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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
When Bradley leaves Rachel's house after kissing her, Julian releases her kite and Bradley follows it faithfully as he walks to the subway station. The kite symbolizes the glimpse of the eternal that he is soon to get, but has not yet received. Bradley already has philosophized about the importance of kites when he was drunk in Bristol noting that kites are distant high things that are "an image of our condition." As he follows Julian's kite to the train station, he feels that it is the "bearer of some potent as yet unfathomed destiny." The kite's ability to fly and to see the world from a higher perspective is something that all humans aspire to and is something that Bradley shall be able to do by the end of the novel. The kite symbolizes the ability to see beyond the world of illusionary forms that dominates the everyday world.
Priscilla is obsessed with her jewels and believes that if she receives them, all of her troubles shall be over. This belief is false and represents the sad state of her life. Priscilla's jewels represent the one thing that she was able to gather during her married years. To some extent, they represent her sole legacy, since she has lived a childless existence. But it is a sad legacy, as jewels are cold, meaningless items whose primary significance is their monetary value. Priscilla's inability to see the illusionary and meaningless nature of these items is consistent with her inability to have seen, or looked for, a deeper layer of truth during her entire life. When Priscilla finally receives her longed after jewels, she not surprisingly does not feel happier. Her jewels are meaningless items that suggest the way in which she, and most people, waste their lives by not trying to aspire for more meaningful truths.
Der Rosenkavalier is Strauss's opera that Bradley and Julian attend. The opera has a special symbolic role because it contains sexual partners of grossly different ages, similar to the one in The Black Prince. Bradley's realization of the similarity between the opera and his own sexuality causes him to vomit after only several minutes of watching it. The color red that plays such a large role in the opera's setting also is significant in bringing out Bradley's silenced sexual desires. Although Bradley may not know this at the beginning of the novel, the plot of Der Rosenkavalier also foreshadows that of The Black Prince. While Bradley and Julian will have a love affair, as the Princess and Octavian did, both Julian and Octavian will eventually leave their older lovers and find partners their own age.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Black Prince!