Symbolism In Salem By Robert Olen Butler

1348 Words6 Pages
War changes the lives of each and every soldier who participates. It continues to change the way they experience events and the way their perception of the simplest things. Many veterans do not realize what truly happened until much later in life, if at all. Many live in denial of the truth, consciously or subconsciously, and many continuously remember their darkest moments. This is the case in “Salem”, written by Robert Olen Butler. The short story is about a man, late in life, recalling a past event from the Vietnam War. He remembers a man, alone in a clearing, whose life he ended. He starts to understand his actions and their true outcomes. The author uses symbolism, setting, and character to enhance the idea that one should always be aware of how his/her actions affect others. The theme that a person should be mindful of the outcomes of his/her actions is supplemented by the symbolism implemented into the story by the author. The photograph of the wife of the American soldier is written about as if it is truly her, as a cognizant being. While looking at the photo, the main character notices the shape in which it was cut. He sees that the edge of the photo is very close to the woman’s arm at one point, but shifts its direction to not damage the subject of the picture. “I speak of the edge as if it created itself. It is of course the man who made the cut, who was careful not to lose even the thinnest slice of the image of this woman he clearly loved” (Butler 30). The

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