37 pages 1 hour read

William Steig

Abel's Island

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1976

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Symbols & Motifs


The novel opens with a shared meal as Abel and Amanda enjoy a picnic to celebrate their anniversary. Though the picnic is outdoors, the food is lavish and represents Abel’s comfortable existence. For Abel, meals are a pleasurable experience as well as a communal ritual with Amanda. However, once Abel becomes stranded on the island, he is separated from modern life and his relationship to food changes. Eating shifts to a necessary, functional means of survival. Absent the curated culinary delights of civilized life, Abel must forage for nuts and seeds to fill his empty belly and sustain his energy. Often the memories of past meals shared with Amanda comfort him, and certain foods fill him with a nostalgia for home: “The familiar taste made him feel a little more at home on his roost in the middle of nowhere” (16). As winter approaches, Abel’s understanding of sustenance shifts again as he learns he must stockpile food; while he is trapped in the log during the snowstorm, he must ration his supplies.

By spring Abel’s understanding of nutrition has shifted, and he learns to embrace the abundance of nature as he feasts on the new blooms of spring and drinks homemade wine.