Theme and Symbols of I Used to Live Here Once

Categories: Mango Tree

The story “I used to live here once” is a short story based on a woman’s journey returning to a place she once called home. The author uses symbols throughout the story to demonstrate to the reader that the woman is no longer alive. The ultimate theme is not discovered until the end of the story.

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The purpose of this paper will be to discuss my interpretation of the theme and symbol of this story. This story is written in limited third person point of view.

This means that narrator is not a character in the story.

Based on the fact that; the narration is focused on only the woman’s actions, views, feelings and emotions. That leads me to believe that this particular story is limited third person point of view. The theme is a representation of the idea behind the story. (Clugston, 2010) Throughout the story the author gives clues to inform the reader of underlying meaning of the story. My understanding of the theme of “I used to live here once” is a woman’s spiritual journey. The plot of this story is a woman visiting a place she once called home.

There are various symbols the author mentions. The symbols help the reader to understand the theme of the story. In “I used to live here once” it starts out she is standing by the flowing river looking at the stepping stones remembering which ones where safe to step on and which ones were not. (Rhys, 1976) The river is a flow of her human experiences through life.

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I believe that the stepping stones were the trials and tribulations she experienced throughout her life. She had probably made mistakes by stepping on the wrong ones before.

By that, I mean made mistakes in her life and learned from them. As she crosses the river, that stands for crossing over into the afterlife. As she walks down what used to be her street. She notices the road was much wider than it used to be but the work had been done carelessly. The fallen trees and bushes had not been cared for. (Rhys, 1976) This indicates times had changed. Yet, it was still familiar to her. The author goes on to describe that it was a fine day. A blue day, meaning a sense of peace.

Except in the woman’s eyes everything looked glassy. This means she was experiencing uncertainty, she was not seeing the world clearly. She then came up to the worn steps of the house. There were a few changes throughout the yard, the house was paint white and there was a car in the driveway. (Rhys, 1976) My interpretation of the worn steps was that they were her human body. The changes in the yard, was a representation of time passing by. Her mentioning finding it strange that there was a car in the driveway indicates she may have been gone for many years.

The house being painted white was the insight she was about to gain. There were two children playing outside under the big mango tree. She waved and said hello a few times. There was no response from the children. They young boy looked directly at her. (Rhys, 1976) Although the boy looked straight at her, neither child noticed her after many attempts of trying to get their attention. The little boy felt a cold chill and they both went into the house. Her arms fell to her sides and that’s when she first time she knew.

The big mango tree represents the wisdom she had gained throughout her life. I believe the cold chill the children experienced was due to that fact that she was no longer in a human body. Cold chills have been largely associated with supposed experiences with ghostly beings. By far, this is one of the biggest symbols the author portrayed in the story. If the author had not mentioned this; it would have been a lot more difficult for the reader to understand what the story is about.

The first time she knew, means the first moment she realized that she was only a spirit returning to a place she once called home. The overall theme of this story is the woman’s spiritual journey through the afterlife. I believe that the author using limited third point of view helped me to connect with the woman. The symbols expressed throughout the story were intriguing. The symbols made me think about the statements in a new light. “I used to live here once” is a lot more complex than I first thought. This story is very well written and I enjoyed looking deeper into the meaning behind it.

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Theme and Symbols of I Used to Live Here Once. (2017, Feb 04). Retrieved from

Theme and Symbols of I Used to Live Here Once
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