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Examining Symbols of "the Man in the Black Suit"

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Josef Arreaga

English 102

CRN: 1364


Mask on Mask off defines “Symbol” as: “Something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.” Understanding this definition through deep examination truly leaves the reader the freedom to let their imagination perceive whatever it may reveal. An example of this may be reading a book once and perceiving it one way, reading it again and perceiving it another, or even a movie, song, or quote. Ultimately symbols are guides to and through each individual or groups path. King Uses an abundance of symbols, properties, and context to guide the reader through his stories, I will express my perception of five key symbols from Stephen King’s O. Henry, “The Man in the Black Suit” (1994) and also decipher the wisdom, knowledge, and discoveries to be found within the text.

King’s story starts with nine-year-old Gary; the number nine being used “49 times in scripture, the number nine symbolizes completeness or conveys the meaning of finality,” (The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible.). To a reader aware of this, they should understand the divine in which Gary represents. Gary, unaware of the darkness that lays hidden in the deep patches of the world is the light that it cannot touch.

According to many religions and theories, certain souls or energies may hold value to certain names. For example, at my last two jobs my managers names were Geoff. My managers guided me and taught me; they weren’t always managers, but their names were certainly always Geoff. Those same religions and theories relate at an even deeper notion that the name simply doesn’t matter but maybe simply more the first initial of their name representing their true natural place in the harmony of this world. “G” being the letter of topic would stand for GOD. Gary unaware to his true divine by nature is to be woken up, awakened, or reborn as some may call it.

Upon performing chores, like any work conquered, there was a reward for Gary. Gary’s parents allowed him to go fishing. “Water holds ancient symbolic meanings dealing with the subconscious and depth of knowledge. Water contains all the mysteriousness of the unknown.” ( “Symbols of Water”) Like any young boy, Gary was on his way not just to fish but also, to discover. Even though it was a simple journey down the road and into the woods, it was still a journey just as any other, and just like any other within the journey held wisdom, knowledge, and discovery.

Like any journey, there was a fork in the road, this one being where the stream forks of which Gary was going to fish. Gary promised his mother and father he would not go past where the stream forks. This relates to the any readers every day life. Constant forks in the road that may seem like simple left or right turns, or even true decision making like which dress to wear for the ball. Generally speaking, the fork is simply describing decision, and just like any decisions we create, there’s always a reaction to that decision.

That being said, he set his line and caught a beautiful rainbow fish. After gutting, cleaning and throwing it in his bucket, he cast his line again. This time with no immediate bite, he laid back and waited. The reader can depict this content boy getting rewarded for his simple actions of following rules and good karma coming his way. But see, after catching the most beautiful fish in his life, he still wasn’t satisfied.

Much like any journey, there are speed bumps, twists and turns, and distractions especially when you’re not satisfied with what is now; now being the present moment. Awareness is key in this world; to be, and relaxation with the flow or wave can ensure hidden realizations one see’s. Never did Gary think that when he dozed off that he’d suddenly be awakened by anything at all; “A strong tug on his line so strong it almost pulled the bamboo pole out of his hand was what brought him back into the afternoon” (835). He woke up, became aware, and there laid a bee on his nose, apparently testing him to do anything other than just be.

There’s a handclap and the bee falls after Gary goes through a remembrance of his brother who died a year earlier from a bee sting. There stands a man, “His face was very long and pale… and he knew right away that he was not a human being, because his eyes were the orangey red of flames in a wood stove.” (837) The average reader may depict this as the devil, but according to some religions Satan does not exist. In the eastern world, where Hinduism, and Buddhism amongst other religions strive and are all that is known, taught, and preached; you, GOD, and the guru are all one. “All things are seen as interdependent and inseparable parts of this cosmic whole; as different manifestations of the same ultimate reality.” (“The Tao of Physics” 130) Why does he chase Gary? Why does he scare the bejesus out of him? It’s all part of GODS creation, and in this particular journey lies the lesson. We all are one to all teach all.

Knowing what was just seen, was one thing, the confirmation of it all was another once Gary went back with his father and saw the evidence of discolored grass. Gary’s faith had been affirmed. This led to a spark in the entire family after being so low for so long after the oldest sons death. Even the mother went back to church. All in all the “Devil’s” scare led to a rebirth of life in amongst the whole family.

After truly examining the symbols, context in which the story is portrayed, and way the story is taught. I’ve come to realize that every person in this world has the possibility to absolutely perceive anything entirely different. That being said, the art of the author is so powerful. Pen to paper is what impacts our everyday lives. Some of us follow a book to keep us grounded, some of us a piece of paper with guidelines on it. Regardless, the power we hold in our hands is something not to be taught in a story but a message each author is trying to guide the reader to understand.



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