Themes and Meanings
As the title of this novel might suggest, there is much in A Severed Head that is symbolic. For Martin, the “things” he and Antonia own together are, after their separation, “sad symbols” for his loss of the warm, secure “bright figured globe” of his existence. For the author and reader, Martin’s search for a fully conscious and individuated self is best symbolized by fog, which at times prevents him from being certain as to what time of day or night it is and which comes to symbolize the opaque unconscious realm through which Martin spends most of his time wandering. Indeed, it is appropriate that early in the story Martin goes to the train station to meet Honor, a woman who is to become his guide and teacher, and during their drive back over the foggy London streets to Anderson’s home, Martin asks her to help him find his way (the foggy streets in this case take on the symbolic significance of a labyrinth, itself an archetypal symbol of the individuation process). Later in the novel, Martin intimates his half-conscious awareness of what the fog symbolizes in his life when, walking in London during a foggy evening, he tells himself, “I cannot see,” and then he tells the reader that “it was as if some inner blindness were being . . . tormentingly exteriorized.”
The most important symbol in the novel is the “severed head” itself, as it becomes the unacknowledged goal of Martin’s search for self. Honor views herself as...
(The entire section is 555 words.)