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Elevating The Power Of A Novel Through Symbolic Objects

2071 words - 9 pages

When reading a piece of literature, a reader often finds many symbolic objects speckled throughout the text. Some of these symbolic objects may be quite obvious to distinguish, while others may be tucked deep within the text. Whether the symbolism of the object is apparent or not to the reader the author places these objects in the story to elevate the power of the text. In Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, there are a plethora of symbolic objects that hold a deeper meaning then what appears on the surface. Capote and Plath, two diverse authors, fill their novels with an abundance of dynamic objects such as a bird cage, a bell jar, a mirror, an unnamed ...view middle of the document...

She expresses much dislike for the bird cage, leaving the narrator puzzled as to why she would find fault with such a beautiful object. Much to the narrator’s surprise during a Christmas celebration Holly tells him: “Look in the bedroom. There’s a present for you” (Capote 59). The present that Holly has waiting for the narrator is the bird cage. Despite her dislike for the bird cage and its sense of confinement, Holly presents the narrator with the bird cage under one condition; she doesn’t want the narrator to ever hold an animal captive in it. The narrator returns the birdcage to Holly because it costs too much saying, “The money! Three hundred and fifty dollars” (59). Since the bird cage is a symbol of confinement for Holly, she gets rid of it out, not wanting it lingering in her apartment. She is fearful of the memories the bird cage brings back of her time at Doc’s house in Tulip, Texas. Doc, the husband Holly never talks about, is believed to have made Holly live a tightly confined life in Texas. Her time of confinement in Texas is the reason Holly chose to leave and live a free-spirited life in New York City. Capote has used the birdcage to elevate the power of the novel developing the concept that Holly views herself as a type of wild animal that has a fear of commitment and being confined.
In comparison to Capote’s idea of a bird cage symbolizing a fear of confinement, Plath uses a fairly different object to also symbolize how someone can feel confined in his or her own body. Throughout The Bell Jar Plath explores the life of Esther Greenwold, a mentally unstable woman, and her connection to a bell jar. A bell jar is an inverted bell shaped glass jar, which is generally used to hold vacuum sealed gases or to display an object used in scientific investigations (Collins). Plath develops the bell jar so that it becomes a symbol of madness and confinement for Esther. In chapter 15 Esther says, “Wherever I sat - on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air” (Plath 185). When madness encases Esther, taking over her whole life, she feels as if she is confined inside a bell jar. The bell jar distorts her perspective of the world. It also prevents her from connecting with the people around her. Like Holly and the bird cage, the bell jar gives Esther a feeling of being confined in her own body. Esther made a statement that, “The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air (215). Similarly to Holly and the bird cage, Esther feels that the bell jar and her madness have been lifted after receiving numerous shock treatments. Towards the end of the novel, after Esther is treated she states, “How did I know that someday - at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere - the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again” (215). She fears that the bell jar will continue to hang over her head ready to...

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