Analysis of Symbols and Signs

This literature work is entitled ‘Symbols and Signs’ written by Vladmir Nabokov. It is published in 1948 by The New Yorker in The United States. Read the whole story by clicking » HERE.

Summary of Symbols and Signs
There was once an elderly couple who had a deranged son. They were quiete old already and had been living unassuming. They were actually from Rusia and moved to America to start a new life. The husband used to be a successful businessman in his old country, but then when he lived in New York, he completely relied on his brother whom they called The Prince —the real name was Isaac— to support their life. They once had a maid when they lived in exile in Germany; had an aunt named Rosa who perished in the holocaust; and had a nephew who was being famous as a chess player. The son was crazy and suffering from "referential mania" where "the patient imagines that everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence". He started to show his abnormality since he was a child by creating illusions which his parents thought was a gift. He even scared of simple things just like the wallpaper in the passage and certain pictures on the book. He had gone mad. His parents still loved him although he had psychosis in his mind because whatever happened, he was still their son. They loved him sincery without any shame neither doubt.

           On a Friday, the elderly couple have decided birthday gift for their son. It was a basket with ten different fruit jellies in ten little jars. They wanted to visit him but that day was not going as what they planned. They got many obstacles while they are on their way to sanitarium, either at the railway or bus station. It enraged them more when it began to rain. They expected to see their son going in through the door but they were completely disappointed and upset when the nurse told them obviously that they couldn’t meet him because he was about to attemp suicide, that a visit from his parents might disturb him and make him worse. It was not the first time he tried to kill himself, he had done it before. He lived in his own world which he had created that he thought he was the most intelegent man and there was spies around him. He considered himself as the theme of the world. He had the dellusion of being insecure among the surrounding. He often endangered himself.

          The couple went out from the sanitarium with a deep dissapoinment. On their way home, they kept the silence without saying anything but just staring at the people around them. The wife judged a girl she saw in the train who was crying, she wondered why she even bother to cry, her life couldn’t be even worse than having a deranged son like her. When they finally got home, the husband headed to go to bed meanwhile the wife was sitting in the living room, she took a photograph album and open it up one by one. She recalled the memories her family had had. Potograph of her maid when they lived in Germany, photograph of her aunty, photograph of the son’s cousin, photograph of the son from age to age from he was just a little baby. She thought again about the the hard times in the childhood of the son and the time he turned to be deranged. She had accepted everything  though. She knew there was something good behind all of those bad things. It was nearly midnight when the husband yelled that he couldn’t sleep because he was dying. He figured out to take their son back to home and take care of him, give him the bedroom and have the doctor see him at least twice a week. He told the wife that each of them would spend the night near the son, and the other part on the couch. He also said that The Prince wouldn’t mind it because it would cost cheaper than keeping the son in sanitarium. The wife agreed with it and suggested to take him up tomorrow. Their conversation went pretty fine until the phone rang. The husband let the wife pick it up and talk to the caller because he didn’t know English as much as his wife. It was a dull girl who wanted to talk to a boy named Charlie but the wife said that that the girl had the wrong number right away. It frightened her, she said. The call rang again once more but the wife kept hanging it up. Untill the third rang when they were still enjoying their tea.


My general comment about the story is : This story is very inspiring. The plot and the storyline are based on a real condition in our society. It gives the illustration about how to accept someone as what they are although they have disablement which they never ask for. From reading the story, we are forced to feel the gratefulness of being a perfect God’s creature. We will also realize how lucky we are because we never know what other people out there have been through. Maybe we accuse that we’re the most miserable person in this world but in fact, we are not. The following is some detailed quality I found in the work.

First, when I read it I feel that the story is very much reasonably developed. It talks about the life of an elderly couple whose son is deranged. They moved from Europe to America to start a new life. Several things that built the psychological truth are the using of the background in the story, the conditions mentioned just like the condition of the son and the husband’s brother who sustains the financial needs of the couple, the way of thinking of the husband, the situation the couple experienced on the way of visiting their son in sanitarium, etc.

Besides, the writer used his own skill of writing to drive the reader to the cerebration of his opinion. The writer wanted to emphasize that the whole story suits with the real life some people have, so it feels so true without any imaginative character.

Secondly, this work indicates high originality. It is not about the theme but the way this work presented. I think the terms belong to the writer’s own creation style with a clear flow-of-factly that make the reader catch what the story talks about without any confusion. (I was surprised to see how the writer narrated the elderly couple to the speculation that their son’s madness is a gift, not a deficiency. Sincerity of loving the son really touched me. The writer also made me puzzled at the end of the story when a girl called three times looking for a boy named Charlie without any explanation for the purpose of that. I think the parents also lose their mind too because they want to bring their crazy son back to home and take care of him with a putlock because they love him. Which makes me realize that the writer really has his own unique style of writing). (This makes me conclude that this work offers new experience to me).

Thirdly, when I read this work, I got a lot of impression in the creativity of the author. I also gained some informations about deranged people, about the imagination and the world they built on their own instead of living in reality. They just want to escape from the world they don’t recognize because they already have a particular world in their head, that’s why they act crazy all the time.
This work really teaches me about life. It gives enough lesson about life. The lesson I have learned is that we should accept the people in our life as what they are, whether they are beautiful or ugly, whether they are well-off or impecunious. They never ask for flaws, they want to be normal like most of people too but that’s out of their control when it comes to God’s decision. Sometimes there are some things that don’t go as what we expext, they happen with reason to teach us how to be tough and strong. 

Analyzed by: @Annisawdyf