Examine the use of symbols in Pirandello's "War."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One significant symbol in "War" is the second class railway car that serves as the setting for the story.  It is significant because all of the travellers are thrown into this car, with varying experiences.  The reality that unifies them all is how the war has impacted them. The war cuts across class lines on one level.  Yet, on another level, it becomes clear that the "second- class" element signifies that the poor have suffered more in this war.  The stories that emerge regarding children's sacrifice to their nation is reflective that middle class to poorer people suffer the consequences of a war declared by the wealthy.  In this light, the railway car is a significant symbol.

The woman's coat is another symbol.  Initially described as "almost like a shapeless bundle,” the woman's coat acts as a buffer between she and the world.  It insulates her, cuts her off from the people around her. She is able to isolate herself in her sadness, and in her sense of pain at the sacrifices her son is making.  The loss she experiences is enhances with this coat that is pulled over her as almost a way to further alienate herself from the world around her.  As the fat man goes on with his story, it inspires her, to an extent, to let the coat down a bit and speak from its protected cloisters at the end of the story.  The coat becomes symbolic of the woman's emotional condition that initially begins as isolated and then emerges into a more interactive sense of being amidst a backdrop of inescapable sadness and hurt.

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