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Signs And Symbols Essay

2510 words - 10 pages

In the short story “Signs and Symbols,” Vladmir Nabokov entices the reader with the story of a concerned elderly couple who visits their mentally unstable son on his birthday at the sanitarium. This visit is further complicated by the son’s attempt to take his life, which compels the hospital staff at the sanitarium to prevent the parents from meeting their son. This circumstance then embarks on the difficult journey that life has been for this mother and father of their mentally deranged child. Nabokov provides a touching story to his readers and does this through: the illustration of the characters, the setting, and keeps the readers interest by presenting the story in a suspenseful way that it leaves the reader thirsting for more.
Nabokov presents the reader with three touching characters of the mother, father, and son. The characters of the story arouse a sense of compassion and sympathy from the reader due to the helpless situation they are in. For example, the son in the story suffers from a condition called “referential mania.” Referential mania is a case where “the patient imagines that everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence” (1166). In other words, the son has this perception where he is in a state of paranoia where he feels as if the objects around him are evil and plotting against him. He feels as if “clouds in the staring sky transmit signs detailing information about him, coats in window stores have a distort opinion of him and misinterpret his actions….he must always be on guard every minute and module of life to decoding of the undulation of things” (1167). The son is always on this mission with the objects trying to decipher the meaning behind why these objects are so evil to him. His approach toward this unpredictable state takes him in this delusional world of his own. The story revolves around the son but do to his psychological state he is somewhat detached from the reader. He truly comes on stage when he attempts to suicide and take his life once again. The epitome of the situation makes the reader realize that this person is truly sick who is not in the correct state of mind and needs help. The circumstance mentioned above leads the reader to sympathize with the character. What makes it more understanding is the fact that he is somewhat helpless in the situation due to the control of the hospital staff. One of the minor characters in the story is the nurse who prevented the parents from meeting the son in an attempt that it might disturb them. This just shows how the son is under control of the hospital staff and the parents not being able to meet their son aids to their distress.
After the unsuccessful attempt to visit their son in the sanitarium doesn’t work out, the mother’s longing for her son can be seen through the way she examines her son’s childhood photos. The mother envisions all the suffering she had to go through to bring her son up. This makes the character...

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