A driving force and reoccurring symbol and element in Nicolas Dickner's novel Nikolski is garbage; representing connected yet distinct meanings for each of the three main characters. For the unnamed narrator it represents putting old memories to rest and starting on his own path. To Joyce trash also catalyses a new beginning, however this is caused by the reinvention of things discarded much in the same way as she ways. Noah as well finds his identity buried beneath layers of waste, but he also finds stability and the concept of things permanent and complete, trash being a place of dissimilitude, functioning as a field of study and wonder. The element of garbage not only propels the plot forward, but ties the characters together in a tight and intricate web.
We are first introduced to the concept of garbage early in novel. Within the first few pages we meet both the unnamed narrator, as well as his late mother, through the removal of the thirty garbage bags containing what's left of her belongings.
“The two trash collectors hop down form their vehicles and stand there, dumbstruck, contemplating the mountain of bags piled up on the asphalt. The first one, looking dismayed, pretends to count them. I start to worry; have I infringed some city bylaw that limits the number of bags per house? The second garbageman, much more pragmatic, sets about filling the truck. He obviously couldn’t care less about the number of bags, their contents, or the story behind them” (4).
While the removal of the garbage seems at most strange to those not directly involved with the objects as more than trash, Dickner establishes that it can be representational of much more. Through the removal of the trash both the narrator and his late mother we find it a sort of resurrection. Her last breath is taken by her belongings themselves, reconstructing her lost secrets and history to provide the narrator with a more in-depth image of who his mother truly was; bringing her background...
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