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The symbol of the cake is deeply significant when we think about what it indicates about the character of Laura. She is desperately trying to play her role as perfect housewife, and tries to find her meaning and identity in performing this role perfectly. She desires deeply to be able to express her creative side, and sees baking the cake as a way of doing this. It is clear, however, that her first effort, made with Richie's help, does not meet her exacting standards, especially after the visit of her friend, and so she drives herself to make a better, a more perfect, cake instead, without Richie's help, because she recognises that his "help" is actually an impediment to her creative abilities, which is of course part of her decision to leave her family.
In the, end, she does achieve the perfection that she desires in the second cake. However, interestingly, she internally becomes incredibly angry when the cake is "ruined" after Dan spits on it when he blows out the candles. This in itself is part of the deeper symbolism of her character. No matter how perfect her art forms, in whatever shape, she recognises that her husband an son will be there to "ruin" it because of the way that they both are barriers to her artistic expresion. The cake therefore is a symbol above all of the limitations that Laura faces through her role as wife and mother, and an indication that to be artistically fulfilled, she will need to jettison these constraints.
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