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Written by Jessica Weed
Symbol: The Royal Robes
When Aksenty believes that he is King Ferdinand VIII of Spain, he realizes that a king needs royal robes, and so makes some. He cuts up a suit he wore twice as a titular councilor. This cutting up of a past uniform to redress himself in the image he wants to be known is symbolic of Aksenty’s attempt to rise through the social classes and take control of his status. He is trying to free himself from the past and create a future.
Aksenty often associates Sophie with images of flight. When she steps out of the carriage, he says she “fluttered…like a little bird,” he says her dress was “white as a swan,” and when she speaks he says her voice is like a “canary.” Flight generally represents freedom, as it does here. Courting Sophie would be Aksenty’s chance to escape his social class, his chance at freedom. Unfortunately for Aksenty, this motif is ironic, because he will never marry Sophie and will never escape life as a civil servant.
Aksenty’s madness is representative of the effects such a rigid social structure has on people living in St. Petersburg. Though the lower classes do not actually go insane, the lack of opportunity leaves people mentally and spiritually unfulfilled. Aksenty’s madness is in attempt to raise his position – by his job, his love life, and his social class.
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