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Two pens in a row didn't work when Claire was signing adoption forms, symbolic of her unease and mixed feelings. ("Raised by Another")  (promotional still)

Symbolism is one of the many literary techniques employed on Lost. Items or pieces of dialogue can obviously echo a character's state of mind, and even prolonged glances on the show can suggest thought processes and motivations. Undoubtedly, there are many more examples, but the following are simply to show some particularly notable and deliberate ones (rather than generic examples like a pause in conversation for dramatic effect, signifying tension).

Note that symbolism is always subjective, and is naturally not the "right" interpretation. Nevertheless, clear symbolism should be seen as distinct from theories.

Contents

Season 1

Sun watches Kate bathe. ("Pilot, Part 2")
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Kate bathing

In "Pilot, Part 2", Sun observes Kate stripping off and bathing herself in the water. Her prolonged glance seems to be symbolic of her jealousy, having previously been reprimanded by Jin for simply undoing the top button on her blouse.

It could also be symbolic of Kate washing away her criminal past and trying to become a new person on the Island, as echoed by the name of the next episode, "Tabula Rasa".

Golf course

The scene on the golf course in "Solitary" was arguably symbolic of Michael's poor parenting skills. When he heard about the tournament, Michael left Walt on his own at the beach. He also later asked his son if he wanted a try, but Walt felt guilty that others were waiting to have a turn. When Hurley then told Michael it was his turn, instead of then offering his try to Walt (which would be more expected), he accepted it himself leaving Walt to walk back to the beach alone again.

The music box

The music box from Rousseau's hideout. ("Solitary")

Also in "Solitary" was Rousseau's music box, an item that seemed to symbolise Danielle's isolation. The box was initially broken, but having human contact (with Sayid) allowed Rousseau and the box to be repaired. This comparison is supported by the fact that the box stops playing immediately after Sayid asks if he can go (i.e. ending the human contact).

The Halliburton case

In "Whatever the Case May Be", Kate's obsession with getting the Halliburton case seemed to reflect her closed personality. Living with the secret of being a fugitive, Kate was initially reluctant to share any truths about herself, hence couldn't get to the case and open it. Later, when she did get inside, she revealed one of her biggest secrets to Jack, that she had killed the man she loved. This is compounded by Jack's numerous requests during the episode for Kate to tell him the truth.

Another interesting idea here is that without a key it seems nearly impossible to get into the Halliburton case. Sawyer does everything he can, dropping it, hitting it, banging it repeatedly against rocks but he can't get inside. This can be seen as a metaphor for Kate's spiritual and mental state, she's has such a hard shell she won't let anyone in. Finally, after promising Jack they will open it together, and failing at her "the key isn't there" trick she confesses to Jack and their relationship is pained, and different. Her defense failed, she went to help, went out of her shell, and with opening the case she opened herself up, if only a little bit.

Season 2

The Bible from the Arrow station. ("The Other 48 Days")

Bible

In "The Other 48 Days", Eko found a Bible inside the Arrow station. Signifying his personal faith, Eko found an answer inside the Holy Book, a film clipping for part of the Swan Orientation film.

Charlie's piano

The piano from "Fire + Water" can be seen as a dramatic device to reflect Charlie's family. It was bought so that Charlie could become rich and thereby improve his family's standard of living. This is why the piano houses Aaron in a dream, as Charlie believes Aaron needs saving, and so this belief manifests itself inside an object that, to Charlie, symobolizes the concept of saving.

Liam leaving a smoking cigarette on top of the piano with no regard may also symbolize Liam's attitude of not valuing Charlie in his idea of "family". This is reinforced by him selling the piano to help his wife, child (what he sees as his family) and himself. Abandoning Charlie at the same time, the piano's departure demonstrates Charlie's loss of family.

Season 3

The glass ballerina

The breaking of the glass ballerina in "The Glass Ballerina" may represent Sun's willingness to harm others in favor of protecting herself at all costs. It could also signify Sun's broken youth or the irrevocable loss of purity and innocence, qualities symbolized by a ballerina.

Matryoshka doll

The doll that housed the diamonds in "Exposé" seemed to signify the multiple depths of the episode, where there were both on and off-Island flashbacks which together explained how Nikki and Paulo met their end in a detective-genre inspired episode.

Ben's dolls

In "The Man Behind the Curtain", Ben receives two wooden carved dolls, one of a boy and one of a girl smiling. The items could signify the nuclear family and caring parental figures that in life Ben lacked. Ben keeps the female doll, which could represent the complete lack of a maternal figure, as his mother died at his birth.

Juliet's knots

Along with the figure-8 knot, Juliet ties a double knot at the very end of "One of Us". The double knot is possibly symbolic of her (temporary) double-crossing of the survivors, since the knot will not necessarily hold.

Season 4

Water

In "The Beginning of the End", Hurley cannonballs into the water and comes out of the water to see that everything has changed. This symbolizes baptism; going down his old self "dies" and he rises out of the water being changed or "reborn" and he is completely different.

Panda bear

In "Ji Yeon", Jin buys a stuffed panda to give to the Chinese ambassador, with the panda being representative of China.

"Key to the whole game"

Hurley comments during the Risk game in the episode "The Shape of Things to Come"that "Australia is the key to the whole game". The Losties connections to Australia are key to the whole show, as it's where Flight 815 originated from. This reference could also symbolize the Island, regarding its key positioning in use as a strategic stronghold.

Locke, the leader

Locke, the new leader of the Others. ("There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3")

The scene in "There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3" where Locke meets the Others as "his people" is filmed from downside up. Locke is seen at the top of a cliff looking down, as a mythical figure, by people who are sitting, kneeling or just getting up slowly. This is intended to picture Locke as a savior, the chosen one, a divine entity that deserves to be adored by those people.

Season 6

Water

In "LA X, Parts 1 & 2", Sayid is brought into a pool of water while seriously wounded and dies while being immersed only to come back to life a short time later. There are obvious parallels to baptism, which, according to some types of Christianity, the person is completely immersed in water to be cleansed of sin and gives up his/her life and is reborn into a new life. The fact that the water isn't clear might suggest that Sayid hasn't been completed stripped of his demons, or it might suggest that this "baptism" isn't fully valid in some way.

See also


This article uses material from the "Symbolism" article on the Lostpedia wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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