The story “Lightbox” by Emma Cleary includes a lot of contrasting symbolism, such as light versus dark, and nature versus city life. Other symbolical elements are the number five, the flats, and references to digital technologies.

Light and dark

Various descriptions of the setting in the story emphasise the contrast between artificial light coming from neon, TVs, laptops or phone, and the darkness around it. These descriptions are symbolic of the artificial connection/ relationship that the narrator creates with Elsie, and of overstepping the boundaries of privacy.


Nature and city life

In the same way, the contrast between natural elements - like flowers, trees, mountains - and life in an urban city suggests, at a symbolical level, the contrast between raw human nature and instincts, and societal norms.


The apartments

The apartments, described as “high-rise boxes” (l. 12), “boxes of light” (l. 31), and “individual lightboxes” (l. 80) are symbols of confinement, lack of privacy, and loneliness. They confine and expose people’s lives to others.


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