Symbolism is a good tool to use when we come across difficult abstract concepts such as life and death.For example, in her article entitled “Gravity”, David Leavitt tells us a story about how a mom named Sylvia encourages her HIV infected son Theo to live longer. When Theo started to have bad eye sight in his childhood Sylvia just let him wear her flamboyant glasses despite that people around them all think that Theo looks strange. After Theo grew up, between a drug that could sustain his life and a drug that could save his sight, Theo chose the second one. Sylvia worried that Theo would give up the hope for living, so she tried to encourage Theo to live by a strange way which similar to the way she help him with his sight when he was a child. She threw a very heavy crystal bowl to Theo when they were shopping in a gift store. Theo caught the bowl without thinking. Theo realized that by throwing the bowl, on one side, Sylvia tended to prove that he is still alive. On the other side, Sylvia wanted to encourage him to live longer. The crystal bowl in the story represents exactly what Theo was going through. It symbolizes both life and death. It represents life because it was heavy and valuable “(The crystal bowl is) Four hundred and twenty- five dollars” (l. 88) This shows that the crystal bowl is very valuable just like that human’s life is very precious. In the same time, crystal bowl represent death because it could easily been shattered.
Theo was surprised that he actually did not shatter the bowl “Theo looked at the floor, still surprised not to see shards of glass around his feet.” (l. 96-97) If the crystal bowl were broken, it would have not value or meaning just like it has lost its life. So, the Crystal bowl in the story represents death. If the bowl shattered, it just like a person lost his/her life. The crystal bowl also represents the character and hopes of Sylvia. The crystal in the story is very showing and pricy. “(The crystal bowl is) a large ridges crystal bowl, a very fifties sort of bowl, stalwart and square-jawed.” (l. 84-86) It represents Sylvia’s flamboyant and materialism characters. The author tells us that Sylvia has a flamboyant character by describing Sylvia’s bold and flashy glasses”… harlequins with tiny rhinestones in the corners…”(l. 9) The author also implies that Sylvia is quite materialism by showing us that she care a lot about the price of a graduation gift her sister given to her son “Don’t you remember that cheap little nothing Bibi gave you for your graduation? It was disgusting.”(l.50-51) On the other hand, the crystal bowl represents the strength of Sylvia’s hope for Theo to live because the crystal bowl is heavy “’That’s heavy,’ Sylvia said, observing with satisfaction how the bowl had weighted Theo’s arms down”(l.93-94) The heavier the stronger, so the heaviness of the crystal bowl represent the strong will and hope of Sylvia.
The author shows us that Sylvia is a strong willed woman who has done extremely stressful things in a role “The DHPG injections she (Sylvia) took in stride—she’s seen her own mother through her dying, after all, Four times a day, with the equanimity of a nurse, she cleaned out the plastic tube implanted in his chest, inserted a sterilized hypodermic a Sylvia and slowly dripped bag of sight-giving liquid into his vein…” (l.17-20) It shows that Sylvia has tremendous strength just like the toughness the crystal bowl appeared to be. The author also shows us that Sylvia’s hope for Theo to live is very strong. Even though Sylvia was stressed out ”Yet she (Sylvia) had also, at about three o’clock one morning, woken him up to tell him she was going to the twenty-four- hour supermarket, and was there anything her wanted”(1. 122-124) This shows that Sylvia was on the edge of mental broken-down. But Sylvia still keeps strong hope for Theo to live “… it had occurred to him (Theo) that she (Sylvia) was trusting his two feeble hands, out of the whole world, to keep it from shattering.” This shows that after all, Sylvia strongly hoped that, showing Theo that he was still strong by throwing the crystal bowl and letting him catch it, Theo would not continue on giving up his life but choose to live longer.
The crystal also symbolized the general message which the author is trying to convey to the readers: life should be fully lived. The author shows that Theo was dying and tended to giving up his life. He felt “…wide and unswimmable the gulf was becoming between him and the evereceding shoreline of the will …” (l. 35-36) Even though he felt that way, he still caught the heavy crystal bowl without thinking. It shows the underlining deep and significant meaning of the story “There are certain things you’ve already done before you even think how to do them… the bowl, which Theo was holding before he could even begin to calculate its brief trajectory…” (l.131-133) This shows us that all human have an instinct for living.
By showing us this, the story conveys a message to the readers that even though life is violable like the fragile crystal bowl; it doesn’t mean that we should give up. Instead, we should look at the positive side of life. Just like the crystal bowl also heavy and strong side, human lives also have a strong side because very one have instinct for living. Therefore, we should have faith to ourselves and stop complaining our own misery but start to look at life in a positive way, and realize that our lives should be fully lived.
Courtney from Study Moose
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