Flight

by

John Steinbeck

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Pepé’s Gear Symbol Analysis

Pepé’s Gear Symbol Icon

Most of the equipment that Pepé takes with him into the wilderness represents his newfound sense of maturity, masculinity, and manhood. These items include his black coat, his hat, and his rifle. The coat belonged to his father, and it’s likely that the other items did as well. By taking these objects with him on his journey, Pepé symbolically carries on his father’s legacy. This entails both accepting his role as the man of the family, as well as following in his father’s footsteps and dying an early, violent death. Notably, Pepé’s gear causes two transformations throughout the story: he completes his transformation into a “real man” when he dons the masculine equipment at the start of his journey, but he transforms again as he slowly loses each item one by one in the wilderness. Ironically, the items do very little to help Pepé survive in the mountains—they mostly serve as purely symbolic trappings that identify Pepé as a man. Even the rifle is seldom fired and doesn’t help him survive in the end; it’s just another surface-level prop that makes Pepé look and feel more like a rugged, independent, and fully grown man.

As he sheds the hat, his father’s coat, and eventually his weapon, Pepé’s romantic ideas about masculinity slowly fall apart, and he’s forced to face the brutal, violent world that had previously been dressed up and made less frightening by his symbols of idealized manhood. Without the sense of confidence granted by his manly equipment, he accepts that—just like his father—he’s become someone else’s prey. In a similar vein, his father’s knife is Pepé’s first symbol of his newfound manhood, which he loses in the first moment of “becoming a man” as he uses it to kill the person who insulted him. Pepé instinctively reaches for the lost knife several times throughout his journey in the wilderness, illustrating how he continues to grasp for an encouraging, ideal sense of masculinity that simply isn’t there for him anymore.

Pepé’s Gear Quotes in Flight

The Flight quotes below all refer to the symbol of Pepé’s Gear. 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:
Manhood Theme Icon
).
Flight Quotes

The coat of his father pressed on his arm. His tongue was swollen until it nearly filled his mouth. He wriggled out of the coat and dropped it in the brush, and then he struggled up the hill, falling over rocks and tearing his way through the brush. The rifle knocked against stones as he went. Little dry avalanches of gravel and shattered stone went whispering down the hill behind him.

Related Characters: Pepé
Related Symbols: Pepé’s Gear
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Flight LitChart as a printable PDF.
Flight PDF

Pepé’s Gear Symbol Timeline in Flight

The timeline below shows where the symbol Pepé’s Gear appears in Flight. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Flight
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...fragile chin, untidy black hair, and gangly arms and legs. He always carries his father’s knife with him, often stabbing the earth with it to keep it sharp and rust-free. Behind... (full context)
Manhood Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Mama Torres explains that they’re out of medicine and salt, and that Pepé must travel into the nearby town... (full context)
Manhood Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
In the dim light of the candle, Pepé tiredly explains to Mama Torres what had happened at Mrs. Rodriguez’s house. There were other men in the house, and Pepé... (full context)
Manhood Theme Icon
Predators and Prey Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Along with a rifle, a waterskin, and a sack of dry jerky, Mama Torres gives Pepé the black coat... (full context)
Predators and Prey Theme Icon
...direction Pepé had come from.  Pepé becomes more alert after this, loading and readying his rifle as he continues onward. (full context)
Predators and Prey Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...again as quickly as possible. In his haste to flee the grove, he leaves his hat behind, next to the oak tree he had slept under. As dawn comes and Pepé... (full context)
Predators and Prey Theme Icon
...in the rock, but he still can’t see anyone. He puts the end of his rifle through the fissure and fires a shot into an area of brush where he sees... (full context)
Manhood Theme Icon
Predators and Prey Theme Icon
...following day is even more desperate than the last. He removes and abandons his father’s coat, as it presses on his injured arm, and he continues on his weary trek through... (full context)
Manhood Theme Icon
Predators and Prey Theme Icon
...broken hillside and continues on, but he turns back upon realizing he had forgotten his rifle somewhere behind. He can’t find the weapon again no matter how hard he looks, and... (full context)