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THEMATIC ANALYSIS: Use of Symbols. UNIT 3 AOS1. LEARNING INTENTION: Identify how the use of symbolism adds to the narrative. Context of symbolism. Symbolism is the use of symbols to invest things with a representative meaning or to represent something abstract by something concrete.

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context of symbolism
Context of symbolism

Symbolism is the use of symbols to invest things with a representative meaning or to represent something abstract by something concrete

What symbolism, then, is presented the David Malouf’s ‘Ransom’?

symbolism in ransom
Symbolism in Ransom

As an expressive, somewhat poetic writer, Malouf generally uses a variety of symbols in his books. ‘Ransom’ is no exception. It is packed with symbolism. We will focus on…

  • Jove’s Eagle
  • Somax’s cart
  • Priam as a child
  • The cakes Somax offers Priam in section 3
  • Hector’s body
  • Priam’s sniffing
jove s eagle
Jove’s eagle
  • Jove refers to an Ancient Roman God: The God of the sky
  • Represents spiritual protection
  • ‘Jove’s Eagle’: A bird renowned for keen sight
  • Presence of Jove’s eagle during Priam and Somax’s departure hints that the gods will safely guide their journey
  • The symbol of the eagle’s powerful vision is contrasted with Priam’s ‘blindness’ at the beginning of the journey: he is yet to experience the outside world. It is during the journey that he learns about himself and others, and thus improving his ‘sight.’
  • Hence, Jove’s eagle is no longer mentioned when Priam is endowed with his new insight derived from his journey.
somax s cart
Somax’s Cart
  • On all previous occasions, the king had used this elegant cart to alert others that royalty was present: everything was meticulously chosen and designed specifically for the king.
  • His demand for a ‘common work cart’ depicts his determination for a simple approach to Achilles.
  • The cart highlights Priam’sdesire to become just another man and father, anonymous in the plain cart with the hopes of retrieving Hector.
priam as a child
Priam as a child
  • At the beginning of the journey, Priam is characterised with childish traits.
  • When Somax urges Priam to dabble his feet in the stream his actions are that of a young child trying new experiences.
  • Yet he is old and frail age: his lack of exposure to ‘real life’ has left him crippled of the simplest experiences (cooling effect of feet in water and eating delicious homemade cookies)
cakes
Cakes
  • The griddlecakes Somax brings along during the journey highlight Priam’s lack of knowledge of simple things.
  • Priam’sunfamiliarity with the cakes represents his isolation from the ‘real world’
  • Somax’slengthy chatter about his daughter-in-law cooking the cakes with the prompts Priam to think about the activities in his kingdom behind closed doors.
  • He had previously never noticed preparation that went into the food that appeared at his table
  • These matters had been of little concern for Priam yet he realises they have an appeal
hector s body
Hector’s body
  • Achilles had dragged Hector’s body across the walls of Troy for eleven days
  • Each morning he would return to find Hector’s body healed of any wounds
  • His body symbolises how revenge is not the answer to any battle, since dealing with a tragic loss through revenge does not gain anything, but only more pain and suffering.
sniffing
Sniffing
  • When sharing the story of his son’s death, Somaxsniffs, which Priam finds an odd habit
  • Priam only realises he doesn’t fully appreciate the loss of his sons until he hears Somax’s stories
  • The sniffing represents Somax’s sadness and demonstrates how Priam has never truly felt the loss of his sons
  • Later on, Somax once again ‘snuffles’ and ‘rubs his nose’ at the thought of the ending to their journey.
  • Priammakes ‘small sounds’, presumably crying as well. Priam therefore has transformed into to a man filled with emotions
  • Priamundergoes both a physical and metaphysical journey where he undergoes self-development and appreciation of the world around him.
activity building symbolic discussion off evidence
ACTIVITY: Building symbolic discussion off evidence

For the symbolism your group is exploring, taking the following steps:

  • As a group, find several quotes in the text that demonstrate the symbolism
  • Write these quotes into a symbolic discussion (see an example on the next page)
  • Share your responses with your table
example response sniffing
Example response: Sniffing

‘The man fell silent, stared off into the distance… [and] he rubbed his nose with the heel of his hand… Priam too fell silent… He too had lost so many sons in these last months, all of them dear to him – or so he had told himself’ Pp.134 – 135.

Somax’s outward expression of his emotions teaches Priam that he had not truly felt the grief of the death of his sons. This evident when, after retelling in graphic detail the death of one of his sons, he expressed his pain in contemplative silence and ‘rubbed his nose with the heel of his hand’: a symbolic reference to tears. This forces Priam to the realisation that his son’s were perhaps not as dear to him.

homework
Homework

Read Part 3 (111-163) and underline quotes you may use. Write these into a new ‘quotes’ section of your workbook

Answer the following questions

  • The narrative shifts viewpoint regularly in Part three so that the reader sees events through Somax’s eyes as well as through Priam’s. What do you think is achieved by this?
  • “the appearance of Hermes is pure fantasy”. Is Hermes too much for the reader to believe in? explain your view of Hermes’ role in Part three.