Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Eggs (Symbol)

Throughout the novel, Nath is often talking about, eating, or requesting that Marilyn prepare eggs. Eggs symbolize fertility, resurrection, and the possibility of new life. As Nath is growing increasingly frustrated with his life at home, his obsession with eggs indicates that he is anticipating his life to begin again when he "flees his nest." Additionally, when Marilyn returns home to clean up her mother's belongings, she is struck by a page in the Betty Crocker cookbook that outlines "the six different ways to prepare eggs." Marilyn notes that each person in her family prefers their eggs to be prepared in a different way. This symbolizes the domestic obligations Marilyn must undertake as the family's matriarch.

The Lake (Symbol)

The lake is a complex symbol that is incredibly significant for the Lee family. In their small Ohio suburb, the lake symbolizes a place of refuge, mystery, entertainment, and danger. For Lydia, the lake is an obstacle that she feels unable to conquer. Due to her inability to swim, the lake is a constant hazard that makes Lydia feel weak and incapable. Lydia's desire to face her fear of the lake ultimately leads to her death. Following Lydia's death, the lake connotes tragedy for the Lee family. Originally viewed as an object, the lake is transformed into a sinister character. Lydia's drowning and subsequent disfigurement renders the lake a villain in the eyes of the Lees.

Blood (Motif)

Blood is a recurring motif throughout Everything I Never Told You. When Lydia smokes her first cigarette with Jack, she comments that she feels "sharp and aware [...] like cutting your finger, she thought: the pain, and the blood, reminded you that you were alive." Marilyn also becomes overwhelmed at the sight of blood when she makes the trip to the doctor to get a pregnancy test. These representations of blood symbolize the vulnerability of the human body. This ties in with the characters' struggles with emotional vulnerability throughout the story. In addition, blood has the ability to become uncontrollable and unmanageable. This symbolizes the nature of secrets throughout the novel. After Lydia's death, each of the characters must recognize the consequences of harboring secrets. Quickly, they realize that the information they have kept secret bleeds into their daily lives and those that surround them.

Drowning (Allegory)

Lydia's death by drowning is an allegory for the pain and suffering that children can experience within their families. In the time leading up to Lydia's death, it is clear that she was "drowning" in a more symbolic sense. Lydia felt weighed down by the social and academic pressures placed on her. Although she enters the lake in order to "start new," her inability to swim indicates how she ultimately cannot escape the pressures of her daily life.

Doctors (Symbol)

Throughout her life, Marilyn aspires to be a doctor. However, her path to her degree is met with much opposition. Doris thwarts Marilyn's dreams, pushing her daughter to be a housewife. While at Radcliffe, Marilyn is subject to an extreme amount of gender discrimination that trivializes her career pursuits. In the novel, the idea of being a doctor and a mother are contrasted against one another. Jack's mother, a doctor, is demonized in their small town for her decision to further her career. Jack's mother's profession becomes the scapegoat that the community blames for Jack's rebellious reputation. When Marilyn discovers that Jack's mother is a doctor, she experiences an identity crisis and then displaces these anxieties onto Lydia.