Black Swan Green Themes, Motifs, Symbols

David Mitchell

Black Swan Green

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Black Swan Green Themes, Motifs, Symbols

The overarching theme of this book is “innocence to experience,” making it a coming of age story or a bildungsroman. As with real life, the protagonist Jason Taylor must overcome complex obstacles in order to thrive. Jason’s obstacles are primarily with his social life, although he faces a significant upheaval in his family life as well. For the most part, Jason handles himself well in the face of his troubles. His victory over the bullies in his life at the end of the book does not signal the end of all his problems, however. Jason is moving on to a new town and a new school and will have to start climbing the social ladder all over again. Yet the experience about life that Jason gains in the book will serve him well for whatever the future holds.

Another ongoing theme, which Jason is able to recognize as he makes the journey from innocence to experience, is the discrepancy between appearance and reality, between perception and actuality. Jason’s father appears to be a hard-working family man, but by the end of the book he has been fired from his job and revealed as a philanderer who is ready to take up life with his mistress. Tom Yew, the town hero, ends up being terrified of losing his life in battle. Madame Crommelynck, who champions Jason’s poetry, has been living a less-than-honest life in England while evading German law. Jason himself is not as he appears; he has worked extremely hard to reveal only the aspects of himself that might meet the approval of the popular boys.

Names serve as a dominant motif or pattern throughout the novel. Early on, Jason reflects that there is a sort of hierarchy of names – first names, nicknames, last names, insults – that mimics one’s place in the social world. Moran, for no apparent reason than proximity in spelling, is called Moron. Jason has several names for aspects of himself – Hangman, who causes his stammer; Maggot, for himself when he feels worthless; Unborn Twin, who is essentially an imaginary sidekick; and Eliot Bolivar, his…

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