Raymond Carver

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Elephant Symbol Analysis

Elephant Symbol Icon

When the narrator dreams of riding on his father’s shoulders, he compares it to riding an elephant, which he associates with security and support. When the narrator has this dream, he’s feeling tremendous strain and resentment from financially supporting his family. But the dream of riding on his father’s shoulders makes him realize what he’s providing for others: the joy and safety he felt as a child while supported by his father. The dream allows the narrator to reframe his position in life: he’s not being taken advantage of by his feckless relatives, but rather he’s the elephant on whose back they can ride, giving them the support he himself once enjoyed. In this way, the elephant comes to symbolize a willingness to bear the weight of others.

Elephant Quotes in Elephant

The Elephant quotes below all refer to the symbol of Elephant. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dependency Theme Icon
Elephant Quotes

Then I did let go. I turned loose and held my arms out to either side of me. I kept them out there like that for balance. My dad went on walking while I rode on his shoulders. I pretended he was an elephant.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Elephant
Page Number: 397
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Elephant LitChart as a printable PDF.
Elephant PDF

Elephant Symbol Timeline in Elephant

The timeline below shows where the symbol Elephant appears in Elephant. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Dependency Theme Icon
...out on both sides. While riding like this he pretends that his father is an elephant. (full context)