The Shack, a Discussion of Symbolism

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2/16/09

The Shack: A Discussion of Symbolism

The Shack, written by William P. Young, tackles one man’s quest for faith and reassurance in God through several metaphors, parables and symbols. These symbols are used to compare the story religion itself; and from this comparison it is easier to grasp a deeper understanding. However, with this underlying symbolism, it’s possible to over analyze and disregard the fictitious nature of the book. Despite this, there are many symbols within The Shack that are essential to the story and the deeper significance within it.

Symbols are used within The Shack to really enunciate the relationship transition that Mack experiences while visiting the shack and the new found relationship that he develops within the Trinity. Symbolism within The Shack is found almost everywhere, with symbolism it is possible to understand God through the analogies expressed. These analogies range from simple to complex and have many dimensions; the symbol itself and the reality it exposes.

There are many different symbols hidden within the shack, some are obvious and some are vaguer. One of the more obvious pieces of symbolism would be the story of the Indian Princess that Mack tells Missy. (Young, 30-31) The story is a clear representation of the death of Jesus Christ. Missy is unnerved by the death of the Indian Princess and Jesus and raises the essential question, as to why God is so mean? (31) Mack answers the question the best he can but it still unnerves him. He says that Jesus didn't have to die, he chose to. He then tells Missy that God will never ask us to do something like that, as Jesus already covered it.  He's shaken though by the depth of his young daughter’s question. However, not quite as shaken as he will be in the days ahead as he wonders the same thing himself. In the coming days ahead When Missy is abducted, Mack will think back to this, thus, creating distrust in God for Mack.

Now that Mack has developed a type of disbelieve in God, he becomes immersed in another piece of symbolism that he has taken to calling “the Great Sadness”. …he [Mack] allowed himself to consider the range of horrendous possibilities, and once it started he couldn't stop; the imaginations of good and evil all mixed up together in a soundless but terrifying parade.(53) This “Great Sadness” seems to be a lot like depression but there are some things here that seem to even go beyond such a simple definition.  It appears to more than physical, more than psychological; it's almost a spiritual type of thing that hits to the very core of his being to where his entire world is impacted by its presence.  It haunts his dreams, and leaves him in a state of almost perpetual fatigue and anguish.  It can be argued that this state was brought on solely because of his daughter’s disappearance; however that may just be one of the factors contributing to the “Great Sadness”. Mack’s “Great Sadness” seems to come more from his loss of faith because of the loss of his daughters which could imply that both of these are the causes of his grief induced state. Whether it’s depression, or something else, Mack has a condition in which pain becomes so overwhelming that there are few options other than suppressing the pain, which is what Mack chooses to do.

One of the contributing sources to Mack’s great sadness is the loss of his daughter, Missy. Missy can also be viewed as yet another symbol within The Shack. She is innocent and unassuming; therefore she can be regarded as somewhat of an inner child or symbol of youthful innocence. And now Mack could clearly see the voice that had called his Missy. It was Jesus playing in the middle of his children. (168) However, with her disappearance she brings despair and sadness to her family, therefore she is also representative of great pain and loss. Missy, can also be compared to Jesus. She was innocent, but ended up dying for no reason. Although her death was tragic and hurt her family,...
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