Through out our lives we have had many significant objects in our possession. Many of these objects, some ordinary everyday items, hold a symbolic meaning to the journeys we have taken over the course of our life. Just as these objects hold a symbolic meaning in our lives, objects have also been symbolic for many characters in works of literature such as Aimee Bender’s The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Raymond Carver’s Cathedral. From a library mural, a hunchback and even a birthday cake, Bender and Carver have turned everyday items into symbolic objects that have elevated the meaning of their stories while creating a deeper understanding of the characters they are connected to.
Quiet Please, a short story from Bender’s The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, portrays an ordinary library mural and its significance in the life of an emotionally unstable librarian. Emotionally distraught over her father’s death, the unstable librarian turns to sex to help her mourn. However, it is a particular mural on the library ceiling, which intrigues her to want a quiet atmosphere during sex. It is the murals exquisite details, such as one fairy missing a mouth, which signifies the quietness the librarian wishes for in mourning the loss of her father. “One of the fairies is missing a mouth. It has burned off from the glare of the sunlight, and she is starring at her fairy friends with a purple-eyed look of muteness” (Bender 59). This excerpt from Quiet Please allows the reader to better understand how the librarian felt looking out into a crowded library with nothing to say because of the endless pain in her heart caused by the unchangeable fate of death. As the sunlight burned off the fairies mouth, making her mute, the librarian’s fathers death...
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... on into the early morning, the high, pale cast of light in the windows, and they did not think of leaving.” (Carver 89)
All in all, both Bender and Carver have created great works of fiction that use symbolic objects to further develop a character and elevate the true meaning of a story. Through a plethora of symbolic objects such as a library mural, a hunchback, and a birthday cake, both authors have brought far more enriching means to their stories through the use of these objects. These symbolic objects have created a deeper understanding of the stories they tell. It is these objects that give the stories a stronger meaning as a whole, because of the story they tell and the messages they send.
Bender, Aimee. The Girl In The Flammable Skirt. New York: Random House, 1998. Print.
Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. New York: Random House, 1983. Print.
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