In the short story With All Flags Flying there are many symbols that represent the aging and elderly. Mr. Carpenter is the protagonist and the main symbol of the short story. He symbolizes most aging people and voices what their notions are towards aging. The people he interacts with throughout the story are also distinguished symbols of their own. As well with many objects he uses or happens to come across.
Mr. Carpenter symbolizes most aging and elderly people. The reason he is the symbol is because he is an elderly man himself. He is concerned for his family and doesn’t want them to have the burden of looking after him, as he is growing old. As he voices in his conversation with Mr. Pond: "But I'm not like some I have known. Hanging around making burdens of themselves, hoping to be loved. Not me." He also does not wish to be a bitter and weak as he continues aging, but instead a fighter and a happy old man.
The biker that gave him a ride to Mr. Carpenters daughters house on his motorbike symbolizes youth and independence. The freedom of riding a motorcycle and its ability to weave through traffic with ease. His granddaughter Francie gives him a connection to youth. She also is the symbol of unconditional love; love for him and those who are the topic of her many chats with him. Lollie Simpson symbolizes how he wishes to grow older without having to burden his family and be independent. His memory of the schoolteacher is what has guided his vision of how he wishes to grow old. “…when she grew old she would finally eat all she wanted and grow fat without worry.” Mr. Pond is a symbol of how Mr. Carpenter does not want to grow old. He wishes to be a burden to his family and live with them, but they will not let him. So he is a bitter old man that doesn’t wish to be in the old folks home like Mr. Carpenter does.
His brown suit is his symbol of his youth. He purchased it back in 1944 when he was a lot younger; it is the only suit he takes with him when he leaves his home. The Fig Newton’s symbolize age because he notes how age-worn they were when he had them placed out on the bag. “…squashed and pathetic- looking, the edges worn down and crumbling. They seemed to have come from somewhere long ago and far away.” His paper bag that he uses throughout the story to carry his belongings. It started out being new and crisp, but as the story continues, it becomes worn and wrinkled.
Throughout the story you find that every detail related to Mr. Carpenters feelings and attitude towards aging. They all are there to shape the way he wishes to grow old. Mr. Pond is there to remind him about how he does not wish to grow old. His memories of Lollie Simpson give him guidance on what sort of old person he wishes to grow into. Carla is there reminding him of why he wishes to not have to rely on his family. In the end Mr. Carpenter go his way, growing old independently and doing whatever it takes not to be weak in the end.