The Visible Filth
Nathan Ballingrud
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
Symbols
Symbols are objects or figures that artists use to represent an idea.
The Roaches

Cockroaches appear numerous times throughout the novel, and they are a symbol of the filth inside the characters. The sight of a roach is typically an indication that there are several of them hidden inside the walls. Even though they are easy to ignore, it is unpleasant to be always looking at them; as such, the roaches serve as an underpinning of the story. When the reader creates an image of the clear-cut college kids in the bar, and that of Will, they see individuals who are indoctrinated into society, living every day without causing any revulsion or horror in the people they meet. While the ugliness is usually hidden, it eventually comes out swarming — just like the roaches do.

The Wet, Dark Tunnel

The wet, dark tunnel that Carrie keeps staring at during her investigation of the yellow phone is a symbol of darkness, hollowness, and fear that the content have put their lives into. The tunnel is silent and has a gliding passage that leads to an unfathomable end. Even though the computer screen does not actually show a descent into depths, it shows the perspective of something dragging itself into the light. The silence characterizes the situation in their house, which is made evident towards the end of the novel. The unfathomable end describes the unknown ghastly terminus that their lives are heading to. This becomes more evident in the last moments of their fracturing relationship, where Carrie appears to have lost her mind, and Will does not seem to know what he wants with his life. The perspective of something trying to drag themselves into the light evokes fear — a reflection of such that has engulfed the lives of both Carrie and Will. Ultimately, Will is even afraid of the messages being sent to his own phone. Nonetheless, it also serves as a representation of the evil inside Will, which crawls out and becomes evident when he chooses to break-up with Carrie, for he wants to be with Alicia, and abandoning her in the total mess brought to her by the pictures.

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