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

Buildings and Architecture

Eisenberg uses buildings and architecture—traditional symbols of stability—to represent the uncertainty and frailty of life. The story begins with Nathaniel and his friends in an apartment that they never leased and can no longer call home. Their building is near the site of the former World Trade Center, itself a symbol of the vulnerability of the entire American way of life and Western culture. The terrace of the apartment, upon which Nathaniel and his friends toast their friendship and departure, even had a view of the World Trade Center. On the morning of the 9/11 attacks, the friends sat on the terrace and witnessed how fragile the world really is. In this way, the very roof under which they sought protection from the elements is irrevocably tied to the traumatic destruction of America’s innocence. In addition, Nathaniel is himself an architect, a profession his parents fear will offer him an “unreliable future.” Ironically, he’s even currently employed with the architectural division of the New York subway, as if, in reaction to the potential uncertainty and instability of the world, he has headed underground for protection.