The Emperor of the Air

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In the story “The Emperor of the Air” Ethan Canin uses different images as metaphors for what is going on in his life. I think Canin uses the image of the insects eating and slowly killing the tree as a metaphor for the different issues eating at him in his life. The relationship with the tree mirrors or affects every other relationship he has in the story. Throughout the story, the narrator provides many issues that are eating at him, just like the insects that are eating and destroying the tree, including: his health, his wife, his neighbor Mr. Pike, the lies, and the order of the stars.

One issue in the story that seems to eat away at the narrator’s life is his health problem. In the story, the narrator states, “A heart attack. Myocardial infarction, minor. I will no longer run for a train, and in my shirt pocket I keep a small vial of nitroglycerine pills” (pg 4). I think Canin is using a metaphor between the insects and his heart attack by showing examples in the story of how his heart attack has slowed his life down and enabled him to enjoy time with his wife while she is out on her adventures. In the story, the narrator states, “I could have run then, I suppose, made a break up and out of the shelter while their backs were turned. I could have been out the driveway and across the street without their recognizing me. But there was, of course, my heart” (pg 16). This heart attack is taking a toll on the narrator’s body and enables him to do many things that he once was able to do, just like the insects slowly eating away at the tree. Another issue in the story that eats away at the narrator is that he is not able to be with his wife because the narrator health problem enables him to keep up with her and do the things they enjoy doing together. For example The narrator states, “we have stood on the Great Wall of China, toured the Pyramid of Cheops, sunned in Lapland at midnight,” (pg 3). In the story the narrator describes how age is becoming a...
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