In the first chapter, Artemis and Butler meet Nguyen Xuan, who has told them that he knows the location of a sprite. During their first meeting, Butler grabs a mosquito with his bare hand: "Butler snatched a mosquito out of the air beside his employer's ear" (6).
The mosquito in this scene works as a symbol on two levels. First, it demonstrates what will happen to Artemis's adversaries—they will be "squashed" by Butler as easily as if they are a mosquito. Second, it symbolizes the lengths to which Butler will go in order to protect Artemis. He is there to shield Artemis from every threat—even one as innocuous as a mosquito. Butler can anticipate these threats to Artemis without the boy having to point them out. Artemis says nothing about the mosquito; nevertheless, it never bites him.
Foaly's Tinfoil Hat (Symbol)
When we first meet Foaly in Artemis Fowl, Holly notes that he wears a tinfoil hat on his head at all times: "Foaly was a paranoid centaur, convinced that human intelligence agencies were monitoring his transport and surveillance network. To prevent them from reading his mind, he wore a tinfoil hat at all times" (41-2). This tinfoil hat brings levity to Foaly's character: he is an incredibly powerful individual who has the entirety of fairy technology at his fingertips (he even built most of it himself). However, he is also kind of kooky, and he believes in conspiracy theories. He is also one of the only people alive who can goad and tease Commander Root; this is only because Root knows just how powerful Foaly is.
In this way, the tinfoil hat acts as a symbol for the more endearing parts of Foaly's personality throughout the novel. However, it also acts as a symbol for something more sinister—Foaly, one of the smartest fairies to live among the People—is afraid of the humans and their own technology. He believes that humans likely know about the People, and if they do then they will target Foaly, since he is their technological mastermind. He does not put it past the Mud People to monitor the fairies, nor would he be surprised to discover them reading his mind. This shows us a little bit about how humans ("Mud People") are perceived in the fairy underworld. They are an intimidating and dangerous race that has abused the earth for their own selfish gain. The fairies have every right to believe that if they were to find out about the People, the humans would exploit them, too. Foaly's tinfoil hat is a symbol of this intense relationship; one that is characterized by an imbalance of power and an atmosphere of fear.
Root's Cigar (Symbol)
Throughout the story, Commander Root smokes pungent cigars. Sometimes, he pulls them out when he wants control over a situation—see, for example, the negotiations between Root and Artemis in Chapter 6. Often, when he is frustrated, he throws his cigar on the ground and stomps on it with his boot. For example, when Root is held up by a group of tourists on his way to rescue Holly, he throws his cigar on the floor: "Root spat out the butt of his cigar, squashing it comprehensively beneath his boot heel" (84).
In this way, the cigar symbolizes Root's command over the situation when he is smoking it. (This becomes clear when one considers that not many people besides Root would get away with smoking a noxious cigar during working hours.) As Root smokes, he is asserting his dominance and control. When he throws it on the ground to put it out, this is a symbol for his domination over others. It is an expression of his power and meant to intimidate those around him.
Angeline's mental state (Motif)
During the events narrated in Artemis Fowl, Angeline has lost her memory and spends her time in her bedroom in a catatonic state. Often, she does not recognize Artemis himself, which causes him great personal distress: "Artemis knew then. It was just an escalation of her madness. Papa? Angeline thought Artemis was his own grandfather. Dead over ten years" (112). Angeline's troubled memory cast a somber mood over the Fowl household, as Artemis feels his mother slipping out of his grasp. Not many things stir an emotional reaction in Artemis Fowl; his mother's madness, however, causes tears to spring to his eyes on two occasions.
The motif of Angeline's mental state hangs over the rest of the book. Artemis uses her as a test to see whether or not the Time Stop can be escaped by changing one's state of consciousness. He also gives Holly back half of her gold in return for healing Angeline at the end of the novel—this act is not entirely selfless, but it shows a bit of how much he has grown. Artemis is no longer thinking solely about himself.
Holly's Punch (Symbol)
In Chapter 8, Holly has finally recovered her magical powers after breaking through the concrete floor of her holding cell and planting an acorn in the exposed earth. She makes her way to Artemis's study where, to Artemis's utter shock, she punches him in the face: "She pulled back her first, fingers curled in a tight bunch. Artemis didn't flinch. Why would he? Butler always intervened before punches landed. But then something caught his eye, a large figure running down the stairway on the first-floor monitor. It was Butler" (206). After Butler leaves to go save Juliet, Artemis is left defenseless against Holly's attack. It is probably the first time in his life that he has to face the real consequences of his actions, leaving him speechless: "For once in his life, Artemis realized that he didn't have a snappy answer. He opened his mouth, waiting for his brain to supply the customary pithy comeback. But nothing arrived" (208).
Holly's punch symbolizes a shift of power at this point in the novel. She has been at Artemis's mercy throughout the first seven chapters, but now she has the upper hand: "When this affair had started, the advantage had been with the Mud People. But now the boot was on the other foot. She was the hunter and they were the prey" (204). At the same time, the LEP team (led by Cudgeon, who has backstabbed Root) is making the drastic choice to release a deadly troll in Fowl Manor. Artemis does not expect either of these occurrences, which is a first, since he has remained one step ahead of the fairies throughout the novel thus far. For these reasons, this moment is both a literal and figurative "punch in the face" for Artemis, who now must think quickly if he still wants to win.
Artemis Fowl Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Artemis Fowl is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.