The Ghost Sonata

The Ghost Sonata Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Clock (Symbol)

A clock is a traditional symbol of the passage of the time and the reality of human mortality. Hummel engages its symbolic value at the ghost supper when he suggests that when the clock stops, all his enemies will perish. The Mummy, however, undoes this by stopping the clock and turning the Old Man's antagonism back on him. The stopping of the clock symbolizes the fact that Hummel's death is imminent.

The House (Symbol)

The house is filled with ghosts, and represents a liminal space between the past, the present, and the future. Inside, mummies coexist with vampiric servants and beautiful youths. Additionally, the house is a beautiful and fancy location that hides many sordid secrets. In this way, it symbolizes the fact that a beautiful exterior can obscure enduring tragedies inside, the fact that events and circumstances that appear beautiful and trouble-free are not necessarily so.

Hyacinths (Motifs)

Hyacinths are a recurring motif in the play, as the Colonel's house contains a Hyacinth Room. It is unclear what the hyacinths represent exactly, but they perhaps have something to do with the metaphor of the house itself, a beautiful flower that obscures the chaos underneath the surface. The Girl refers to the room where she and the Student spend time as both the Hyacinth Room and "the room of ordeals," because there are many things wrong with the room that are not immediately noticeable.

Vampirism (Symbol)

The Old Man, Hummel, is characterized as a vampire, someone who, when he was a servant, sucked the nourishment out of the food that he served. Then later, the Girl uses similar descriptors when discussing the Cook in their house, who, incidentally, is related to Hummel. It appears that the Hummels are a family of vampiric servants, capable of extracting the good parts of a meal from the food itself. Vampirism becomes a kind of symbol in the play, of the ways that human beings feed off one another and steal from each other. In addition to having been a vampiric servant, Hummel was a usurer, meaning that he intentionally bankrupted people to whom he loaned money. In this way, the vampirism is symbolic and representative of a broader greed and parasitism in his relationship to his fellow men that Hummel possesses.

The Statue (Symbol)

The statue in the Round Room at the Colonel's house shows a beautiful woman: an earlier image of the now-decrepit old Mummy who lives in the closet, his wife. The statue represents the past, the fact that the Colonel's wife has lost her youth and beauty and is ugly and decrepit. It represents the ways that the family has had to repent for their sins while maintaining an impressive exterior.