Today, I am going to compare our first two readings from The Greensboro Review. I am going to analyze the symbolism between the threatening dam in “This Cody”, by Lauri Anderson, and the hole to hell in “The House the Thompsons Bought”, by Isadora J. Wagner. I chose these two main symbols because, while they might create lots of metaphors and symbolism which give meaning to the story, they are actual literal, tangible, key structures in each story.
In the short story, “This Cody”, the narrator is constantly referring to the dam towering upstream. She talks about how she is always expecting the water to overflow and crush the wall leading to her death by drowning. “Behind me, the dam is holding back every drop it was built to contain. Its concrete walls are eight feet thick. It is designed to collapse in and not out.” (P. 16 G.R.). This is an extended metaphor throughout the story representing the crushing weight and guilt of the narrator’s constant lies. She sees no way out except for the one day when the dam will break and the lies about her son’s disappearance will come crushing forth destroying herself and everything she knows and loves. This dam stands fixed in the entire story symbolizing the severity of guilt on the narrator’s conscience.
The symbolism of the hole to hell in “The House the Thompsons Bought” is also revealing some mental angst by the main character, Judy Thompson. In this short story, the Thompson family has recently uprooted their lives, just like the family from “This Cody”, and moved hoping to escape from traumatic events. Judy’s husband has recently committed an infidelity. Judy chooses this house, even though it has a literal hole to hell in the kitchen, simply because it intrigues her. As the story develops and draws to a conclusion we discover that, for Judy, the hole symbolizes the idea that people can change. These people are crawling up out of the hole and escaping hell. Though they might have sinned and committed all sorts of immoral acts to deserve eternity in hell, they are able to right their wrongs and gain forgiveness from their God. The actual act of climbing out of hell is a symbol of the struggle to gain forgiveness and earn trust from their God. At the conclusion of the story Judy finds a sense of peace with her family and her surroundings because she realizes she can forgive her husband for his infidelities. Judy realizes she can trust him and he can learn from his mistakes just like those people who crawled out of hell.