Discuss the volcano as a symbol for the passage " Volcano" by Nancy Lord.

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Volcano is a short story within the book Survival by Nancy Lord. The book itself is a compilation of 15 short stories set in Alaska, which center around the theme of women and their relationship to loneliness and disaster, as well as their courage. The settings for each story are rugged and romantically dangerous locations; in Volcano this means a remote homestead in the path of an erupting volcano.

In this short story, the main character, Julia, finds herself trapped alone as a nearby volcano erupts and sends ash over the house. Her husband is away at work, following a usual two week on/two week off schedule. She loses power as the ash descends, completely cutting her off from help and the outside world. While the volcano and the falling ash represent the physical danger Julia faces, they also symbolize a culmination of the previous trials that Julia has overcome alone on the homestead. The ash buries her much like her responsibilities on the homestead; both are unavoidable and all-consuming. While Julia states that the homestead belongs to her husband Dave, it is apparent in the story that she is the one managing it.

There is a level of animosity; her husband is away, ignorant of the current danger of the volcano and of past dangers that Julia has faced on her own. Her anger turns to "quiet tears, no hysteria, stoicism mixed with regret" as she accepts that a volcano may be simply unavoidable, a fitting culmination of past trials. She imagines a rather dramatic death in which she is finally literally consumed by the landscape that has been slowly consuming her figuratively for years. In the end, it turns out that the danger and Julia's fears were simply smoke; the ash retreats and Julia survives disaster once again. However, the final line, "She studied it and smoldered," leads the reader to believe that Julia has absorbed something from the volcano itself, that perhaps her own feelings will finally boil over and come to light.

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