1)How do symbols affect a story ?
2)In Fallen Angels, what symbols do you see in Richie's story?
3)What do they represent? What is the tone of the story? How does it affect meaning (or how does it influence the way you interpret the story)
4)What do you think Richie's theme is? Explain.
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1. Symbols, simply put, are representations of an object or idea. For example, a red traffic light has nothing inherent that communicates the idea "stop"; instead we have learned what the symbol represents, and it meets us in the middle by using the color red, which we often associate with danger. Symbols will usually be related to their meaning in some similar way; one would expect a child's toy to represent innocence and not, for example, a love of cooking. In literature, symbols can be used to create additional "depth"; for example, a symbol may be left unexplained, creating an argument about its meaning, or they may be used as a sort of vignette (this is done to excellent effect in "The Things They Carried").
2. Two important symbols relevant to Richie are dog tags, and his letters home.
3. Richie's character arc is a fairly typical, three-part progression. He begins with a sense of optimism and naivete, and enters a conflict. The conflict destroys some of his confidence and challenges him, and after a struggle, he emerges victorious, but changed. We can see Richie's symbols as facets of this story.
The dog tags are symbolic of the soldier himself; this can be applied to a single, specific person, or to all soldiers, or even the idea of a soldier. They are that essence distilled into an object. What happens to these objects is also symbolic; losing them is the same as saying "this person was forgotten". In real life, this is in part why services such as the Marines put so much emphasis on recovering fallen comrades.
Richie's letters are representations both of his own mind and person, and of his relationship with everyone else; as Richie transforms through the story, he struggles to make sense of himself, and of how to interact with a world that is, and is not, meeting his expectations. The nature of his letters parallel the character arc described above; as the conflict challenges Richie, his letters change, but as he achieves victory they change again, becoming something more than what they started out as.
4. This question is asking for the reader's opinion; as such, it is up to the reader to answer individually. We should be careful to keep in mind that, as described above, the Richie we see at the end of the story is a different person than the one at the beginning; his theme may well have changed along with his character. Personally, I think that the Loss of Innocence/Coming of Age theme is the most prominent.
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