; Nana's use of the Bible in her root working demonstrates her willingness to incorporate the teachings and philosophy of Christianity into her ways. Furthermore, Mr. Snead's passionate embracing of the Peazants' ways accompanied by Viola's acquiescence shows that it is possible to celebrate one's ancestral past and still be a good Christian.
 The construction of this scene is careful and delicate; the filmmakers obviously attempted to balance the intense emotional content of the scene by using subdued lighting and sound. There is no musical accompaniment to this scene as there is for many others. The ritual where Nana offers her charm-Bible to the family takes place in low, murmuring tones, sounds which are soothing and endearing in comparison to Viola's hysteria and Haagar's harsh, angry outburst. The camera angles change, but only offer different perspectives on family members as they cry together, embrace each other, and celebrate their love for one another. The only characters who stand alone in any shot are Haagar and Trula as they refuse to participate in the ritual and flee the scene.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Heather Sullivan, Undergraduate at The College of New Jersey.