The fish Vardaman
catches for dinner early in the novel provides him with a meaningful symbol to understand the nature and meaning of death. After Addie
's death, Vardaman realizes that the fish, like his mother, is now in a different state of existence than before, leading him to conclude, "My mother is a fish." This connection between Addie and fish emerges once again during the river episode, as Vardaman compares his mother's coffin to the fish in the river. The idea of the dead fish aids Vardaman's process of coping with loss, as he is only able to understand mortality and the idea of existence by looking at the concrete example of a fish, once alive, that he caught and cut up to be cooked for dinner.