Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

High Heels

For Catherine, high heels are representative of womanhood, flirtation and sexiness. She has just started wearing high heels around the community and to school and obviously enjoys the attention she gets from men. They are also symbolic as a rite-of-passage to womanhood. As Eddie strongly disapproves of her wearing them, Catherine purposefully rebels against her uncle every time she puts them on. The high heels give her sexual power over men—they look, stare and gawk at her beauty. Eddie thinks the heels are threatening for the same reasons Catherine loves them. Eddie is fearful that, if she looks attractive, some man will ask her out and she will leave the house. Eddie has a powerful reaction when she wears the high heels, as if she must take them off so they do not arouse him or anyone else.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is symbolic of a pathway of opportunity to Manhattan and also the linkage between American and Italian cultures. The bridge, which is very close to the Red Hook community, is a constant reminder of American opportunity and industry. From the bridge, one can see the community below and, like the title of the book, one can see the entire community and seek greater abstract meaning from his viewpoint. Alfieri is symbolic of the person on the bridge looking down upon the Red Hook community or, perhaps, he is the bridge himself, allowing the people to cross into Manhattan and modern, intellectual American culture. Alfieri attempts to unite the American laws with Italian cultural practices and negotiate a place in between the two. Alfieri, narrating the story from the present looking back to the past, has the same vantage point as one looking from the bridge. After some time passes, he is able to process the events and see the greater societal and moral implications it has for the community as a whole.


The origin of the majority of the people in the Red Hook community, Italy represents homeland, origin and culture. What the country means to characters greatly varies. Catherine associates Italy with mystery, romance and beauty. Rodolpho, on the other hand, is actually from Italy, and thinks it is a place with little opportunity that he would like to escape from. All of the characters, as much as love the benefit of living in the U.S., still strongly hold to Italian traditions and identify it as home. Italy is the basis of the cultural traditions in Red Hook and unites the community in common social practices and religion.