Symbolism in the Short Story - Essay Example

Comments (0) Cite this document
In Jean Rhys’s short story “I Used to Live Here Once”, the symbolism plays a powerful role in directing the progress. Since it is such a brief work, the impact of every symbol is all the greater. The story appears to be about a girl who returns to a house she knew in the past and attempts to connect with two children who do not acknowledge her presence…
Download full paperFile format: .doc, available for editing
GRAB THE BEST PAPER95.1% of users find it useful
Symbolism in the Short Story
Read TextPreview

Extract of sample "Symbolism in the Short Story"

In Jean Rhys’s short story “I Used to Live Here Once”, the symbolism plays a powerful role in directing the progress. Since it is such a brief work, the impact of every symbol is all the greater. The story appears to be about a girl who returns to a house she knew in the past and attempts to connect with two children who do not acknowledge her presence. The first-person narrator has been interpreted as being the voice of a dead girl who realizes in the course of the story that she is dead. Before the final pronouncement, “That was the first time she knew”, there are symbols in the story that pre-empt this conclusion. For instance, a substantial part of the story is spent on describing the “stepping stones” in the river and the girl’s passage of it. Stepping stones and rivers have traditionally been symbolic of the journey of life. Rivers are also important as boundaries and crossing them often signifies passage from one world to another. The crossing of river Jordan into the Promised Land, for instance, is a crucial element of the Bible (Ferber, 2007, p. 170). The stepping stones, that are at first harder to cross and easy afterwards are also symbolic of the passage of life. This is the first hint that the speaker may be coming from a different land, or even a different plane of existence. The emphasis on the “glassy” sky is yet another symbolic clue. Glassy has connotations of an unnatural or artificial material, as it is man-made. It can also signify a certain deadness of the subject, an absence of expression as in the phrase “glassy eyes”. The absence of life, and the distance she feels from manmade objects further intensify the suggestion that the speaker is already dead. The narrator also mentions several objects of the landscape that she finds missing, suggesting a rather long absence. There was now a road that had replaced the pave and the pine tree she knew was gone. The pine tree is often used to symbolise immortality and its disappearance is yet another subtle indicator of the narrator’s death. Instead of the pine tree, there is now a mango tree under which two children are playing. The entire image is deeply symbolic of a new life. Other than imagery like the stones or the tree and verbal symbols like “glassy”, Jean Rhys also uses colors a symbols as well as symbolism in the action. For instance, the grey eyes of the boy who looks right through the speaker are a sudden contrast to the previous color-scheme of yellow and green. The symbolic value of the life-giving green and yellow, the joy of the clear “blue day” are replaced by the cold grey of the boy’s eyes and this is emphasized in the boy’s speech, “Hasn't it gone cold all of a sudden [?]” as well as the action of the children who, in a manner of speaking, leave her out in the cold. The narrator’s instinctive reaching out towards the children is also symbolic of her desire to belong. She does not want to be the unacknowledged outsider. This short story on the theme of death can be read in an alternative manner also. It can be read as an outsider’s return to her homeland which she finds changed beyond recognition. A. C. Morell interprets the story as “It relates a brief, emotionally significant incident during Jean Rhys's return after many years of exile to her old home in Dominica. […] What she knows is that she has brought on the cold. Her strangeness inspires mistrust if not fear in children. […] And there can be no return home to her warm and colourful West Indian world” (1979, p. 237). Seen in this light, “I Used to Live Here Once” is still a story of loss and death, except of a more symbolic nature than physical death. That the speaker realises for “the first time” (that she is an outsider) also supports this view of the story. Works Cited Ferber, M. (2007). A Dictionary of Literary Symbols: Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Morrell, A. C. (1979). “The World of Jean Rhys’s Short Stories.” World Literature Written in English 18.1 (Apr. 1979): 235-244. Read More
Cite this document
  • APA
  • MLA
(“Symbolism in the Short Story Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 500 words”, n.d.)
Retrieved from
(Symbolism in the Short Story Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 500 Words)
“Symbolism in the Short Story Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 500 Words”, n.d.
  • Cited: 0 times
Comments (0)
Click to create a comment or rate a document

CHECK THESE SAMPLES OF Symbolism in the Short Story

Scenario of judgement

4 Pages(1000 words)Essay

Short Story

...continuously chose to ignore. In the end, he comes to see that all the problems he ignored did not disappear into nothingness, but rather evolves into a huge ball of troubles that eventually makes life a tad more difficult. The idea behind this concept revolves around the fact that everything we do has important consequences whose effects are not only limited to ourselves, but can also include the people around us. This is because relationships are interdependent – what one does will inevitably affect another. While it was Neddy’s decision to drink alcohol, he has inconvenienced a lot of people – his friends, his daughters, and even his mistress. Unfortunately, it was already too late for Neddy to take back his actions because he has...
3 Pages(750 words)Essay

