What is a symbol in A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle?

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A Ring of Endless Light, the fourth in Madeleine L'Engle's series of novels about the Austin family, contains many symbols, but one especially interesting symbol to ponder is Zachary Gray's black station wagon. His car brings to mind the image of a hearse, which is a vehicle designed especially to transport coffins or caskets containing a dead person; therefore, the black station wagon represents concrete experiences and objects linked with death, which is a prominent theme in the novel as a whole.

In this novel, Vicky is coping with the notion of death from several different angles. Commander Rodney's funeral, her own beloved grandfather's impending demise, and Zachary's suicide attempt and the death of his mother are significant life events for a young fifteen-year-old to absorb and understand. L'Engle also deals with the spiritual side of death and other abstract notions to do with death in this novel, but Zachary's funereal vehicle, in which Vicky travels at times, makes death a tangible reality. This car serves as a reminder to the reader that Vicky's life, like that of all humans, will eventually end, and mortality is not always something to fear nor to celebrate—it is simply something to accept.

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