The Kugelmass Episode

by Woody Allen

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What are the symbols in "The Kugelmass Episode" and does the title have a special meaning?

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In “The Kugelmass Episode,” Woody Allen incorporates several elements of symbolism. One significant symbol is the magical box itself. At first the box appears to represent the fulfillment of Kugelmass’s desires. When he enters the box for the first time, however, he notices “a couple of ugly rhinestones glued onto the raw plywood.” The box appears at first glance to be this magical cure, but upon closer inspection may just be a façade, paralleling the façade of Kugelmass finding happiness during his adventures within the box. 

When Emma first arrives in New York, Kugelmass takes her to The Plaza Hotel and showers her with gifts from Halston and Saint Laurent. These actions symbolize a sense of extravagance. Kugelmass is genuinely smitten with Emma during these first encounters.   

Of course, the most humorous element of symbolism used by Allen is the story ending with Kugelmass stuck in a Spanish textbook being chased by the verb meaning “to have.” This conclusion to the story implies that Kugelmass’s need “to have” will actually be the end of him. 

“The Kugelmass Episode” is written as a cautionary tale. The word “episode” in the title suggests a short period within a longer sequence of events. Allen writes of a small portion of Kugelmass’s life that has a moral to teach us all. The title has a dual meaning, however, in the fact that it also represents a time when Kugelmass is not thinking clearly—he is having an “episode.”  This episode symbolizes the dangers of chasing after your desires without considering all the consequences.

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