The Way Up to Heaven

Symboler i teksten "The Way Up to Heaven"
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The story is full of symbols of greater or lesser meaning, and we will focus on four of them. The most significant and important symbol is arguably the elevator. The word elevator derives from the word elevate, which means raising or lifting something or someone to a higher position. An elevator takes one to a different floor. In this case, it physically takes Mr. Foster to a higher floor closer to heaven. Since he dies in it, it also spiritually takes him to heaven, which gives meaning to the title. Mr. Foster is not the only one who is being elevated in this story; Mrs. Foster is mentally being elevated as she is finally in control of her own life. When she runs back to the car, after leaving her husband in the house, her whole expression alters. “There was no longer that rather soft and silly look. A peculiar hardness had settled itself upon the features. ... the voice, when she spoke, carried a new note of authority.” Her husband had been torturing her for years. He had been pushing her buttons and directing her, just like one does with an elevator. When she came home to a silent and smelly house by the end of the story, “there was a little glimmer of satisfaction on her face”, indicating that her life had become more “heavenly”, again: hence the title. Killing someone is the worst criminal offense one can conduct and in religion, the number one thing to avoid to go to heaven. Mrs. Foster never plans to kill her husband, and when she decides to leave him to go to the airport, she cannot know for sure that he is stuck in the elevator, she just assumes so. He is not being killed by her directly, which is why she is, presumably, still innocent enough to go to heaven, and why readers might suggest that the main theme of the story is the commission of a perfect crime. Despite that, I argue that the main themes are rather in the direction of control and escape, and to that end, of change or elevation. 

Another symbol supporting the argument about the main themes being about control and escape or change and elevation is the key. A key is generally a symbol of power, so a person who has got a key is a person in control, a leader. “She slid the key into the keyhole and was ready to turn it – and then she stopped”. The key marks a turning point, therefore a change. The moment Mrs. Foster decides not to turn the key around in the keyhole, is the same moment she decides to turn the story around. She withdraws the key from the keyhole and withdraws herself from the oppression and torture of her husband. Other symbols provided in the text which works as codes for this oppression are Mrs. Fosters eye twitching and the fog. “The mere thought of being late ... would throw her into such a state of nerves that she would begin to twitch” – “a tiny vellicating muscle in the corner of the left eye”. The eye twitching, specifically of the left eye, is an indicator that something is wrong according to ancient spiritual beliefs. One says the eyes are the windows to the soul. This way the twitching eye can work as a symbol of Mrs. Fosters twitching soul. Her nervous system is affecting her whole body, physically in her eye, mentally in her soul. Then there is the fog hanging over Mrs. Foster like her husband; weighing her down, preventing her from escaping. The day the fog clears, the twitching of the eye is never mentioned, neither is it later in the story. These signs of oppression disappear with the executer of it. 

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