The Symbolic Meaning of the Wind-Up Toy

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The symbolic meaning of the wind-up toy Swimming with sharks tells a story about the dark side of Hollywood show business concerning three main characters: an influential movie mogul Buddy Ackerman, his fish-out-of-water assistant Guy who originally wants to be a screenwriter, and an ambitious film maker Dawn Lockard. In this cutthroat world of Hollywood power struggles, everybody is either prey or predator, so one must or inevitably also becomes a shark and bite off the head of the others if he wants to survive. There is a very interesting and important prop in Swimming with sharks that appears throughout the whole play: a robot wind-up toy. It appeared three times in the play: first time at the beginning of the play when Buddy has finished several phone calls, he took it out of a drawer of his office desk and played with it; second time when Guy was late for work and thought his boss hadn’t arrived yet, he wound up the toy on his desk; third time it appeared at the end of the whole play when Guy wound up the toy on Buddy’s office desk which made a louder and louder winding up sound, and suddenly all the light went out, leaving the whole theatre in darkness along with the winding up sound. Unlike other common props, this robot wind-up toy (you can see its picture in the brochure) serves as an important sign in this play, or more accurately, a symbolic sign. It has “no immediately recognizable organic relationship to their ‘signifieds’” (Esslin ,44), but it conveys a deeper meaning or message to the audience in this play. The wind-up toy itself has a conventional symbolic meaning: something or someone manipulated by the others, which is very similar to another symbolic sign the puppet. When this sign appears in Swimming with sharks, it acquires new meanings on its foundational meaning and fits into different scenes with different focus on its meanings. The

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