Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Did you notice all the messages in this story? Shmoop certainly did. Here are the ones that popped out to us:
- The secret messages left on the Winterbottom doorstep
- The postcards that Sal's mom sends her
- Ben's drawings
- The love letter that Gramps writes to Gram the night that she dies
- The message that Sal finds at the hospital in Coeur d'Alene explaining that her Gram has died.
Can you find any others?
What Shmoop wants to know is, what's with all these written messages? Can something be gotten across in a letter that can't be said on the phone or in an email?
All these messages sure do seem to pack an emotional punch. Sometimes they scare people, like Phoebe:
Phoebe thought the messages were spooky. It was not the words that bothered her – nothing too frightening there – it was the idea that someone was sneaking around and leaving them on her porch. She worried that someone was watching their house, waiting for the right moment to leave the message. (11.8)
So there's something too personal about these letters. It means someone has physically dropped them off, and that's a little creepy.
Other times, letters are simply the only way to say certain things. For example, Sal's mom told her she was leaving through a letter: "She left me a letter which explained that if she said good-bye, it would be too terribly painful and it would sound too permanent" (18.17). That can't have been an easy letter to read, but a conversation just might have even been more painful.
Although they're not a conversation, letters are still a way of staying close to someone, of sharing and communicating, even if their contents are scary or sad. And staying close to loved ones is something that's very important to Sal.