Free «Fire Imagery and Symbolism in the Ash Garden Novel by Dennis Bock» Essay Sample

The novel ‘The ash garden’ by Dennis Bock is a story that traces the intersections in the lives of three different individuals whose lives are linked forever by a bomb. The story talks about Emiko who is a six year old child survivor of the Hiroshima bombings, and now is a well renowned documentary filmmaker. She has vivid horrific memories of August 1945 when she lost both of her parents and a little brother.  The story brings out clearly imagery and symbolism which can be noted at different sections of the story.

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One of the symbols used in the story is the ‘scars’. Twenty five Hiroshima victims including Emiko, were taken to the United States for reconstructive surgery in the year nineteen ninety five. This victims experienced many kinds of scars which included; psychological, emotional, and physical) scars. Bock in the novel, presents 3 complex characters, each one of them scarred. As indicated in the story, ‘There was years of painful facial surgeries and feelings of homesickness in America, where Emiko was sent by the doctors to restore her scarred and mutilated face. Although doctors erased the shadows from her face, they could not erase the deeper scars on her soul” (Bock, 2001). This means that, despite doctor’s correctional facial surgery to Emiko, they could not wash away the tormenting memories of the holocaust that took away Emiko’s family and friends. “I’m not sure I suffered from the sense of isolation immigrants are supposedly prone to; maybe I did. {……} My hard mask of skin, healed now but still dead to all sensation, never let me forget who I was. On the outside I was different from the woman I knew to be, most certainly and clearly different from everyone I saw on a daily basis. If you passed me on the street, you wouldn’t have looked twice. No it was what the bomb had done to the inside that marked me for good” (Bock, 2001; p 200).

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The burns is another clear symbol in the novel and it signifies the kind of lose that the surviving victims at Hiroshima bombing had experienced, as depicted from the novel as it starts of, “One morning toward the end of the summer they burned away my face…” (Bock, 2001) which is the opening sentence of Dennis Bock's The Ash Garden. The war had scarred them and apart from its physical injuries, it had also injured their emotions and created lasting memories after they looked at what had burnt away and could not be part of them anymore, they started to experience things that could not go away. “And they never did. {…….} . They never seemed willing to leave him, or Sophie. It was as if neither of them had been able to escape the shell of that burnt city” (Bock, 2001; p104). In this passage, the narrator implies that after the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, the “burnt city” which was filled with a lot of suffering, fear and the “the stupid and meaningless” spoils of war, created a prison around their lives of which they couldn’t escape.   

The ash is another distinct symbol used in the novel, ‘The ash garden.’ The presence of ash in Anton’s mouth shows how the war invaded his most personal space. “The taste awakens his consciousness and after he got back to Hiroshima the taste of ash began to creep into his mouth while he slept” (Bock, 2001). “He awoke in the middle of the night, spiting out the taste even before he was fully conscious. {……} but sometimes that flavor hung there long enough for him to watch the sun come up and other times he would try to isolate a memory of his wife, create a box around her, and slowly the taste would subside” (Bock, 2001; p 60). For a short period of time Anton and Sophie were happy, but as soon as Boll left to work on the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, their marriage was never the same. For the rest of his life, Böll justified his involvement in the war as a "dream" turned "nightmare" coming from the demands of a virtuous science. When Emiko approached him for an interview, he hesitated. He did not want to risk being blamed for the consequences of the war. But Sophie knew that he craved to justify his unacknowledged guilt. This justifies that the war had filled.

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‘Holocausts’ is another symbol used in the novel. There were mass killings during the war as the bomb was dropped. Anton spends the rest of his life speaking/lecturing “about the responsibility he felt for August 1945 as well as the pride [and] the need to dissolve the mythology of the bomb.” “The war scarred them with things that could not go away. And they never did.{…….} . They never seemed willing to leave him, or Sophie. It was as if neither of them had been able to escape the shell of that burnt city”(Bock, 2001; p104). Sophie longs to know what happened to her family in Europe but she is too afraid to return. Instead, she convinces herself that they will contact her. As a young woman, the only things certain to Sophie’s world were emptiness and destruction. She realizes she  has lost all opportunities  to deal with her deficiency  and that the uncertainty the war brought  within both her and Anton, consumed her and prevented her from achieving any real happiness.. Sophie is pushed into an affair, seeks lone solace in her artworks, and slowly comes into term with the end of her once happily fulfilled marriage as just one more scar caused by the bomb.

Fire as imagery is clearly depicted in the novel. It is the main cause of all the sufferings that befell the victims of the war. Fire caused the burns on Emiko’s face, “one morning towards the end of summer, they burnt my face……” (Bock, 2001; p.1). Also fire causes Anton to feel ash in his mouth “{……}the taste of ash began to creep into his mouth while he slept”(Bock 2001 p60).As  Anton walks  through the makeshift hospital wards interrogating and evaluating the bomb victims, he realizes and witnesses the unimaginable agony that the bomb had caused to the Hiroshima survivors. The dominant message portrayed by use of fire as imagery is that there are many kinds of scars (emotional, physical, and psychological).  The fire not only caused physical damages, but also psychological pain and stress. Fire in general destroyed their lives and marriage.

Bock who is the author of this novel, “The ash garden,” presents three complex characters each scarred and each of them coping with the horrors of the war. The novel is not about resolution, survival or recovery but it is about keeping one’s sanity when the world has fallen apart.

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