Symbols in "A Sense of Shelter"

Essay by niki113090High School, 10th gradeA, April 2007

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

Downloaded 14 times

In “A Sense of Shelter” by John Updike, various symbols are used to emphasize the overall theme of comfort and express the gradually depressing mood. The author uses bad weather, a familiar desk, and a familiar school as symbolic objects within the story to display these ideas. Updike strategically places these symbols throughout the story, emphasizing the importance of these elements.

Weather is one of the accounts used to set the mood of the story. “A Sense of Shelter” opens up with a detailed account of the weather. The narrator sets the scene with bad weather. Opening with detailed descriptions of snow, thirty-two degrees temperatures, and a winter setting, readers can predict that this bad weather symbolizes something depressing and that the story will not be too uplifting. The bad weather, in this case, stands for the sullen tone that the author tries to convey. The snow in this story also can represent a clean slate or a fresh beginning, which, unlike what was stated above, is not necessarily bad.

Just as the snow provides a blank canvas, the main character is getting an opportunity to have a new start by broadening his horizons outside of his familiar comfort zone through the confession of a long-lasting love and by eventually removing himself from the high school environment he had grown so accustomed to. This symbolic beginning to the story foreshadows that the tone of the story will be gradually depressing.

School, also introduced in the story’s beginning, conveys a feeling of comfort. This school refers to the sense of shelter in which the main character, William, feels obviously comfortable. Loss of comfort, the theme of this short story, is truly demonstrated through this symbol. William is a senior who has been attending his high school for the past for...