Reading "Signs and Symbols" by Vladimir Nabokov

Essay by theptrkHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 2005

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"Signs and Symbols" by Vladimir Nabokov, has been read in many different ways by many different readers. The story depicts a day in the life of Russian immigrants on the birthday of their mentally ill son. Critics may say it is a simple short story, a collage of signs and symbols or just a good author playing tricks on the reader. But in actuality this story is purposely filled with signs and symbols that the author randomly places to toy with those who overanalyze the text.

Early in the text Nabokov already starts placing events that seemingly foreshadow the story but should not be associated with the son. For example, while the couple travels to their son's mental institution, the underground train "loses its life". In this world of technology it is not very rare that something mechanical breaks down. The authors' choice of words, "loses its life" is deliberately used to ploy the reader into thinking that someone will sooner or later lose its life.

Moreover, during the journey back home, the mother sees, "...a girl with dark hair and grubby red toenails, was weeping on the shoulder of an older woman." First of all a subway is not the happiest place but Nabokov knows that readers will see this as a sign worthy of analyzing. But the author is simply setting a depressed mood to create suspense because he knows that the reader will be waiting for the mothers' tears. Nabokov places events that may be falsely thought of as precedents for future events.

Nabokov use symbols to create the suspense of death which ruminates in the readers throughout the reading.. For example, the day that the family was supposed to meet their son, it began raining. In most movies and literature, critics have seen...