Referential Symbols & Objects

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Mental Illness

The son’s mental illness symbolizes paranoia and interpersonal dysfunction. Beginning at the age of 12, the son began exhibiting symptoms of mental illness. These symptoms eventually developed into paranoia, delusions, and tendencies towards self-harm. In response to this mental illness, Pete has begun to gradually withdraw from the lives of the woman and the son.

Scars

The son’s scars symbolize the pain of isolation and abandonment. The narration notes that, to the woman, the son’s scars seem to be like “the loss of fathers etched primitively in an algebra of skin” (151). The woman therefore draws a connections between the son’s self-harm and his feeling of loss regarding both his father and Pete.

Sparrow

The sparrow symbolizes anger and sadness for perceived cruelty. When the woman and Pete visit the son in the institution, the son mentions a sparrow that he once saw...

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