One particular symbol out of Salvage the Bones is pregnancy. It is symbolically used in a simultaneous manner. There is a convergence within pregnancy. China represents this in how she was mated with Manny's pit bull that is bred for death. Esch converged with Manny. This convergence represents an exhilarating life force. Yet, there is a loneliness that pregnancy comes to symbolize. China is alone when she gives birth, delivering the afterbirth and the live puppy with it, completely apart from anyone else and rebuking most others that seek to come near her. Esch comes to see pregnancy in the same light as Manny moves away from her, says her name with disappointment, and is only accompanied by the dreams and love that is never reciprocated: "He makes my heart beat like that, I want to say, and point at the squirrel dying in red spurts.” Pregnancy is a symbol that features both the exhilarating closeness of human contact, the toughness of what it means to be a woman, and the alienation that can often accompany human connection and relationship.
There is also a symbolic value to the challenges that creatures must face in the novel. Pit bull fighting, battling in basketball games, and fighting through Hurricane Katrina are all symbolic tests that are almost biblical in scope and nature. What it means to be a human being is forged in these tests. The symbolic nature of these shows a setting in which human character is both tested and revealed through them. These experiences stand for more than what they are. They embody the conditions of being in the world and consciousness, symbolic of the struggle in merely living. In such a setting, living is the ultimate reward, something that is salvaged through the wreckage of what surrounds being in the world.