Signs and Symbols
What made the boy decide not to live anymore? The story “Signs and Symbols” by Vladimir Nabokov discusses the complications of life. After moving to America, escaping Europe during the holocaust, their son is stuck in a hospital where he constantly try’s to “tear a hole in his world and escape” (Nabokov 2) causing his parents to feel its all their fault. The story discusses symbolism, setting, and structure as three major elements. There are certain symbols in the text such as the train being late, the bird drowning in the puddle, and the three phone calls the family gets at midnight which are significant to the story. First, the train being late is symbolic because; in my opinion; if the train wasn 't late they wouldn 't of had to wait forever for the bus and they would have seen their son. When the parents finally arrived to the hospital; to see their son on his birthday; they were told “he had attempted to take his life. He was all right...but a visit might disturb him.”(1) This is symbolic because if the train wasn 't late they would have got to see their son. It seems like the son felt he was being abandoned on his birthday so he decided to end his life. If the train wouldn 't have broken down then the family would have been reunited. Second, the bird drowning in the puddle is symbolic because the baby bird was not able to fly. “A tiny half-dead unfledged bird was helplessly twitching in a puddle.”(2) the son used to draw pictures of birds with human hands and feet, and his roommate thought when he was trying to kill himself he was trying to fly. The reason this is symbolic is because the son is pretty much a little bird trying to fly, but not ever being able to so giving up on life. Third, The three phone calls at midnight is symbolic because in my opinion those phone calls are the hospital calling to tell the family their son has succeeded. “The telephone rang again.”(6) that’s when the story ends leaving you to interpret who was calling and what was trying to be said. The writer, Vladimir Nabokov, uses setting as a major element to his story telling; such as when he talks about leaving Europe, Leipzig, and the hospital. First, leaving Europe was a big part of the families life because when their son was at age ten he had to go through “the shame, the pity, the humiliating difficulties, the ugly, vicious, backward children he was with in that special school”(4). The family leaving Europe during the time of World War Two was because the family was Jewish, and they escaped from having to go into the concentration camps and being put to death by the Germans like their grandmother was. This seems to be a part of their sons life where he discovered that life was just not worth living because he had to jump through challenges for being an individual, actually in better use of terms a Jewish boy in Europe. Second, Leipzig was a very fond memory to the family because they had a lot of money their, with a German maid, “a slanting house front badly out of focus” (4), and the husband was a “fairly successful businessman”(1). Unlike in America where they live in a one bedroom flat with next to no money. Just making it with the help of the husbands brother Isaac. This could be a traumatic experience for the boy because he grew up with a life of wealth and gratitude, then suddenly moved and was poor, poverty struck, and deprived of many life experiences he probably would have had if the war had not broke out. The Hospital is another big element of the story because “the place was so miserably understaffed,and things got mislaid or mixed up so easily” (2). The hospital is where the son spent all his time, the hospital is what saved him life every time he decided living wasn 't worth the dedication, and the hospital was where; in my opinion; the son actually succeeded his life long goal. The structure of the story is one specific element which has a sequence in the story line. Every major event in the story comes in three 's. The son tried to kill himself three different times, one time he tried “a fellow patient thought he was trying to fly” (2). When the mother was going through the photo album three specific ages were brought up; when her son was a baby he “looked more surprised than most babies” (4), when he was six “he drew wonderful birds with human hands and feet” (4), and age ten “the year they left Europe” (4). Three seems like a very significant number because all through the essay their were three symbols, three settings, and three phone calls. The story “Signs and Symbols” by Vladimir Nabokov discusses symbolism, setting, and structure as three major elements. The story shows that in life many elements are overlooked especially during stressful situations. When life takes its toll some people can handle it and some people just become mentally deranged from the stress of life.
Vladimir Nabokov. “Signs and Symbols”. The New Yorker. (May 15, 1948). Web.
Cited: Vladimir Nabokov. “Signs and Symbols”. The New Yorker. (May 15, 1948). Web.