The Way Up to Heaven


Roald Dahl

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The Gift Symbol Analysis

The Gift Symbol Icon

The gift (a comb in a small, wrapped box) that Mr. Foster means to give to their daughter is a symbol of his deception and cruelty. As they are departing for the airport, he pretends to have forgotten the box inside, and he tells Mrs. Foster—who is pathologically afraid of being late to her flight—to wait in the car for him to find the gift. However, as Mrs. Foster soon discovers, he has hidden the box in between the car’s seats to purposely make her miss her flight. The gift is small and inconspicuous—it’s just a little box wrapped in white paper, one that could easily go missing—which is part of Mr. Foster’s attempt to maintain plausible deniability about losing the gift on purpose. This mirrors Mr. Foster’s general behavior towards Mrs. Foster: the subtle cruelty with which he makes her late for things without appearing to be malicious. However, finding the box hidden makes Mrs. Foster certain that his cruelty and deception have been intentional all along, which explicitly associates the box with the evil sides of Mr. Foster’s character. When Mrs. Foster begs him not to go back to the house to look for the box because “it’s only one of those silly combs anyway,” Mr. Foster becomes furious that she has “forgotten herself for once.” Her dismissal of the box is a way to sidestep his deception and cruelty towards her, which he will not allow.

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The Gift Symbol Timeline in The Way Up to Heaven

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Gift appears in The Way Up to Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Way Up to Heaven
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Propriety and Class Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
...about to leave, Mr. Foster stops the driver. He claims he can’t find the small gift, a white paper box that he wanted Mrs. Foster to give to their daughter. He... (full context)
Cruelty and Revenge Theme Icon
Deception and Disloyalty Theme Icon
...spots something wedged down in the crack of the seat and realizes it is the gift that her husband was talking about, but it seems awfully deep in the crack of... (full context)