Writing Techniques in Gertrude and Claudius

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Symbolism has always been a strength in Updike's writing. His capacity to invest literal images with contextual signification may be unrivaled among the writers of his generation. Many objects and scenes are invested with symbolic association inGertrude and Claudius, but this discussion will limit itself to a brief commentary on the cluster of symbols associated with birds as signifiers for freedom and entrapment. One of the novel's most charming sections concerns a visit Gertrude makes to Claudius's rookery, in which his retainers train falcons.

Gertrude is fascinated and a little troubled by the systematic breaking of these fierce predators' spirits and by the cruelty she witnesses when one is loosed to hunt and kill a crane. Her mixed feelings are well placed; what she is witnessing is a symbolic extension of the process she herself underwent when she was "tamed" by Horwendil to become an obedient wife. She feels...

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This section contains 722 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Gertrude and Claudius Study Guide
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