Call It Sleep: Themes and Images

1 January 2017

Call It Sleep: Connecting Themes and Images There are many reoccurring themes throughout the novel Call It Sleep. One theme that I became particularly interested in was the vast difference between the cellar and the fresh white snowfall seen in book one, as well as the meanings and connotations attributed to these particular events. We are first introduced to the cellar on page twenty when David walks down the stairs to go outside and play with the other neighborhood children. “A few steps from the bottom landing, he paused and stared rigidly at the cellar door.

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It bulged with darkness. ” The way Roth makes David stop in fear and suspicion of the cellar door, and the language he uses to portray the door gives this scene a very eerie vibe and I was drawn to the cellar, intrigued by what was behind that cellar door terrifying David. Similarly, another important image, the mention of a “pure white” snowfall on page fifty-nine, caught my attention. Whereas the cellar door could be attributed to darkness, this mention of bright white snow could be attributed to uncontaminated and pure thoughts.

The cellar door is portrayed as a very dark and ominous object, whereas the snow fall is depicted as being pure and miraculously clean. Roth uses very descriptive language in identifying both the negative and positive connotation associated with both of these images. In describing the cellar for instance, “It was horrible, the dark. The rats lived there, the hordes of nightmare, the wobbly faces, and the crawling and misshapen things. ” The language that Roth uses to illustrate the cellar, specifically the negative nuances he uses to describe it, affirms the darkness and terror associated with the cellar itself.

On the contrary, Roth uses very positive language to describe the purity of the snow. “But how miraculously clean it was, all about him, whiter than anything he knew, whiter than anything, whiter. ” Briefly above I have touched on the language that Roth uses to describe these different yet interrelated images. Roth does an exceedingly good job at using very specific and appropriate language to establish literal as well as figurative meaning behind these particular images.

Using words such as inexhaustible and monstrous to describe the darkness of the cellar as well as frenzied, terrified, and trapped to describe David’s composure and overall feeling of well-being while surrounded by the darkness really grabs the readers’ attention and affirms its significance. Similarly, Roth uses descriptors such as miraculously clean to describe the snow fall. After describing the purity of the snowfall Roth leaves the reader to construe what the purity of the snow signifies for David.

With some interpretation we can infer that these images have a much deeper meaning than what is literally portrayed. The language that Roth uses to illustrate the cellar, specifically the negative tone he uses to describe it, affirms the fear and resentment that David has of the dark. This can be specifically applied to the incident that David experienced with Annie, where he was introduced to his first sexual experience in the closet. This experience is also directly associated with darkness and builds on David’s fear and terror associated with the dark. His lips touched hers, a muddy spot in vast darkness…He was silent, terrified. ” David is haunted by this incident and the darkness in David’s life terrorizes him for some time. On the contrary David, surrounded by the white purity of the snow, is able to cleanse his mind, thoughts, and actions. In this instance the bright, white, pure snow provides David with relief from the grief he feels following the incident with Annie. Free from darkness David is overjoyed and unafraid.

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