The Cellist of Sarajevo


Steven Galloway

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Gray Symbol Icon

Galloway relentlessly describes Sarajevo as being gray, which shows how the harsh circumstances of the war have sucked this city of all its joy and vibrant culture. Dragan and Kenan, both life-long Sarajevans, note how the city has turned gray during the siege, instead of the colorful place that they remember. Dragan calls gray “the color of war,” associating this color with weapons and violence. Rather than the red of blood, the gray represents the monotony and demoralizing power of the siege. Gray, a mix between the two extremes of black and white, also suggests the difficult morality of the war. There is not one right and wrong in this civil war; both sides descend into hatred and darkness while Sarajevo exists in a “gray space” between life and death.

Dragan also sees a gray cloud hanging over the city, which shows how the war hovers over everything, even mundane actions like walking down the street. But the cloud, as it slowly passes over the street, represents how the gray of the siege will someday disappear, if only the Sarajevans can maintain hope and vibrancy. The most significant place that Dragan sees color is in his startlingly optimistic friend Emina. Emina’s brightness, shown in her blue coat, reawakens Dragan’s faith that civilization in Sarajevo can continue. Similarly, the sniper Arrow also sees the warm brown of the cellist’s cello as a contrast to the constant gray. Again, gray is the color of the war, while other colors invite the characters to think of happier times before this conflict and the possibility of ending the siege and returning to their old lives.

Gray Quotes in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The The Cellist of Sarajevo quotes below all refer to the symbol of Gray. 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:
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Two: Dragan (Part 2) Quotes

She is the person he once knew: Affected by the war, changed, but the woman he knew is still in there. She hasn't been covered in the gray that colors the streets. He wonders why he hasn't seen this before, wonders how much else he hasn't seen.

Related Characters: Dragan, Emina
Related Symbols: Gray
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gray Symbol Timeline in The Cellist of Sarajevo

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gray appears in The Cellist of Sarajevo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
One: Dragan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
...much of that happy, peaceful city is a figment of his imagination. Yet the current gray Sarajevo of bombs and guns doesn’t seem right either. He runs through the old neighborhoods... (full context)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
...a few boxcars now lining the street next to the railroad. The whole street looks gray, while about 20 people wait behind the boxcars for the right moment to run across... (full context)
Two: Arrow
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Reality, Image, and Memory Theme Icon
...and a stool. Arrow is transfixed by the instrument, looking rich and warm against the gray of the pavement. The cellist sits and begins to play, and Arrow is transported to... (full context)
Two: Dragan
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
Dragan and Emina look around at the gray streets, and Emina comments that the war has made her walk down many streets she... (full context)
Two: Dragan (Part 2)
War, Civilians, and Humanity Theme Icon
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
...will be forever in Sarajevo. Dragan shares her fear, looking up to see a large gray cloud that hovers over the city. The cloud does seem to be moving, but it... (full context)
Art, Culture, and Civilization Theme Icon
...continue, hugging Dragan, and Dragan briefly notices how colorful Emina’s blue coat is against the gray street. Emina steps into the street as a man with a brown hat and a... (full context)