[Your full name] March 13, 2013 Symbolism in “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward Jesmyn Ward, in her novel “Salvage the Bones”, has told the story of a family that lived in Mississippi when the incident of Hurricane Katrina occurred in 2005, getting back to her own memories of the Hurricane which she experienced in De Lisle, Mississippi…
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The greatest symbolism that the reader finds in the novel is Esch’s body. Esch is the eldest sister of her siblings. She gets pregnant with Manny’s child, and the reader finds that she views the world though her bodily existence. She wants to touch the world, see it, hear it, taste it, and smell it, in order to love it. The bodily existence of everything is important to her. She says, “For though I’m small, I know many things/ And my body is an endless eye/ Through which, unfortunately, I see everything” (Ward 66). Esch calls her body an endless eye, with which she sees hunger, poverty, dog fights, devastation, accidents, thefts, and finally, the Hurricane. She has seen how it is being motherless, and now she is experiencing the pregnancy from a man who has fallen in love with another woman. So, her body has also made her seen un-faithfulness from somebody she loved. She describes her brother’s muscles, dogfights, and hunger in such a descriptive language that the reader feels as if he is seeing over her shoulders into her world. The reader finds that Esch narrates about her world through instinctive vision, making a blend of what she sees around her and her instinctive thoughts, and describes that blend through symbolic, evocative language. The reader finds metaphors in Esch’s language, sometimes so beautifully expressed through simple similes and symbolism that the attention of reader goes beyond Esch’s description of her bodily experiences of her world, and reaches out to Ward’s wonderful handling of figurative language. We read: “Manny threw a basketball from hand to hand. Seeing him broke the cocoon of my rib cage, and my heart unfurled to fly” (Ward 5), where Esch describes her rib cage as a cocoon, and describes her heart flying. Beautiful symbolism again comes across when we read: “Manny’s face was smooth and only his body spoke: his muscles jabbered like chickens” (Ward 11). Again, we read about the living expressions of a body, where Manny’s body is shown speaking about his condition when his face remained calm. The muscles’ jabbering like chickens is again a beautiful example of symbolism-cum-metaphor. Ward writes, “…her skin was dark as the reaching oak trees” (22), and “…until his legs turn to noodles and he is sliding down Randall like a pole” (43), which are beautiful expressions of her crafting of symbolism, metaphors, and similes in her novel. So, we see that metaphorical language can be found more often throughout the novel, like when Ward writes: “We fall into a pace. My face feels tight and hot, and the air coming into my nose feels like water. I am swimming through the air” (66). The beautiful use of symbolism shows itself when the reader reads about China, Skeetah’s dog. We see China tending its puppies like a mother, making us remember the children’s mother, who used to tend the family until Junior was born. Esch talks about her mother when she would cook and bake for them. Esch’s description of her mother’s chores around the house makes the reader think that the past was more civilized than the present. So, the presence of China tending her puppies is a symbol of motherhood. Esch supporting the provision of resources to the puppies is a symbol of her abilities as a mother, since she is pregnant and tries to compare her feeling and situation with that of
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