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When we read a story, most of the time, we can find symbolic terms or objects the author put into the story. The author uses these symbols to help persuade the audience toward some attitude or opinion. Symbols are one method to make a story provide clear and persuasive messages.  Madison Smartt Bell uses personified demons in “Dragon’s Seed” as symbolic objects to demonstrate a character’s insanity. While, Vladimir Nabokov uses symbols like a character’s mode of dress and evocative imagery in “Signs and Symbols.” The symbols chosen bring attention to the reality of human suffering in today’s society.Bell’s method of using a demon as a symbol is not new, but the remarkable thing about his use of demons is their personification and depth of character. The realistic portrayal of the demons as real people serves to show Mackie’s degree of the insanity: “There were two of them, Eliel and Azazael. Each made occasional inconsistent protestations of being good, or evil. Often they quarreled, with each other or with her, and at other times they would cooperated in the interlocking way of opposites”, (Page-197, 2nd Para).Mackie knows these demons are not the real human beings at first. As the story progresses she becomes confused and her confusion leads her into insanity. At the end of the story, she kills Gil, the child torturer: she saw big still prints of ’a few children being tortured and killed’ (Page209, 3rd Para). She did not hesitate at all to the man because she believes the fact that this one is the one order from the demons. The demons represent the evil side of humanity that everyone has and hides to some degree. We might recognize that we possess the same conflicting urges that Mackie had. However, the difference between Mackie’s character and us is that we know where the line between the insane and the sane lies and we know better than to cross that line. Also Bell claims the imagery of present society by the scene when Mackie saw abused a little black girl at the front of President Theatre. “Just then there was some commotion in the movie crowd, and she looked up as a little black girl not more than five ran out into the street weeping and screaming, with a fat black women chasing her and flogging her across the shoulders with a chin dog leash, or so Azazael began to maintain”, (Page-198, 2nd Para). Bell uses this scene as the message which contains the theme of child abuse.In contrast to Bell’s quasi-external/spiritual beings to personify conflict and dark urgings, Nabokov uses subtle word-play and description of the every-day to evoke human suffering in detail as a result of increasing political and social conflict. “Signs and Symbols”, is a story of an old couple’s emotional struggle with their insane son. The central themes of the story are those of suffering and deterioration. As a result, a bleak and depressing tone is created.  The author achieves this effect throughout the story by using a symbolic setting, describing the conditions of the old couple, and by depicting the boy’s mentally ill state.The theme of deterioration is demonstrated in Nabokov’s story by his description of the young man’s parents. He portrays the mother as an “old” woman who “wore cheap black dresses”. In Europe, many older women wear black to show mourning for a death in the family. This image represents her emotional suffering because of her son’s mental illness. In this way the author evokes sympathy for the woman by showing how her cares have worn her down into a heartbreaking, harsh condition. The black dress may also be a symbol that she and her husband must soon face death because of their age. This adds a bleak, depressing touch to the story’s tone. The author reinforces the deterioration theme by using the image of the husband’s “old hands (swollen veins, brown-spotted skin), clasped and twitching upon the handle of his umbrella”, (Section I, 5th Para), depicts the physical deterioration caused by aging. The hand’s twitching symbolizes their helplessness, which like the infirmity of old age, is not controllable. By looking at her husband’s hands, his wife “felt the mounting pressure of tears” (Section I, 5th Para), because she knows they are powerless against time. Their powerlessness emphasizes the theme of suffering with no alternative and to the miserable tone.Further, Nabokov uses evocative words such as ‘deranged’, ‘abstract’, ‘veiled’, and ‘shadows’ to describe the son’s tormented and confused thoughts. This use of imagery further enhances the central theme of suffering. The fact that the man is tormented by his own thoughts is an idea that may disturb and sadden the reader. This adds a note of quiet desperation to the story. Further demonstrating the young man’s mental balance, the author describes the young man’s relationship with the objects surrounding him in unusual ways. For example one passage says, “Man-made objects were to him either hives of evil, vibrant with a malignant activity that he alone could perceive, or gross comforts for which no use could be found in his abstract world”, (Section I, 1st Para).The fact that he was frightened by simple objects demonstrated his mental instability, evoking reader’s sympathy and adding to the bleak tone. The character’s physical description as “botched with acne, ill-shaven, sullen and confused” reflect his confused state of mind, and gives a sense of the enormity of his suffering. His suffering is further emphasized by the fact that “What he really wanted to do was to tear a hole in his world and escape”, (Section I, 6th Para) by killing himself. This state of mind shows how frightened and confused the young man feels, which reinforces the theme of suffering.Lastly, the use of symbolism in the setting enhances the author’s target theme and tone. An example of this symbolism is the passage that reads, “it was raining hard as they walked up the brown path leading to the sanatorium”, (Section I, 3rd Para). Nabokov uses the rain to express the suffering felt by both the parents and the mentally ill young man and to evoke a feeling misery and pity. The sanatorium symbolizes the negative family situation, and adds to the theme of suffering and creates a depressing and hopeless motif. Another example of symbolism is the dying bird: “under a swaying and dripping tree, a tiny half-dead, unfledged bird was helplessly twitching in a puddle” (Section I, 4th Para). The image of the swaying, dripping tree resembles weeping. This reflects the parents’ miserable, emotional state and adds to the dark tone.The twitching bird represents the family’s powerlessness and depletion since both parents are old and their son is mentally ill. This adds to the motif of suffering and to the stress of the situation. Near the end of the story, late at night, the phone rings and a girl asks to speak to Charlie. The young girl’s voice represents hope. The fact that she repeatedly dials the wrong number symbolizes that there is no hope for the family. The last phone call occurs while the father is reading the labels of the jars or jellies that were a gift for his son. Like the phone call the jellies, represent a hope for a better future for their son once he returned home with his parents, as they planned. The wrong number, repeatedly dialed, served to interrupt plans for a better future and foreshadowed that their son will not recuperate.  The story reaches its peak of absolute depression and hopelessness at this point.In conclusion, both authors successfully draw us in and communicate their messages effectively through symbolism. The author of ‘Signs and Symbols‘, achieves a devastatingly grim tone in his presentation of suffering and deterioration. The most effective method used was the use of symbolism in the setting, creating the impression of implacable doom that the family is completely powerless against. This story takes place in the era just after World War Two, a very dreary time in history. Nabokov is merely reflecting the mood of this era, not condemning humanity. Despite the terribly dark story, symbols of the positive side of human nature also used, even during the darkest times the father still finds hope in the idea of bringing his son home so that he could care for him. This shows that, even the most discomforting situations, humankind is gifted with the strength to find hope and maintain their will to live. Bell achieves his aim in exploring the nature of insanity by shining a light in the dark corners of everyone’s mind and giving the shadows a voice and personality of Mackie’s demons. These symbols force the reader to identify and understand how easy it might actually be to cross the line into insanity. Such symbols enhance the readers experience and communicate more information than mere dialogue can accomplish.

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