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Written by Fariha Islam
Garden of Eden Symbol
The Garden of Eden is the symbol of innocence or primary happy state. David ponders Jacques’ question of why can’t people stay in Eden and rather always fall from grace. Giovanni had a good life back in his village in Italy and had a wife and lived to sing. David ponders why he had to leave his happy place or Garden of Eden in this case to come to Paris and discover his interest in men which itself is a crime or swift fall from grace by conventional standards. He rather ponders about his own Eden too in disguise.
Hella is the symbol of the make believe life of David’s. She symbolizes the promise of a conventionally standard future which David can barely keep up with. He is too scared to figure out his true self and hides behind his make believe sexual attraction for Hella. He can’t but think of Giovanni whenever extreme passion comes to his mind but he can’t accept his supposed fall from grace. He tries his heart and soul till the very end of the novel to conform to the conventional ideals of the heterosexual society through his fiancée, Hella.
Giovanni’s Room Allegory
Giovanni’s room itself is the biggest allegory in the novel, Giovanni’s Room. It presents itself as an utterly different world far away from the world outside. The room symbolizes Giovanni’s warped state of mind and his life that lacks any order. David brings an air of order and meaning to Giovanni’s life as well as his room. David and Giovanni were allowed absolute fluidity of emotions and expressions by the privacy of the room and it helped them found their true selves. So the room also presents itself as a symbol of fluidity that elated Giovanni and frightened David at the same time.
The following morning of David and Giovanni’s lovemaking, a rare snowfall hit Paris. David looks on at the snow and figures how rare it was to snow in Paris yet it was about to spur into a blizzard soon, that morning. The rare snowfall symbolizes the state of David’s mind where a rare sense of pleasure found its home. The soon to come Blizzard refers to the turmoil of emotions David is to face because of his mere rendezvous where he found something he had always been looking for but never quite found himself, divine sexual pleasure and undeniable connection.
The water motif keeps coming back in the novel. From the underwater feeling of Giovanni’s room, the numerous suicides committed in the river Sine, David feeling a pull of a river stream towards men when aroused, river rushing to the sea, the ocean imagery symbolizing time and so on. All these variations of the water motif play their part in the very composition of the novel. Expressing something as fluid and vivid and human emotions one might argue that water is by far the best motif to turn to and Baldwin does just that and the result is breathtakingly beautiful.
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