The parachute is perhaps the foremost symbol to appear in Parachute Island. Originally pictured as a red parachute, I changed it to be a multicolored parachute to represent the different races, ethnicities, and religions of the children on the Island. Each child that appears on the Island is given a soft, comforting landing, and, as in the case of Meghan, provides an escape from an uncomfortable situation, namely death and agony.
Like the parachute, I wanted the hot air balloon that whisks children away to a relative to be multicolored to represent their different races, ethnicities, and/or religions. When Kevin rides the balloon, he ascends to a better place, namely where he finds peace with his mother. By the same token, while he does not descend, David encounters difficulties riding the balloon when he comes into contact with the thunderstorms. The lightning from the thunderstorms is symbolic of the neurological activity in David’s brain. Awaking from the coma, David has a rude awakening, similar to that of a balloon popping.
The mockingbird is Ham’s spirit animal. When Ham first shows Meghan his room, it’s apparent he likes birds, but especially the mockingbird, of which he has a model of one named Petey. Like Ham, a mockingbird is loud and active, both day and night. The mockingbird is also symbolic of innocence, a trait also indicative of Ham.
The firefly is another major animal symbol that appears in Parachute Island. The firefly appears at twilight, a frightening, yet at the end calming, light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It is also symbolic of how the children shine from a light within, providing illumination from inside.
The Time Machine
In H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, the protagonist, known simply as The Time Traveller, uses a time machine to travel to the year 802,701 and encounters a people known as the Eloi, an innocent, childlike people. The Time Traveller begins an innocent, friendly relationship with an Eloi girl named Weena. The Eloi are used as cattle by an underground people known as the Morlocks. There are several parallels between The Time Machine and Parachute Island. The children on the Island are much like the Eloi: innocent, carefree, and always at play. In fact, David even mentions that he has “own Eloi to take care of.” David and Meghan’s friendship is similar to The Time Traveller and Weena’s innocent, platonic relationship. And just as the Eloi are to the Island’s children, so too are the Morlocks are to adults: adults breed children for the machinations of war, religion, sex, and politics.
The Catcher In The Rye
The Catcher In The Rye was one of those happy little accidents that so often happens in my writing. I needed a book that Meghan would often read and knowing that it dealt with teenage angst, I chose it, even though I’d never read it. As I did my research on it, I found many symbolic parallels between it and Parachute Island. The Catcher In The Rye deals with teenage rebellion, similar to that which Meghan deals with her parents. Meghan loses some of her innocence and blames it on her parents instead of coming to terms with her own poor life decisions. David also is the “catcher in the rye”, which Meghan points out, akin to Holden’s fantasy of being the guardian of thousands of children. On the same note, David is the catcher in the rye because since the children never age, they’re able to maintain their innocence.
The Children’s Hospital Mural
In Parachute Island, being bed-bound as a quadriplegic, I had to use Google Maps to find houses, roads, and buildings and landmarks in San Antonio to create an authentic sense of the city, even though I had been born and raised here. With Google Maps, I used it to be true to the locales of downtown San Antonio. At the end of the novel, when David spends his time moving around downtown, through my research I found several children’s hospitals (one of whose address I used as the Petersen’s home). One of these hospitals, Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, had a beautiful mural of a guardian angel holding a child AND happened to be in the right area. I thought it just more than a coincidence and included it as a symbol of David acting like a guardian angel for all the children who’d been hurt.