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We believe that we invent symbols. But in reality they
invent us.  Emma Donoghue’s ability to convey human development and growth
through many symbols during and after their captivity was accomplished in the
novel Room. We as readers dive into this traumatizing experience and
watch it unroll through a young naïve five year old boy’s perspective. There
are many techniques Emma Donoghue uses throughout the novel but four symbols
were very powerful in Jack’s development as a person.  The four I chose
were Jack’s hair, skylight, tooth and rug all showing how Jack continued to
grow even through there were many aspects of life he had yet to know. 
These symbols resemble many things that are crucial when it comes to developing
and learning new things in life and in room there were many objects that Jack
named that helped him. 

To start off in the novel room, Emma Donoghue makes it clear
to the readers that in and out of room Jack’s hair was a very powerful
symbol. Since the day Jack was born his hair continued to grow and he
never got or even asked for Ma to cut his hair.  With that being so Jack’s
hair had been growing for five years and was past his shoulders.  In the
novel as Jack was told about the world and had to escape so that him and Ma
could have freedom he started to think of his hair as his “strong”. When
reaching the world and not longer help captive in room Jack goes to live with
his grandma who then suggests cutting his hair when Jack refuses. Jack sees
himself as Ma’s protector and does not like how Ma is struggling and Jack’s
hair simply symbolizes how strong he is throughout the escape. When living with
his grandma he decided he was ready to cut it off, “I get the scissors from the
drawer and cut my ponytail all off.” (366). After cutting it off it shows Jack
he has always been strong and how he has grown and kept his strong as shown in
this quote, “She says go look in a mirror but first I check my muscles, I still
have my strong.” (366). Jack continued to grow by escaping room, adapting to
all the changes and lastly being introduced to the world he did not know
existed and with him having his long hair and wasn’t willing to cut it
symbolized his strength and courage through it all.

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Secondly in the 12 x12 garden shed Ma and Jack had
lived in for last five years, the only source of natural light and window was a
soundproof skylight on the ceiling. Until Jack reached the age of five he
called it skylight but never knew where it actually led. Jack did not know the
world existed and thought outside of room was outer space. As he grew and
got older Ma got closer to telling Jack the harsh reality of the outside world
they could only see through skylight.  With
Jack still being five years old and naïve Ma knew it would difficult to explain
the world to Jack when room was all he knew. 
In the novel skylight symbolized a glimpse into reality for Ma and Jack
and their only view of freedom.  Skylight
proved to Jack that there was an outside world when he saw the leaf on the

Skylight’s different today. She’s got a black bit like an
eye. “Look, Ma.”

She stares up and grins. “It’s a leaf.”


“The wind must have blown it off a tree onto the glass”

“An actual tree in Outside?” (110)

them having Skylight and it was a source of natural light and also hope but it was
always out of reach due to barriers between inside room and the outside world.

Lastly the most significant part about when Jack and Ma went back to room
because Jack wanted to go look once more and as he was leaving he waved goodbye
to skylight, “Good-bye, Room.” I wave up at Skylight.”  (414). This quote shows Jack’s growth because
the world was once out of reach for him and there was hope and he was able to
escape Room and be out the outside of Skylight forever. 

            The next significant symbol in the
novel was Tooth. Tooth was Ma’s sore tooth that had started to bother her in
Room. For ease the pain she took was Jack called killers and eventually Tooth fell
out when eating a bagel one day. From the day Ma’s tooth fell out Jack carried
it with him through everything even when they were escaping, “I check Tooth is
in my sock, the note is in my underwear at the front.” (171).  Tooth symbolizes a connection with Ma since
when he was living with his grandma he would sleep with tooth and always hold
it in his hand or even his mouth.  Tooth
helped Jack when he was separated from Ma because he couldn’t be with her.  When Ma recovers from attempting suicide Jack
returns to being with her all the time. 
Soon after when they were unpacking their new apartment Jack realizes he
lost tooth and that he swallowed it and needed it back but Ma was sure he did
not, “I have a terrible thought, maybe I swallowed him by accident in my
sleep.” (391).  With Jack losing tooth
near the end of the book it shows his growth and how he went from constantly
needed it to being able to live without it. 
Overall Tooth symbolized how no matter what happens Ma and Jack might
not always be together but Jack will always have a piece of Ma through

            Lastly Rug was an important symbol
Emma Donoghue showed us as readers. Throughout the novel Rug was an old frayed
rug Jack had grown up with in Room.  This
rug was the rug Jack had been born on and later on we find out it is also the
rug Ma’s other baby died on. When Jack escapes he pretends to be dead and
rolled up if rug which makes the rug a symbol of rebirth and Jack’s growth from
Room to the huge world.   This rug has
always been important to Jack and when he escapes he asks for things from Room
and rug had been one of them.  When
staying at his grandparents he would lay underneath it and was constantly
attached to it, “I’m sitting under Rug with the phone, all in the dark to
pretend Ma’s right here.” (377). Jack was very protective of the Rug even at
the end of the book when Ma wants to get rid of it and he does not want to,

Jack it’s all frayed and stained from seven years of—I can
smell it from here. I had to watch you learn to crawl on that rug, learn to
walk, it kept tripping you up. You pooped on it once… “Yeah and I was born on
her and I was dead in her too.” (393,394)

the end they compromised and were satisfied with the decision. 

            Overall Emma Donoghue’s ability to
use symbols such as Jack’s hair, Skylight, Tooth and Rug to show us as readers
Jack’s growth and development helped us connect and enjoy the novel.  The symbol showed Jack’s strength in this
awful traumatizing life inside of Room that he was too young to realize what he
was missing, but through these symbol he was able to grow and move past things
he once had troubles with.  In how Emma
Donoghue created these symbols it gave an overall deeper meaning to the
storyline and book as a whole.

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