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The symbol is a concrete thing in the story, literal, see-able, an image: a bridge, a bottle of whiskey, a pebble, a letter, fire…. It moves through the story, quietly accruing meanings. And these meanings continue to adhere to the thing throughout the story. For example:
A drop [of blood] landed on her knee and spread out into the woven threads of her industrial almost military issue pants. B negative, she remembered from a long ago conversation. It would wash out too easily. There were other rigs at the hospital’s bay. There always were on Friday nights. The bay echoed with the sounds of carefree life emanating from the ambulance crews--such confidence, to laugh in the face of illness and injury, even death. But after everything they had seen nothing could faze them. Not one of them was capable of showing human weakness. Their matching starched navy blue uniforms locked the emotion inside. The heavy duty fabric protected them, made them invincible and kept all the pain and emotion safely tucked away. No tears ever fell on that fabric.
And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
There was always a bottle present, so that it would seem to him that those fine fierce instants of heart and brain and courage and wiliness and speed were concentrated and distilled into that brown liquor which not women, not boys and children, but only hunters drank, drinking not of the blood they spilled but some condensation of the wild immortal spirit, drinking it moderately, humbly even, not with the pagan's base and baseless hope of acquiring thereby the virtues of cunning and speed but in salute to them. Thus it seemed to him on the December morning not only natural but actually fitting that this should have begun with whiskey
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recurs is spotlighted through description Appears in prominent places – title, opening, ending, climax is dynamic, hard to pin down/define/limit may remain after the story has faded suggests the theme. may reveal more than the writer intended
Intrudes Persists when cut Demands description Hovers around the ending Is emotional / biographical / spiritual / mysterious, hard to pin down A force for interconnectness A force for characterization (what they want, crave, lose repeatedly, seek, keep doing) Trust and follow symbols
Personal – Our life experiences affix meanings to things and actions
Contextual – The meanings that affix to a symbol through the
course of the story. Story makes meaning…an alchemy.
Cultural/conventional – A shorthand readable by all within
A key = freedom, escape, but less so or not at all in a culture with mass transportation. Black = death, funerals in some cultues, white in others.
Universal – Things and actions that have the
same symbolic meaning around the world because we share biology and . . . A world. Morning = new beginnings Green = spring, rebirth Candle = a light in darkness Lions = power Chain = bondage Caution. What IS universal? Darkness = danger, or safety? Red = blood/death or joy/marriage? Snakes = evil, or is that limited to Eurocentric cultures?
A fiction lives as long as its symbols are interpretable and reinterpretable. Why teachers have to hammer home meaning, translate…the symbol has become unmoored from the culture or the prose that sought to describe it in such a way that the it forges connections to meaning is inaccesible to readers or only accessible as an unresonant artifact. Which is why each generation of writers must make it new.
Then Creole stepped forward to remind them that what they were playing was the blues. He hit something in all of them, he hit something in me, myself, and the music tightened and deepened, apprehension began to beat the air. Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.
Read the symbolism of your life. Things you lose often, need a lot of. Actions you repeat. Recurring night and day dreams. The songs and photos you love. The things you associate with friends and family. What would it be hard for you to give away? If your best friend was leaving forever, what would you give him/her to take?
Write about something you lose often or would hate to lose. Freewrite a dream sequence drawing on as many conventional symbols as possible. Include one personal symbol. Trade with another and interpret.
On the morning after Ted Lavender died, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha's letters. Then he burned the two photographs. There was a steady rain falling, which made it difficult, but he used heat tabs and Sterno to build a small fire, screening it with his body, holding the photographs over the tight blue flame with the tips of his fingers. He realized it was only a gesture. Stupid, he thought. Sentimental, too, but mostly just stupid. Lavender was dead. You couldn't burn the blame. Besides, the letters were in his head. And even now, without photographs, Lieutenant Cross could see Martha playing volleyball in her white gym shorts and yellow T-shirt. He could see her moving in the rain. When the fire died out, Lieutenant Cross pulled his poncho over his shoulders and ate breakfast from a can. [….] Half smiling, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross took out his maps. He shook his head hard, as if to clear it, then bent forward and began planning the day's march. In ten minutes, or maybe twenty, he would rouse the men and they would pack up and head west, where the maps showed the country to be green and inviting. They would do what they had always done. The rain might add some weight, but otherwise it would be one more day layered upon all the other days. He was realistic about it. There was that new hardness in his stomach. No more fantasies, he told himself. [….] Among the men there would be grumbling, of course, and maybe worse, because their days would seem longer and their loads heavier, but Lieutenant Cross reminded himself that his obligation was not to be loved but to lead. He would dispense with love; it was not now a factor. And if anyone quarreled or complained, he would simply tighten his lips and arrange his shoulders in the correct command posture. He might give a curt little nod. Or he might not. He might just shrug and say Carry on, then they would saddle up and form into a column and move out toward the villages west of Than Khe.
Part 3 from start to 4:33. Then 6:15 to ? Then Part 7 from 2:00 to 5:00