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The central motif that governs the entire novel, and one that is well worth analysing in depth, is that of the cat's eye that gives the novel its title. Let us remember that as a child, Elaine and her brother play marbles and this becomes an important game that Elaine recalls, symbolising the innocence of her life before Cordelia entered it. One of Elaine's prized possessions is a cat's eye marble that she keeps in her red purse. The motif of the cat's eye appears later on in Elaine's life, as it is a recurring symbol in her paintings, linked to figures that Elaine feels have helped her or can be considered to be allies. Consider for example Elaine's painting of the strange Virgin-figure who helped save her from when she went down the canyon as a child at the behest of Cordelia:
She is the Virgin of Lost Things. Between her hands, at the level of her heart, she holds a glass object: an oversized cat's eye marble, with a blue centre.
The cat's eye therefore is a powerful motif that symbolises hope and safety, as its various depictions in Elaine's paintings show. It is therefore highly symbolic that Elaine rediscovers the red purse that was so important to her as a child later on in life, and as she looks through it, this reminds her of the memories she had forgotten, which she describes as "her life entire."
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