Isolation In Symbols And Signs By Vladimir Nabokov
1340 Words6 Pages
Silence and Isolation: A Close Reading of “Symbols and Signs” by Vladimir Nabokov
“What he had really wanted to do was to tear a hole in his world and escape.” This quote from Symbols and Signs, a short story by Vladimir Nabokov, explains why the “incurably deranged” son of an old Russian Jewish couple wants to commit suicide by attempting to jump out of the window. The story progresses by narrating how the couple copes with the condition of their son which is later revealed to be “referential mania,” a mental condition in which a person “imagines that everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence” (Nabokov np). Throughout the story, it is revealed how everyone needs isolation and silence to be able to think clearly.
The story is set in New…show more content… There are several instances in which different places where the plot happens develop the theme of the importance of silence and isolation. First, the subway train the couple is boarding “[loses] its life current between two stations and for a quarter of an hour they could hear nothing but the dutiful beating of their hearts and the rustling of newspapers” (Nabokov np). This suggests the apprehension of the couple; they are thinking about what is happening and what is going to happen to their son, while they are on their way to the sanatorium in which their son is confined. Their uneasiness is further justified when they are not met by their son, instead it is the nurse that meets them and tells them that their son has attempted to take his life again. Second, “during the long ride to the subway station, she and her husband [does not] exchange a word” (Nabokov np). After learning that their son has attempted to commit suicide again, they remain silent; they are thinking about the condition of their son in the “miserably understaffed” (Nabokov np) sanatorium. Third, after emerging from