Life After Life

Life After Life

by

Kate Atkinson

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Hands Symbol Icon

In the novel, hands symbolize support in times of crisis (particularly in the case of family members), and how that support can ultimately be life-saving. Holding hands first comes up when Hugh takes Ursula’s hand when she is in the hospital following her abortion. She describes how this action saves her from the black bat, itself representing death. Ursula then holds her own daughter Frieda’s hand in the hospital in order to achieve the same effect, trying to tether her to this world. Later in the novel (though earlier in Ursula’s life), Pamela holds Ursula’s hand when Roland is discovered having drowned. Additionally, when Ursula’s apartment at Argyll Road is bombed, and Ursula is dying in the wreckage, Mr. Emslie also tries to comfort her and keep her alive by holding her hand. Thus, hands become not only literal physical comfort, but symbolic representations of the support between family members and a way of trying to keep someone alive.

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Hands Symbol Timeline in Life After Life

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hands appears in Life After Life. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Like a Fox in a Hole, May 1926
Family and Love Theme Icon
...falls asleep again, feeling the black bat approaching her, but when she reaches out her hand to the darkness, her hand is rejected, and she wakes up. Hugh smiles at her,... (full context)
Like a Fox in a Hole, June 1932
Family and Love Theme Icon
...and tired, and she remembers feeling this way in the hospital after Belgravia, when Hugh’s hand in hers had been the only thing to keep her in this life. The black... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (I), November 1940
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...her out. She tries to speak but her words are slurred. The man holds her hand, and she is extremely grateful. Snow falls, and she starts to fall asleep. The man... (full context)
A Lovely Day Tomorrow (II), November 1940
Fate vs. Choice Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...something inside her was “torn beyond repair.” She is very cold. The man holds her hand, imploring her to stay awake. But the snow begins to fall until she feels entirely... (full context)
The Land of Begin Again, August 1939
Family and Love Theme Icon
...hospital. Ursula stayed by her side for two days and nights, holding on to her hand. They willed Frieda to live, and she did. When Ursula returned home from the hospital,... (full context)
A Long Hard War, September 1940
War and Death Theme Icon
...woman who had clung to the walls of the cellar, but unable to grasp Ursula’s hand, she had disappeared beneath the water. When they finally pumped out the place, fifteen bodies... (full context)
A Long Hard War, November 1940
Family and Love Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...herself thinking about Hugh’s death. She is gripped by melancholy, and Miss Woolf takes her hand, almost vibrating with emotion. (full context)
Life, Reincarnation, and Alternate Possibilities Theme Icon
War and Death Theme Icon
...that she is kneeling on top of a mound, under which she finds a tiny hand belonging to Emil. She thinks it is better for Mrs. Appleyard to have died rather... (full context)
The End of the Beginning
Family and Love Theme Icon
...As a variety of strangers try to revive Roland, Pamela comes over and holds Ursula’s hand. (full context)