45 pages 1 hour read

Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Symbols & Motifs

Flamingos and Deer

Early in the book, Rose sees a herd of deer moving through the yard that she knows is abnormal, and the novel periodically returns to that herd, which is growing alongside the scope of the crisis. The narrative eventually reveals that the next generation of deer will be born white. The deer represent the way that the world is rapidly changing in ways humans can’t predict or control. This same motif happens with the arrival of flamingos in the pool toward the end of the novel, which symbolizes the end of the rational, explicable world that the characters have lived in. What would have been a cause for wonder at some sublime coincidence is now a cause for anxiety and terror. The color of the flamingos arises in both Archie and Amanda’s vomit the next morning, and further hints at the uncanny position the characters are in: They can no longer tell hangover from mortal illness. The characters’ encounters with nature embody this lack of clarity: The presence of deer and flamingos are bits of information stripped of their referent in an apocalyptic world.

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By Rumaan Alam