Bud's Suitcase in Bud, Not Buddy

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

One item, a simple suitcase, appears throughout ''Bud, Not Buddy'' and is one character's most prized possession. The following lesson explains what exactly is in Bud's suitcase, why it matters so much to him, and how he's able to move on in his life.

Think For a Second.

Imagine you are given two minutes to pack up what is most important to you in one small suitcase. What would you bring? What would you leave behind? What doesn't fit in your small suitcase?

What Would You Pack?
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What's in Bud's Suitcase?

This scenario is part of a routine that the main character of Christopher Paul Curtis's Bud, Not Buddy deals with frequently. Bud Caldwell is an orphan, and at the beginning of the novel, he's living in an orphanage. Bud is shuffled around from foster home to foster home, and each time, he is forced to pack up his belongings with short notice.

Most of Bud's personal belongings were passed onto him by his mother. All that he has fits inside a ratty, old suitcase that is held together with twine. Inside Bud keeps a sack of rocks with writing on them, concert flyers of musician Herman E. Calloway (the person whom he believes is his father) and his band, a change of clothes, and a photograph of his mother when she was a child.

Why is the Suitcase So Important?

So much of Bud's life is always changing, but the suitcase is a constant for him. Bud lost his mother, his foster homes don't stick for very long, and he doesn't have a family to call his own. The one thing that Bud always has is his suitcase. It's his, he doesn't have to share with the other orphans, and no one can take it away from him.

This suitcase is also a window into a life that Bud once he shared with his mother before he entered the orphanage. All of the contents in the suitcase either were given by or belonged to his mom. For those reasons, Bud checks to make sure all the items are in the right place in his suitcase each night. Bud is always watching those around him, either his foster family or fellow orphans, to make sure nothing happens to the suitcase or his treasures.

Finally Giving Up the Suitcase

Bud carries that tattered old suitcase with him wherever he goes, from the Amos's house to Hooverville to Grand Rapids. The readers would never think that Bud would let that suitcase go for anything, however, something changes when Bud finally becomes part of a family.

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