Two important symbols in Paul Auster’s novel are the game of poker and the wall. The initial poker game that gets Jiim into debt is clearly linked to the theme of “chance” in the title. The inevitable risks in life are condensed into a single game, and that game's outcome sets in motion events that have devastating effects. In some ways, the ritualistic qualities of playing a game set it apart from the randomness of the subsequent experiences, such as meeting Jack. This illusion of structure is part of what draws them to play. Auster encourages the reader to wonder if life is actually as random as we might believe. Does it, too, consist of a patterned game?
The wall is a symbol with multiple meanings. On the one hand, it stands for the labor that the men are bound to perform. It serves as a border between two territories. However, it does not actually enclose those territories. They develop an allegiance to work that may never be finished. The wall more abstractly can symbolize the futility of existence, similar to the existential interpretation of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, which Albert Camus explored. In this myth, a man was condemned to push a stone up a hill for eternity, but it always rolled back down after he struggled to the top of the hill with it.