The Dark Tones of “Signs and Symbols”


In “Signs and Symbols” Vladimir Nabokov creatively provides motifs and imagery that allows the reader to understand how the mind of the young boy works. “Signs and Symbols” is about a mentally unstable boy that believes everything revolves around him, and that everything has a significance. He reads into every object, and thinks it affects him in some dark, ominous way. For example, “Man-made objects were to him either hives of evil… or gross comforts for which no use could be found in his abstract world” (Nabokov 1). Nabokov emphasizes on details and objects, like those displayed on my Pinterest Catalogue , that makes the reader question whether or not it has any significance or meaning to the story, similar to how the boy views the world. The Pinterest page has a pessimistic, dark tone throughout the photos mirroring the tone in “Signs and symbols”. The story has a motif of birds throughout the story, the bird drowning in the puddle, the bird the boy drew at age six with “human hands and feet” (Nabokov 2), and how a patient thought the boy was learning to fly when he tried to commit suicide. The negative tone was emphasized by the gloomy weather and the parents’ continuous amount of waiting, whether at the broken-down train, the crowded bus or the hospital, showing how slow time was passing by for the family. Visualizing these scenes and objects helps portray the underlying tone of the story, and display how unique and unconventional the mind of the young boy works.


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