Symbolism in a Short Story

...? of the of the Short stories – Theme and Symbolism Short stories are very short in length when compared to other popular forms of written literature. What makes these stories so effective is the use of literary devices to convey the theme of the story to the readers. These include symbolism, foreshadowing, characterization, imagery, allegory and motifs. Symbolism is the most common method of expressing the theme of the story effectively. By using four different short stories, the following paragraphs show how the authors make use of symbolism to make the theme of story more appealing to the reader A clean well lighted place: The major theme of the story is the idea that life is nothing. The major characters of the story suggest... realizes...
8 Pages(2000 words)Essay

Playing The Lottery can be Dangerous: Symbolism in Shirley Jacksons Short Story

...? Playing “The Lottery” can be Dangerous: Symbolism in Shirley Jackson’s Short Story When most people play the lottery today, they think about having wealth. Generally, people who win are happy about it whether they win one dollar or a million. The lottery in our society has grown to support education and it is often worth several million dollars. Usually, the winner of the lottery gains a lot of recognition for the money they win. But what would happen if there was a small town where people held a yearly lottery in which the “winner” was the member of the town who was not sacrificed? This question is answered in Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The...
4 Pages(1000 words)Research Paper

Symbolism in the Short Story

...Symbolism in the Story A symbol can be a person, object, action, place, or event used by the to emphasize the theme of the story and show meaning. Violence and human cruelty are things that happened for a long time, and continue to be the issue today. The author has used symbolism to reveal how cruel, and violent people can be. Three of the main major symbols that the author has used in the story are the black box, setting, and the names of the characters. Symbolism is evident in ‘The Lottery’ from the beginning. Mr. Summer, who runs a coal business, represents life, while Mr.Grave...
3 Pages(750 words)Essay

The Deployment of Narrative Structure, Setting, Symbolism and Imagery in James Joyce's Short Story Araby

...?The Deployment of Narrative Structure, Setting, Symbolism and Imagery in James Joyce’s Short Story, “Araby.” Narrative structure, setting, symbolism, imagery etc are some of the literary devices that writers deploy to render effect and impact to their stories. James Joyce, like many other gifted writers, uses several literary devices in his works to subtly convey his messages to the audience. Subtlety plays a major role in literary creations because being overtly explicit will make the stories monotonous. This is especially so in the case of short stories encompassing rather limited premises to narrate...
3 Pages(750 words)Term Paper

Symbolism In the short story Repent Harlquin Said the Ticktockman

...No. Symbolism in “Repent Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman ‘“Repent, Harlequin!’’ Said the Ticktockman” is a surreal story by Harlan Ellison that depicts the future of human society. A future that will be controlled by time and for every second lost, one will have to pay for it. The society will be reduced to a sort of mechanical life, in which man will be a slave to the clock. Human conscience and morality will be replaced by capitalism and profit maximization. Throughout this fable, Ellison uses a number of symbols to give the reader an image of what is going on in a society where the clock dictates one’s life. The symbols discussed in this essay are in consideration to...
5 Pages(1250 words)Essay

Effects of Media

4 Pages(1000 words)Essay

Symbolism in the Short Story

.... It is also fairly easy to see that many of the dialogues hold sexual connotations with regard to little red riding hood. For example, the sentence, “Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me” symbolizes the sexual desire of the ‘wolf’ who wants little red riding hood to come to bed immediately. Finally as the story ends, she is devoured by the wolf which may actually be seen as succumbing to sexual desires, both on the wolf and the little girl’s past. The hint of sexual intercourse may also be seen from the French slang, ‘seen the wolf’ indicating a woman’s loss of virginity. Even though ‘little red riding hood’ is a simple short...
1 Pages(250 words)Essay

Symbolism in the Short Story

...Symbolism Analysis Affiliation Symbolism Analysis Eudora Welty in her short story a Worn Path expresses a story of a woman on her way to seeking treatment for her son. The author utilizes immense symbolism as she articulates the message to the reader. The piece is rich in myths and symbols. The main character name, Phoenix emanates from the Egyptian mythical bird, which is credited to have super powers. The bird possesses the ability to appear and disappear instantly at a fraction of a second. Toward the end of its life, it has great determination to travel to Heliopolis to start its life cycle all again. It does catch fire from the sun making it burn up and from its ash, it is reborn. In the short story, the mission of Phoenix... is to...
1 Pages(250 words)Assignment
sponsored ads
We use cookies to create the best experience for you. Keep on browsing if you are OK with that, or find out how to manage cookies.

Let us find you another Essay on topic Symbolism in the Short Story for FREE!

Contact Us