October 5, 2011
Vladimir Nabokov’s “Sign and Symbols” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” are both short stories that are composed of several signs and symbols that contribute to the overall meaning of their narratives. The signs and symbols in both short stories are different in meaning but, both allow the reader an insight to the narratives mythos, pathos, characters, and the overall emotion perceived by the reader.
The motif Nabokov illustrates is the recurring symbol of death and the darkness of the world that the boy seems to be declined into. The signs and symbols all relate to the boys condition and offer insight to the characters emotion. The setting Nabokov illustrates is dark and deathlike. The son has attempted to commit suicide twice and a third on a day his parents travel to the mental institution. While on their way to visit their deranged son there was a rainstorm and the underground train “lost its’ life.” Nabokov’s choice of diction foreshadows that someone will sooner or later lose their life. Before the parents reach the sanatorium Nabokov describes “ a tiny half-dead unfledged bird that was helplessly twitching in a puddle under a swaying and dripping tree”(599). The “tiny half-dead unfledged bird” symbolizes the son and how he is helpless in his own deranged mind. Later that night, the father expresses that he can’t sleep because he is dying. “We must get him out of there quick. Otherwise, we’ll be responsible” (Nabokov 602). The father cares for the son unconditionally that he takes the responsibility for his condition and is emotionally drained from caring. Much of the “Signs and Symbols” motifs and themes of death become its strongest towards the end of the story. “ The telephone rang. It was an unusual hour for their telephone to ring. The telephone rang a second time. The same toneless anxious young voice asked for Charlie”(Vladimir Nabokov 602). The three phone calls the parents...