In the story "The Californian's Tale" by Mark Twain what do the furnishings, pictures and other objects symbolize?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Californian's Tale" by Mark Twain, all the furnishings, pictures, and objects symbolize the presence of the woman in the cottage of a forty-five-year-old who calls to Twain's narrator, a prospector.  With all these touches, touches that the narrator has so missed, he has a premonition that he should go away:

'I will go straight away from this place, for my piece of mind's sake.

However, the man convinces the narrator to stay by showing him her photo, an eternal recording of the woman.  He tells the narrator to tell the beautiful picture that he will not stay.  The narrator's "resolution" breaks down; he remains, deluded by the objects that seem real because they all have been preserved by a loving husband and friends. Sadly,the narrator understands his premonition as he learns the tragic truth of the husband's disillusions.

lit24 | Student

"Never has been sane an hour since. But he (Henry) only gets bad when that time of year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here, three days before she's due, to encourage him up, and ask if he's heard from her, and Saturday we all come and fix up the house with flowers, and get everything ready for a dance. We've done it every year for nineteen years."

Only at the end of the story the readers realise theintensity of poor Henry's tragic situation. From the beginning, Mark Twain emphasises the loneliness and desolation of a once rich and prosperous mining town: "it was a lonesome land!"But even in that lonely place the whole community has got together to preserve and protect the sanity of one of its members, Henry, by an elaborate fictitious scheme to keep alive his hope that his wife will return one day. What is really moving is that they have been doing this regularly without a break for the past nineteen years. For the past nineteen years without a break the whole community has got together and decorated Henry's house to create for Henry the impression that his wife is still alive and that she is going return at 9'O clock onthat Saturday evening.

Thus, all the elegant furnishings, pictures and graceful touches which the narrator sees on entering Henry's quaint cottage symbolise the friendliness, love and affection of an entire community towards one of its emotionally shattered and heartbroken members.